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Northern Exposure

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Northern Exposure
GenreComedy drama
Created byJoshua Brand
John Falsey
StarringRob Morrow
Barry Corbin
Janine Turner
John Cullum
Darren E. Burrows
John Corbett
Cynthia Geary
Elaine Miles
Peg Phillips
Paul Provenza
Teri Polo
Theme music composerDavid Schwartz
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes110 (list of episodes)
Executive producersJoshua Brand
John Falsey
David Chase
Diane Frolov
Andrew Schneider
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time45 minutes
Production companiesCine-Nevada Productions (season 1)
Finnegan-Pinchuk Productions (seasons 2–6)
Falahey/Austin Street Productions (seasons 1–3)
Brand/Falsey Productions (seasons 4–6)
Universal Television
Original release
ReleaseJuly 12, 1990 (1990-07-12) –
July 26, 1995 (1995-07-26)

Northern Exposure is an American Northern comedy-drama television series about the eccentric residents of a fictional small town in Alaska that ran on CBS from July 12, 1990, to July 26, 1995, with a total of 110 episodes. It received 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.[1]

In the show Rob Morrow played New York City native Joel Fleischman, a recently graduated physician who is sent to practice in Anchorage, Alaska, for several years to repay the state of Alaska for underwriting his medical education. Much to his chagrin, he is assigned to the much smaller and remote town of Cicely, which is in need of a general practitioner. Originally the show focused on Fleischman's fish-out-of-water experiences in rural Alaska but as it progressed, it became more of an ensemble show, focusing on various other Cicely residents.

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The series was created by Joshua Brand and John Falsey, who also created the award-winning shows St. Elsewhere and I'll Fly Away. It started as a mid-season replacement summer series on CBS in 1990 with 8 episodes.[2][3] It returned for seven more episodes in spring 1991, then became a regular part of the network's schedule in 1991–92. It ranked among the top 10 viewed by 18- to 49-year-olds,[4] and was part of the network's 1992–93 and 1993–94 schedules.

In 1994, writer Sandy Veith won a jury trial against Universal, alleging that the series was based on his idea yet he received no credit or compensation. Veith won $10 million in damages and legal fees on appeal three years later.[5] His suit was against the studio, not Brand and Falsey. The Los Angeles Times reported that jurors seemed to believe the studio came to Brand and Falsey with the basic concept for the show rather than that the latter knowingly stole his idea. Some Universal executives had worked with Veith and Brand and Falsey. Veith's script was about an Italian-American doctor who moves to a small town in the South.[6] In 1994, the same year that the lawsuit was filed, Brand and Falsey resigned. David Chase was brought in to serve as executive producer. He later went on to say that he took the job purely for the money, stating that he disliked the premise of the show; Brand cited Chase as having run the show into the ground.[7]

In January 1995 the show moved from Monday to Wednesday, and in May 1995 there was a gap during sweeps when CBS broadcast other programming. At one point, Barry Corbin wrote an open letter to TV critics that called the show "an understandably weakened show". On May 24, 1995, CBS announced the cancelation of the show, which had its final episode shown on July 26. [8] "The show had a lot of life in it, and the move (Wednesday at 10pm) killed it," said executive producer Andrew Schneider. "This piddling out is sad."[9][10]

Morrow and his representatives spent much of seasons 4 and 5 lobbying for an improved contract,[11] 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, whose last appearance came midway through the show's final season.

