Theme music composer David Schwartz
Original language(s) English
Country of origin United States
First episode date 12 July 1990
|Created by Joshua BrandJohn Falsey|
Starring Rob MorrowBarry CorbinJanine TurnerJohn CullumDarren E. BurrowsJohn CorbettCynthia GearyElaine MilesPeg PhillipsPaul Provenza (1994–95)Teri Polo (1994–95)
Theme song Theme From Northern Exposure
Writers Joshua Brand, John Falsey, Diane Frolov, Andrew Schneider, Robin Green, Jeff Melvoin, Geoffrey Neigher
Cast Janine Turner, John Corbett, Rob Morrow, Barry Corbin, Darren E Burrows
Northern Exposure is an American comedy-drama Northern television series that ran on CBS from 1990 to 1995, with a total of 110 episodes. It received a total of 57 award nominations during its five-year run and won 27, including the 1992 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, two additional Primetime Emmy Awards, four Creative Arts Emmy Awards, and two Golden Globes. Critic John Leonard called Northern Exposure "the best of the best television in the past 10 years".
A recently graduated New York City physician, Dr. Joel Fleischman, is sent to practice in the town of Cicely, Alaska to fulfill his obligation after Alaska paid for his medical education. Early episodes deal with Fleischman's culture shock in the small town. While the show was nominally premised on the fish out of water conflict between Fleischman's big city ways and the small-town mores of the Cicely residents, its focus shifted to dive more deeply into the quirky personalities of the eccentric townfolk.
The series was given a pair of consecutive Peabody Awards: in 1991–92 for the show's "depict[ion] in a comedic and often poetic way, [of] the cultural clash between a transplanted New York City doctor and the townspeople of fictional Cicely, Alaska" and its stories of "people of different backgrounds and experiences" clashing but who ultimately "strive to accept their differences and co-exist".
The series was created by Joshua Brand and John Falsey, who also created the award-winning shows St. Elsewhere and I'll Fly Away.
Northern Exposure has aired in South Africa under a different name; the first four seasons were broadcast in Afrikaans as Goeie Môre, Alaska!, Afrikaans for "Good Morning, Alaska!"
The show started as an eight-episode summer midseason replacement series on CBS in 1990. It returned for seven more episodes in spring 1991, then became a regular part of the network's schedule in 1991–1992. It ranked among the top 10 viewed by 18- to 49-year-olds, and was part of the network's 1992–1993 and 1993–1994 schedules. Its last season, 1994–1995, included a gap during the May 1995 sweeps when CBS broadcast other programming. "The show had a lot of life in it, and the move (Wednesday at 10pm) killed it," says executive producer Andrew Schneider. "This piddling out is sad."
Northern Exposure first concentrated on the protagonist Joel Fleischman, with storylines revolving around his fish-out-of-water difficulties adjusting to Alaska, and his hot-and-cold romantic involvements with Maggie O'Connell. As Northern Exposure continued, supporting characters such as Chris, Ed, Holling, Shelly, Maurice, and Ruth-Anne (along with recurring characters such as Adam and Eve, Barbara Semanski, and Bernard) received more development.
Rob Morrow (Joel Fleischman) and his representatives spent much of Seasons 4 and 5 lobbying for an improved contract, and intermittently threatened to leave the show. The producers responded by reducing Fleischman's role in the storylines, and introducing characters such as Mike Monroe (season 4) and Dr. Phil Capra (season 6) to partially compensate for the absence of Morrow.
Cast and characters
In the show's last season, two new characters were introduced to try to fill the void left by Morrow's departure:
Major recurring characters include Apesanahkwat as Lester Haines (a native millionaire), Anthony Edwards as Mike Monroe (allergy sufferer and ecological watchdog), Richard Cummings Jr. as Bernard Stevens (Chris's half-brother and "spiritual doppelgänger"), James L. Dunn as Hayden Keyes (ex-con on the fence), William J. White as Dave the Cook (an employee fixture at The Brick), Graham Greene as Leonard (the official local shaman), Diane Delano as Officer Barbara Semanski (and Maurice's love interest), Adam Arkin as mysterious wilderness wanderer and former master chef Adam, and Valerie Mahaffey as his chronically hypochondriacal wife Eve; Mahaffey was the only actor from the series to win an Emmy Award.
Although the town of Cicely is widely thought to be patterned after the real town of Talkeetna, Alaska, the main street of Cicely and the filming location was that of Roslyn, Washington, located in the Cascade Mountains. "Northern Exposure II" (the main production facility) was located in Redmond, Washington, in what is now the headquarters of Genie Industries, behind a business park.
According to The Northern Exposure Book, the moose in the opening titles was named Mort and was provided by Washington State University, where he was part of a captive herd. To film the opening sequence, the crew fenced off Roslyn, set him loose, and lured him around with food.
