Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Great NYC Show: "Northern Exposure" at 20

It's so hard to believe but it was almost twenty years ago this summer when a funky little show called Northern Exposure premiered on CBS. Long before Sarah Palin, this was the thing that really put Alaska on the map (and was so much more appealing). And, ironically, it was also a great NYC show.

It was about a young Jewish doctor named Joel Fleishman who owes the State of Alaska several years of service in exchange for the state paying his medical school fees. At first he's going to be sent to Anchorage but then he's exiled to the tiny town of Cicely where he tends to the maladies of an eccentric bunch of people who wouldn't be out of place in NYC (take that, Wasilla). At its heart it was a New York Jew "fish out of water" story but it was also about how a bunch of people formed a special community and learn to love and depend on each other.

Northern Exposure was a funny, heartful show with razor sharp writing, great characterizations and, amazingly, it contained a lot of New York grit than most shows actually set here (take that, Friends). It lasted five years (1990-1995) and was really ahead of its time. Quirky shows like this were forerunners for later groundbreaking shows like The Sopranos, Lost and Mad Men and for that we owe it a debt.

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