Cast and characters

Cynthia Geary, Rob Morrow, and Janine Turner at the 1993 Emmy Awards
  • Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) is a neurotic young Jewish physician from New York City. Fresh out of family medicine residency, he is legally contracted to practice medicine for four years in Alaska according to the terms of a student loan underwritten by the state. Expecting to work in a relatively large, modern hospital in Anchorage, he is unexpectedly reassigned to be a general practitioner in the small town of Cicely, where he is a proverbial fish out of water. His struggles to adjust to the very unfamiliar environment drive the plot of many episodes, especially in the early seasons. Morrow left the show midway through its final season due to a contract dispute. His character's departure was handled by having him "go native", abandoning Cicely for a remote fishing village and embracing the wilderness in a search for spiritual enlightenment.[12]
  • Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin) is a multi-millionaire businessman, former fighter pilot and astronaut who moved to the area after retiring from the military in the 1970s. Maurice owns Cicely's newspaper and radio station (KBHR 570 AM) along with over 15,000 acres (61 km2) of land which he hopes to develop into the "Alaskan Riviera". It is Maurice who arranged to bring Joel to the town, which previously did not have a physician. Beneath a thin veneer of gentility, he is pompous, overbearing, and bigoted, leading to conflicts with other residents, such as the gay couple Ron and Eric. Despite his habitual demeanor, Maurice can be generous, and he aids almost every other major character in some way during the show's run. Before the timeline of the series, he had brought the much younger Shelly Tambo to Cicely with the intention of marrying her, but his best friend Holling Vincoeur won her heart and hand in marriage.
Peg Phillips and Barry Corbin at the 1993 Emmy Awards
  • Maggie O'Connell (Janine Turner) is a tomboyish Grosse Pointe, Michigan-born debutante turned Alaska bush pilot. Maggie and Joel quickly develop a love-hate relationship, with their opposing views on most subjects coupled with unacknowledged attraction resulting in sexual tension in the early seasons. They become romantically involved later in the show's run, and it is their breakup that is the impetus for Joel to leave Cicely during the last season. A running theme through the series is that all of Maggie's previous romantic partners die bizarre deaths, leading others to wonder if she suffers from an "O'Connell curse".
  • Holling Vincoeur (John Cullum) is the Canadian-born sexagenarian owner and operator of The Brick, a popular local bar and restaurant, and mayor at the beginning of the show. He and Maurice are old friends, though their relationship was strained at one time by their mutual romantic interest in Shelly Tambo, whom Holling married. Though at least 40 years older than Shelly, he fears that he will outlive her, since the men in his family tend to live well past 100 and spend their final years as heartbroken widowers.
  • Shelly Tambo (Cynthia Geary) is another Canadian expatriate and former Miss Northwest Passage, originally from Saskatoon. She was brought to Cicely by Maurice, who had hoped to marry her. Instead, she chose Holling and became a waitress at The Brick. Though seemingly naive and flighty, she regularly shows flashes of unexpected wisdom. It was planned for the character to be a Native American until Geary was cast.[13]
  • Chris Stevens (John Corbett) is a philosophical free spirit and ex-convict who works as the disc jockey at KBHR 570 AM. Between songs, Chris offers comments on events in Cicely and on more intellectual and controversial subjects, often leading to conflict with Maurice, who fires and rehires him several times. The first of these conflicts comes when Chris reads Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass over the air and Maurice storms the studio, decks Chris and fires him, not over the reading, but for suggesting that Whitman was homosexual. Chris is also a nondenominational clergyman and occasionally officiates at weddings.
  • Ed Chigliak (Darren E. Burrows) is a mild-mannered, half-native Alaskan foundling raised by local Tlingits. Ed does odd jobs for Maurice and works part-time at the local general store. He is a film buff and would-be movie director.
  • Ruth-Anne Miller (Peg Phillips) is the elderly, level-headed owner of the local general store and a 30-year resident of Cicely. A widow, Ruth-Anne lives alone until late in the series, when she becomes involved with Walt Kupfer (Moultrie Patten), a fur trapper and retired stockbroker. She too is a film buff and, along with Holling, a keen birder. She has two adult sons, one of whom is a stockbroker. He comes to see her in one episode.
  • Marilyn Whirlwind (Elaine Miles) is Joel's Alaska Native receptionist. Her few words and exceptionally calm demeanor are a strong contrast to her employer's loquaciousness and high-strung temperament.