Notable episodes in the series include the pilot (nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Writing"), the third season's last episode, "Cicely" (which won a Peabody Award, three Creative Arts Emmy Awards, and a Directors Guild of America Award), and the fifth-season episode "I Feel the Earth Move", which featured the second same-sex marriage story arc on U.S. prime-time television. (Fox's Roc aired the first U.S. prime time television episode depicting a same-sex marriage, "Can't Help Loving That Man", on October 20, 1991.)
Over the course of Northern Exposure's run, the series was nominated for over fifty Emmy Awards and multiple Golden Globe awards. In addition, Joshua Brand and John Falsey received two Peabody Awards, in 1991 and 1992, sharing the latter award with CBS and Finnegan-Pinchuk Company. During one of their thank you speeches, Brand and Falsey said that they appreciated the drama awards, "but it's a comedy".
The show's other awards include:
Additional awards and nominations
Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker gave the first episode a B+, writing that the show “may well prove to be summer television’s most likably eccentric series”.
It has not been rated on Metacritic.
The TV series The Librarians (2014) paid tribute to Northern Exposure by setting its final episode of Season 2 in the quirky small town of Cicely, Washington.
Indie rock band Bon Iver are named after an episode of the show.
Northern Exposure: Music From The Television Series (USA, original soundtrack, 1992)
MCA Records, Inc. MCAD-10685
- "Theme from Northern Exposure" – David Schwartz (Pilot, Kodiak)
- "Jolie Louise" – Daniel Lanois (Pilot, The Body in Question, Old Tree)
- "Hip Hug-Her" – Booker T. and the MG's (Animals R Us; My Mother, My Sister)
- "At Last" – Etta James [Slow Dance]
- "Everybody Be Yoself" – Chic Street Man (Spring Break)
- "Alaskan Nights" – David Schwartz (It Happened in Juneau, Our Tribe)
- "Don Quichotte" – Magazine 60 (Jules et Joel)
- "When I Grow Too Old to Dream" – Nat 'King' Cole and His Trio (The Big Kiss)
- "Emabhaceni" – Miriam Makeba (Roots)
- "Gimme Three Steps" – Lynyrd Skynyrd (My Mother, My Sister)
- "Bailero" from Chants d'Auvergne – F. VonStade, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Antonio de Almeda, conductor (Wake-Up Call)
- David Schwartz Medley:
More Music From Northern Exposure (USA, 1994)
MCA Records, Inc. MCAD-11077
- Ojibway Square Dance (Love Song) – Georgia Wettlin-Larsen
- Theme from Northern Exposure – David Schwartz
- Stir It Up – Johnny Nash
- Mambo Baby – Ruth Brown
- Someone Loves You – Simon Bonney
- The Ladder – David Schwartz
- If You Take Me Back – Big Joe & His Washboard Band
- Un Marriage Casse (A Broken Marriage) – Basin Brothers
- There I Go Again – Vinx
- Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (and Dream Your Troubles Away) – Les Paul & Mary Ford
- Mooseburger Stomp – David Schwartz
- I May Want a Man – Joanne Shenandoah
- Our Town—played during the closing scene of the last episode (July 26, 1995) – Iris Dement
Ausgerechnet Alaska (German covers, 1992),
Distributed by IDEAL Vertrieb, Wichmannstr. 4, 2000 Hamburg 52 (Out of Print)
- The Moose – Northern Exposure Theme-Mix
- The Kingsmen – Louie Louie
- Little Milton – Stand by Me
- Lee Dorsey – Ya Ya
- Billy Stewart – Summertime
- Little Richard – Good Golly Miss Molly
- Coasters – Little Egypt
- The Drifters – On Broadway
- Dolly Parton – It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
- Guy Mitchell – Singing The Blues
- Patsy Cline – Crazy
- Paul Anka – My Way
- The Marcels – Blue Moon
- Showaddywaddy – Who Put The Bomp
- Trini Lopez – This Is Your Land
- Jerry Butler – Moon River
- Andy Williams – Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released all six seasons on DVD in Regions 1, 2 and 4. The Region 1 DVD releases have caused controversy among the show's fans due to their high prices and the changes to the soundtrack introduced in order to lower their costs. The release of Season 1 contained the original music, but retailed for $60 due to the cost of music licensing. Subsequent seasons replaced most of the music with generic elevator-style music, resulting in a lower-cost release. The first and second seasons were also re-released together in packaging that matches the third through sixth seasons.
In 2016, Darren Burrows and his production company, Film Farms, held a crowdfunding campaign to fund a development project with the goal of creating more episodes of Northern Exposure. The working title for this project is "Northern Exposure: Home Again" according to the "More Northern Exposure Now" website. Despite not meeting the original $100,000 goal, Darren decided to continue forward with the project.
On June 17, 2016, Film Farms announced on their Facebook page that writer David Assael had been hired to write for the project. He previously wrote several episodes of Northern Exposure, including "Russian Flu," "Spring Break," and "It Happened in Juneau," among others. Originally envisioned as a two-hour "visit to Cicely," a 10 episode format is currently being pitched for network, cable, or streaming venues.