The people that know me know that I have a fondness for television. If you scroll down you will find graphics of some of my favorite TV shows on the right side of this blog. They are in no particular order, but my three favorites are in that column. They are, in order: The Wire, Northern Exposure and The Sopranos. For those of you that are shocked that Leave it to Beaver didn’t crack this trio, please rest assured that the Cleaver clan are in my top 10. It just doesn’t compare with these three programs.
Today, I would like to blog about my number two favorite – Northern Exposure. The reason I chose this show is because last night I saw a current picture of two of the prominent characters on Facebook. It got me thinking of this wonderful show and I began searching out old clips on YouTube®. I was in heaven.
Here is a brief overview of the show and some of its characters.
Northern Exposure ran from 1990 to 1995, with a total of 110 episodes. It centered on a New York physician, Dr. Joel Fleischman, who is sent to practice in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska. The early episodes concentrated on the Fleischman’s culture shock in the small town. As he got better acclimated, the attention shifted to the whimsical town’s quirky residents.
Rob Morrow as Joel Fleischman. The Jewish physician is forced to practice in Cicely, contractually bound for four years in order to pay off a student loan from the state of Alaska. This character was an integral part of the Northern Exposure, and in my opinion, when he left halfway through the final season, the program suffered greatly. This saddened me greatly.
Barry Corbin as Maurice Minnifield. The former astronaut owned both the local newspaper and the radio station. And a whole lot of land in Cicely. Despite his tough guy persona, he absolutely loves his town and refers to it as the “Alaskan Rivera”. Minnifield is also the culprit responsible for bring Dr. Joel to Cicely.
Janine Turner as Maggie O’Connell. The tomboy bush pilot is Dr. Joel’s love-hate protagonist. She is magnificent during Dr. Joel’s final episode, “The Quest”. The emotional interaction between the two tugged on my heartstrings. These days, Turner, now a platinum blonde, has become a political zealot.
John Cullum as Holling. The owner of the Brick bar and restaurant who is quite proud of his Canadian heritage. He and Maurice are best friends, despite the fact that their relationship was strained at one time by their mutual love interest, the much younger Shelly Tambo. Holling was an outstanding character.
Cynthia Geary as Shelly Tambo. She was a waitress at the Brick where she lived with Holling, who she, although she is 43 years younger, eventually marries. She was brought to Cicely by Maurice, who had hoped to marry her. The Christmas episode, “Seoul Mates” always moves me to tears. Shelly, missing her Catholic roots, longs for a midnight Mass. Son Holling fills the Unitarian church with Catholic icons, including a Nativity scene and sings “Ave Marie” in Latin for her. Pass the Kleenex®, please.
John Corbett as Chris Danforth Stevens. This philosophical ex-convict works as the disc jockey at KBHR 570 AM. In between tunes, he often comments on events happening in Cicely and more intellectual topics. He also serves as the town’s non-denominational pastor. I enjoyed this character except for his short relationship with Maggie.
Darren Burrows as Ed Chigliak. The simple, good-natured half-native did odd jobs for Maurice while working part-time at Ruth-Anne’s general store. He is a film buff who has his sights on becoming a movie director. This character and Shelly’s were the two most pure and genuine on Northern Exposure.
Peg Phillips as Ruth-Anne Miller. A widow, the pragmatic owner of the general store was a 30-year resident of Cicely. She lived alone until late in the series when she hooked up with Walt Kupfer, (portrayed by Moultrie Patten), a fur trapper and former stockbroker. A tough old bird, she could stand toe-to-toe with Maurice without blinking an eye.
Elaine Miles as Marilyn Whirlwind. Dr. Joel’s stoic receptionist was a lady of few words. Her calm, quiet demeanor were a strong contrast with her employer’s incessant chatting and high-strung temperament. Marilyn was a true gem.
During the show’s last season, two new characters were introduced in an attempt to fill the void left by Morrow’s (Dr. Joel) departure. The pair, Paul Provenza as Dr. Phil Capra and Teri Polo as his wife, Michelle Schowdowski Capra, in my opinion, failed miserably in this attempt. While, she was easy on the eyes, he just tried too hard to be Dr. Joel. And he wasn’t.
Over the course of Northern Exposure’s run, the series was nominated for over fifty Emmy Awards and Multiple Golden Globe Awards. With or without those award nominations, this show will always shine with me, it was that good.
As I posted on Facebook last night, whenever I watched an episode of Northern Exposure, I always felt better, happier. Sometimes it was the message I got from the show, other times it was simply the beautiful scenery or, more often than not, it was the lovely music at the end of the show.
Until next time…from the booth.