In the show's last season, two new characters were introduced to fill the void left by Morrow's departure:

  • Phil Capra (Paul Provenza), a doctor from Los Angeles who is recruited as Joel's replacement after Joel takes to the wilderness.
  • Michelle Schowdowski Capra (Teri Polo), Phil's wife. She also works as a reporter for a newspaper owned by Maurice.

Major recurring characters include:


Although Cicely is widely thought to be based on Talkeetna, Alaska,[14][15] its main street and the filming location was that of Roslyn, Washington. "Northern Exposure II" (the main production facility) was 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 Mort loose, and lured him around with food.[16]


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
18July 12, 1990 (1990-07-12)August 30, 1990 (1990-08-30)
27April 8, 1991 (1991-04-08)May 20, 1991 (1991-05-20)
323September 23, 1991 (1991-09-23)May 18, 1992 (1992-05-18)
425September 28, 1992 (1992-09-28)May 24, 1993 (1993-05-24)
524September 20, 1993 (1993-09-20)May 23, 1994 (1994-05-23)
623September 19, 1994 (1994-09-19)July 26, 1995 (1995-07-26)

Notable episodes in the series include the pilot (nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing[1]), the third season's last episode, "Cicely" (which won a Peabody Award,[17] 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.[18] (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.)


On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season of Northern Exposure has a score of 100% based on six reviews, with an average rating of 7.0/10.[19] On Metacritic, which uses a weighted score, the first season is rated 80 based on seven reviews,[20] indicating "generally favorable reviews," while the second season has an 83 based on nine,[21] indicating "universal acclaim".

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”.[22]



Emmy Awards

The cast and crew won seven Emmy Awards out of 39 nominations:

Golden Globe Awards

The series won two Golden Globe awards for Best Drama series, in 1992 and 1993. In addition, Morrow and Turner were each nominated three times consecutively from 1992 to 1994 for Best Actor and Actress, while Corbett was nominated in 1993 for his supporting role.

Peabody Awards

The series won 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"[17] and its stories of "people of different backgrounds and experiences" clashing but who ultimately "strive to accept their differences and co-exist".[17]

Additional awards and nominations

  • BMI TV Music Award: Northern Exposure – David Schwartz
  • Casting Society of America, USA – Artios nomination for Best Casting for TV, Dramatic Episodic – Megan Branman
  • American Cinema Editors – Eddie nomination for Best Edited One-Hour Series for Television – Thomas R. Moore– for episode "Cicely"
  • American Society of Cinematographers, USA – ASC Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Regular Series – Frank Prinzi
  • BMI TV Music Award: Northern Exposure – David Schwartz
  • Casting Society of America, USA – Artios nomination for Best Casting for TV, Dramatic Episodic – Megan Branman
  • Directors Guild of America Award – Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Shows – Night – for episode "Cicely"
    • Robert Loeser (second assistant director) (plaque)
    • Patrick McKee (first assistant director) (plaque)
    • Jack Terry (II) (unit production manager) (plaque)
    • Robert C. Thompson
  • Directors Guild Award – Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Shows – Night – for episode "Kaddish for Uncle Manny"
    • Michael Lange
  • Electronic Media Critics Poll – Best Television Series
  • Environmental Media Awards, USA – EMA Award TV Drama – for episode "Survival of the Species"
  • Retirement Research Foundation, USA – Wise Owl Award – Honorable Mention Television and Theatrical Film Fiction – Joshua Brand (executive) John Falsey (executive) – for episode "Three Amigos"
  • BMI TV Music Award: Northern Exposure – David Schwartz
  • Casting Society of America, USA – Artios for Best Casting for TV, Dramatic Episodic – Megan Branman and Patricia Carnes Kalles
  • Electronic Media Critics Poll – Best Television Series
  • Grammy Award nomination: "Theme From Northern Exposure" – David Schwartz
  • Peabody Award – Presented to Falsey-Austin Street Productions for Northern Exposure, for presenting episodic drama on television with intelligence, sensitivity and humor
  • PGA Golden Laurel Awards – Television Producer of the Year Award – Joshua Brand and John Falsey
  • Retirement Research Foundation, USA – Wise Owl Award – Honorable Mention Television and Theatrical Film Fiction – Joshua Brand (executive), John Falsey (executive) – for episode "A Hunting We Will Go"
  • Television Critics Association – Program of the Year
  • Viewers for Quality Television – John Cullum, Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
  • Viewers for Quality Television – Adam Arkin, Best Specialty Player
  • Young Artist Awards – nomination for Best Young Actor Guest-Starring or Recurring Role in a TV Series – Grant Gelt, for episode "Goodbye to All That"
  • Casting Society of America, USA – Artios win for Best Casting for TV, Dramatic Pilot – Megan Branman, Patricia Carnes Kalles and Lynn Kressel
  • Casting Society of America, USA – Artios nomination for Best Casting for TV, Dramatic Episodic – Megan Branman and Patricia Carnes Kalles
  • Electronic Media Critics Poll – Best Television Series


