Northern Exposure: Northern Exposure
January 24, 2024 9:19 AM - All Seasons - Subscribe

A city doctor is forced to work in the remote Alaskan town of Cicely, where he encounters peculiar locals, including a former NASA astronaut, as he adjusts to small-town life.

Starting as a late summer series with 8 episodes in the first season, Northern Exposure quickly built a mass following for a fish out of water tale filled with quirky town residents and a long smouldering romance between the uptight Joel and Maggie, the local bush pilot. It ran for 6 seasons (110 episodes) before running head first into Rob Morrow's desire to leave the show in the middle of season 6. The addition of a new doctor (Paul Provenza) and his wife (Teri Polo) finished the season and the series

Long unavailable in home video format with multiple DVD releases, the series is finally available for streaming on Amazon Prime

But the big question - and the reason for the delay - is the original music still there? (like the recently re-released Moonlighting - home video music rights weren't licensed when the shows were originally created leaving the shows in limbo). Where the US DVDs had many notable instances of songs being replaced with generic music, the Amazon series preserves more of the original soundtrack. (One estimate: 80%. And Reddit is, of course, trying to identify what's missing.
posted by drewbage1847 (25 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so excited to see this! My dad was a huge fan of the show during its original run but I was way too young to appreciate most of it, and its absence from streaming sites meant I hadn't bothered to make the effort to chase it down once I did have the desire. This should keep me busy for a while.
posted by sigmagalator at 9:34 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]

Such a good show. I remember getting on Compuserve's CB Simulator (!) to talk about episodes right after they aired.

This was their best episode, IMO.

This episode seemed to inspire this episode of Deep Space Nine, right down to casting the same actor as judge.
posted by adamrice at 10:17 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]

Northern Exposure was one of those few shows that weren't half hour sitcoms that I watched with my parents when I was growing up and as a result, it's partly wrapped in nostalgia. I want to re-watch it, and at the same time, I wonder if I'll enjoy it more as an adult or find it less fascinating because it's being reexamined after so long against things I've watched and enjoyed ever since. I've been wanting to get a physical copy for ages, but the music issue was always stopping me. I'm hoping that this version, at least, will mean we'll get a nice bluray set with most of the original music.

It was also one of the first shows which had indigenous people as major characters that I ever watched. At best, the representation I saw growing up was relegated to films (Dances with Wolves for example), and it was easily the first depiction of native people in present day (Thunderheart came out a year after this show started, which probably made it the second time.).

The funny thing about Joel's character is that he was very much intended to be a POV character for viewers, but as someone who didn't grow up in a major urban environment like New York City, he was much an original character for me as any of the Cicely locals.
posted by Atreides at 10:51 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]

Atreides, I'm with you. I have so much warm glow nostalgia for the show that I'm a little worried that it will all have aged poorly, but I'm still going to happily revisit it and enjoy my time back there. (And yes, it was definitely a show that my mom and I bonded over during the latter part of highschool
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:50 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately not free to stream on Prime UK. I used to love this show, it was just so ... different.
posted by essexjan at 12:12 PM on January 24

The final scene of Kaddish for Uncle Manny is one of the most moving and beautiful things I've ever seen on television ever - I rank it right up there with Black Mirror's "San Junipero" and "Long Long Time" from The Last Of Us.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:28 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]

My favorite episode is the one where Holling, whose family members usually live beyond 110, starts to have a mid-life crisis at 63, while Chris, whose family doesn't live much beyond 40, has one at 22.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:51 PM on January 24 [9 favorites]

Appointment television for me back when it aired, although I was a little too young to really understand that Shelly was Holling's wife, and all that this implied.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 4:13 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]

Watched reruns on maybe A&E in the late 90s or early 2000s and always found it comforting. It goes into the same section of my tv brain as Picket Fences, which I'd love to revisit some time, too.
posted by msbrauer at 4:23 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]

I rewatched this when Netflix had DVDs and some of it holds up spectacularly and some of it is completely unwatchable for me- it foregrounds Indigenous actors but in a milieu that is uncritically white supremacist. There is a lot of Magical Brown People in among the delights of Chris In the Morning and Maurice and the various hijinks. (But also: Adam!!!!)
posted by janell at 7:25 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]

I guess I am saying: definitely rewatch! There are some delicious nostalgia hits. And it was a delightfully original show. But be armed with low expectations or it will feel way worse.
posted by janell at 7:26 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]

The only downside of a rewatch is that, like many shows of its era, Northern Exposure didn't so much conclude as it diminished until it was cut off.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:06 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]

Weirdly, or maybe because it was a weird storyline, but one that I remember vividly is the one where Maurice goes to see Joel to explain he has a problem. Constipation. Joel is like, okay, no big deal, but then Maurice explains that he has but one bowel movement once a month and only once a month and it's late. The show made it work, people.
posted by Atreides at 7:33 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]

janell and Atreides, I agree-- I was an avid watcher when the show first aired, and for me the Joel character was just as "exotic" as any other. What I liked most about it was the sense of people sharing a space for each other, a not-any-more-the-frontier, but still somewhere else, so different from the bland suburbia I was surrounded by.
My favorite episodes, flinging the piano--that's lovely, where art takes over from life, and when Eve fabricates the expensive wine because she knows Adam so well (seriously, this sparked my interest in food and wine).
I was not a fan of the will-they-won't-they faux-Moonlighting storyline, I found it tiresome and getting in the way of a lot of other far more interesting stories; I'd rather watch Marilyn vetting her suitors than Joel bitching about having his loans paid off! any day.
posted by winesong at 3:57 PM on January 25 [6 favorites]

Can't decide if I'll rewatch this or not (certainly not right away; the Amazon decision to add ads unless you pay extra means I will abandon Amazon video for several months while I rotate through other streaming services). I'm still on the fence because to me, even 20% replacement music is painful to contemplate.

Two of my favorite episodes were the Flying Man episodes (3.9, Get Real, and 4.6, On Your Own) with the always magical Bill Irwin; the first of those featured some of the most wonderful music for the scene of acrobats with the bonfire; I'm pretty sure the music was from Cirque de Soleil. (Looks like it was Bolero.) The scene where the Flying Man has dinner with Marilyn and her parents was just one of my favorite things ever.

My other favorite piece of music was the just exquisitely light waltz that played in the episode where Chris visits the dentist, expects her to become infatuated with him (because he has pheromone cycles that mean that EVERY woman desires him, during that phase), but it turns out she's immune, and he's bewildered (Only You, 3.2) That music, Tea with Alice, was so, so lovely.

OH! And the episode with the Russian singer, and his performance of Очи чёрные at the Brick (2.14, War and Peace). That was fabulous.

Somewhere I have every episode, from when it originally aired, on VHS tape. When I finally build my Calvin and Hobbes clone-o-matic, I will assign one of my selves to digitize all those tapes, and then I'll be able to rewatch with all the original music intact.

I sure loved it when it was on ... especially the first four seasons.
posted by kristi at 5:59 PM on January 25 [5 favorites]

Somewhere I have every episode, from when it originally aired, on VHS tape. When I finally build my Calvin and Hobbes clone-o-matic, I will assign one of my selves to digitize all those tapes, and then I'll be able to rewatch with all the original music intact.

[bows before this mighty treasure]
posted by Atreides at 7:28 AM on January 26 [4 favorites]

I remember the Day of the Dead parade, and I think it was the first time I'd realized Thanksgiving was a day of mourning for some people? Or at least it was a fairly new idea for me.

I, too, have faint but fond memories and am not sure I want to rewatch it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:43 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed this 2015 article about the show.

It reminded me that Ed Chigliak was my favorite character by miles. The article's author confidently states that Darren Burrows, who played him, is not Native American, although Burrows's father, Billy Drago, claimed both Romani and Native American heritage.

"Ed, are you hallucinating?" "Yes. But not right now." I wish Burrows was still acting.
posted by BibiRose at 6:28 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]

My favorite episodes, flinging the piano--that's lovely, where art takes over from life, and when Eve fabricates the expensive wine because she knows Adam so well

Two top episodes for me as well. That piano fling was just...chef kiss. I miss these characters. I just wish I could hang out at the Brick. I miss the eclectic radio station. I miss Ed corresponding with famous directors.

Someone please sample a few of these episodes and see if the music is still there. Because that would break my viewing experience if it wasn't.
posted by Ber at 11:19 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]

BibiRose, it looks like Burrows does still take on occasional acting roles. I saw him in Love is Strange and was delighted to discover that was him.
posted by kristi at 11:59 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]

This one of my favourite TV shows and I have rewatched it several times, being lucky enough to have the UK/Irish dvds, which have the original soundtrack. It's like a warm comfort blanket.

It holds up pretty well apart from the magical brown people issue noted above. Even the Holling / Shelley relationship, which could be weird, doesn't come across that way.

The first four seasons are absolutely solid and even the final 2 seasons have their moments. David Chase was the show runner for those two seasons and the Jungian dream vibes also used in The Sopranos are very much in evidence.

A reboot has been mooted several times but never seems to get off the ground. Maybe the streaming revival will provide an impetus for it to finally happen.
posted by roolya_boolya at 9:51 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]

A reboot has been mooted several times but never seems to get off the ground.

....Honestly, GOOD. Let's let this little unique gem of a thing be what it is and stand out for its uniqueness, let's not build upon it. Not everything needs to be rebooted or remade.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:57 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]

I remember this being loved when I was in that late-middle-school to early-high-school period, but didn't really watch much tv, and there's something about that era of soon-to-be-90s that I'm going to have to watch now.
So. Thanks.
posted by rp at 12:30 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

My mom was cutting my hair when the first episode aired, and I saw pretty much all of them for at least the first few years.

I still say, "In your dreams, Fleishman" to myself (because no one else would understand).
posted by wenestvedt at 5:46 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]

Speaking of flinging the piano: my very own previously.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:47 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

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