  • Northern Exposure: Music from the Television Series (USA, original soundtrack, 1992), MCA Records, Inc. MCAD-10685[24]
  • More Music from Northern Exposure (USA, 1994), MCA Records, Inc. MCAD-11077
  • Ausgerechnet Alaska (German covers, 1992),[24] distributed by IDEAL Vertrieb, Wichmannstr. 4, 2000 Hamburg 52 (out of print)

Home media

DVD releases

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.[25] 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 rereleased together in packaging that matches the third through sixth seasons. On July 21, 2020, "Northern Exposure" was rereleased by Shout Factory, containing all 110 episodes but not with all original music.[26] The R2 editions released in Germany on DVD contain all the original music.

DVD Name Ep # Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season 8 May 25, 2004 May 21, 2001 February 18, 2004
The Complete Second Season 7 November 30, 2004 May 9, 2005 July 13, 2005
The Complete Third Season 23 June 14, 2005 January 30, 2006 March 8, 2006
The Complete Fourth Season 25 March 28, 2006 July 31, 2006 September 20, 2006
The Complete Fifth Season 24 November 13, 2006 January 22, 2007 February 21, 2007
The Complete Sixth and Final Season 23 March 6, 2007 June 25, 2007 July 4, 2007
The Complete Series 110 November 13, 2007
July 21, 2020
October 8, 2007 November 11, 2009

Blu-ray releases

On March 19, 2018, Fabulous Films released the entire series on Blu-ray in the UK containing all original music.

Potential revival

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. The working title for this project is "Northern Exposure: Home Again".[27] Despite not meeting the original $100,000 goal, Burrows decided to continue with the project.[28]

On June 17, 2016, Film Farms announced that writer David Assael had been hired to write for the project. He previously wrote several episodes, including "Russian Flu," "Spring Break," and "It Happened in Juneau," among others. The revival was originally envisioned as a two-hour "visit to Cicely," but a ten-episode series was reportedly being pitched to various network, cable, and streaming venues.[29]

On November 20, 2018, it was reported that a revival series was in the early stages of development at CBS, with Brand, Falsey, and Morrow executive producing and Morrow again playing Fleischman. Corbett was named as producer but his appearance as a performer was not confirmed.[30][31] Falsey died in January 2019, and on May 19, 2019, Josef Adalian, an editor for the New York City-based magazine Vulture, tweeted that CBS had cancelled development work on the series.[32] Adalian subsequently tweeted that the rights holder, Universal Studios, could pitch the revival elsewhere, but it was unclear whether Universal was planning to move the project to another outlet. Morrow, who was busy with other commitments, found out about Falsey's death on Twitter. On November 15, 2019, Morrow revealed in an interview on radio station WGN 720AM in Chicago that he and Brand were continuing revival efforts despite Falsey's death and CBS's decision.

References and footnotes

  1. ^ a b c Awards for Northern Exposure from IMDb
  2. ^ Producing Northern Exposure from the website for the book Two Aspirins and a Comedy (ISBN 1594511551)
  3. ^ Review/Television; As Networks Go Rural, CBS Goes a Bit Further, an April 1991 article in The New York Times
  4. ^ Mark Harris & Kelli Pryor (July 26, 1991). "Total Exposure". Entertainment Weekly. (via Moosechick Notes, a fansite). Archived from the original on May 21, 2009. Retrieved July 21, 2009. The loyalty the show excites even reached into network offices. "Of course it will be back next September," said one senior CBS executive long before the series was renewed. "My God, there are people here who would start a hanging party if it weren't." When CBS, thirsting for younger viewers, brought Exposure back this spring, it became a top 10 hit among the coveted audience of 18- to 49-year-olds. In the 10 p.m. Monday time slot following Designing Women, the show is drawing its best ratings ever.
  5. ^ "Appeals court upholds 'Exposure' judgment". November 4, 1997.
  6. ^ "Hollywood's Double 'Exposure' : Courts: A writer is awarded $7.3 million by a jury that finds that his script contained the basic idea for TV's popular 'Northern Exposure.'". Los Angeles Times. September 29, 1994.
  7. ^ "Northern Exposure". Television Academy Interviews. October 23, 2017.
  8. ^ Burrows, Darren (2006). Northern Exposed. Film Farms LLC. p. 176, 189.
  9. ^ Fretts, Bruce; Snierson, Dan (June 2, 1995). "'Twas the Season". Entertainment Weekly.
  10. ^ Burrows, Darren (2006). Northern Exposed. Film Farms LLC. p. 137.
  11. ^ Cerone, Daniel (July 2, 1992). "'Northern Exposure,' Star in Icy Dispute : Television: Holdout Rob Morrow is sued by Universal. He reportedly wants his $30,000-per-episode salary doubled". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ "Rob Morrow's long goodbye to Cicely". Baltimore Sun. November 28, 1994.
  13. ^ "Interview to CYNTHIA GEARY". Archived from the original on August 19, 2008. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
  14. ^ Talkeetna, Alaska from
  15. ^ Fictional places we love: Cicely, Alaska, on 'Northern Exposure' from
  16. ^ Chunovic, Louis (1995). The Northern Exposure Book. Carol Publishing.[page needed]. ISBN 0-8065-1623-2.
  17. ^ a b c "Peabody Awards won by Brand-Falsey Productions". The Peabody Board at the University of Georgia. Archived from the original on February 18, 2012.
  18. ^ Christine Scodari. "Northern Exposure: U.S. Dramedy". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved July 21, 2009.
  19. ^ "Northern Exposure: Season 1 (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  20. ^ "NORTHERN EXPOSURE : SEASON 1". Metacritic. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  21. ^ "NORTHERN EXPOSURE : SEASON 2". Metacritic. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  22. ^ Stransky, Tanner (July 12, 2010). "20 Years Ago: The premiere of 'Northern Exposure'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
  23. ^ Du Brow, Rick (January 14, 1995). "CBS Moves 'Exposure' Out Into the Cold : Commentary: The switch to Wednesday night has been a disaster for the gentle series". Los Angeles Times.
  24. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions List for "Northern Exposure"". Sharon Bond, Jason Cowart. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
  25. ^ Copyrights Keep TV Shows off DVD, a 2005 Wired article
  26. ^ "Northern Exposure: The Complete Series – - DVD | Shout! Factory". Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  27. ^ ""More Northern Exposure Now"". Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  28. ^ ""More Northern Exposure Now Updates"". Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  29. ^ ""Film Farms Facebook page"". Facebook. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  30. ^ Otterson, Joe (November 20, 2018). "'Northern Exposure' Revival in Development at CBS".
  31. ^ Porter, Rick (November 20, 2018). "'Northern Exposure' Revival With Rob Morrow in the Works at CBS". The Hollywood Reporter.
  32. ^ "TVMoJoe on X".

External links

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