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i vividly recall this exact commercial all these years later. i first saw the promo in my 7th grade room as i finished up puffing the blackboard erasers. i remember where the monitor was, i remember the fishing scene, the rowboat, the crystal lake, the rifle shotgun blast.
now i didn't come to this masterpiece right then and there. i was a sallow boy who was immune to the ways of the world. i came to Nirvana and this show later when i was a matriculating master. but i remembered that ad, i will always remember that ad...
it's cos i subsconsciously knew that i had to watch this show. no i had to inhale this show, eat the language of it, let it steep my cells and spread my pores with its essence. this show is a movement, it's a call to intellectual arms, a command to pick up a book and start reading and pick up another one. to learn art and philosophy and then to unlearn it only to have it be second nature as you go about your life hunting and fishing and talking to your neighbor a mile away in a log cabin. you have to be invested here, and willing to use your swords of speech and your arsenal of assets. you have to wear many hats and be many asshats. the imagination of words. you have to be of a certain mindset and constitution to appreciate this extraordinary play, the mindset of unlimited knowledge and of course you have to love the Constitution.
Northern Exposure is the smartest show of all time. you wouldn't think it looking at that promo, right? i mean why would florid vocabulary be needed in the deep woods of a "backwoods hick" town like Cicely, Alaska? that's the point. oh that's the point. and that's the first feint. i appreciate this thing as my baby cos this show is rightly and evermore the ultimate writers' dream. it's tailor-made for writers, it's a writer's show, not a show based on celebrity. the script is king, not the actors nor the scenery nor even the famous director. although the cold blue green scenery is sublime.
i really got into this show just as i was experiencing freedom for the first time. my move to Berkeley fit nicely with Joel's earthshattering move to Cicely. i finished up the series on unspooled video cassettes during my tumultuous junior year which took three years. in the interim i took a class which seemed like my mania talking at the time but ended up being my greatest move with my greatest friends made. it was a female sexuality class and i was one of the few horny males in it. the co-teacher was a wiry student intern with a mop of frizzy red hair who looked very much like a college Jane from Jane and the Dragon now that i think back about it. she lifted the vines off my co-op door and entered my sanctuary one Thursday afternoon. she wanted to spend some time with me. me! cos she was giddy finding out we were apartment complex neighbors. she climbed into bed with me! we watched an episode of Northern Exposure together! i had never had a girl friend before, that is a girl who clearly just wanted to be friends. but it was like i was sleeping with my teacher and that was hot to me. she later remarked how she thought the Indian was gorgeous, or at least the goth dude who played the Indian was. i think that's where my whole goth thing blossomed, from wanting to impress her forever. we had half-opened cans of coke that were hard to reach on the hardwood floor since my bed was 3 feet high like a fucking fairytale. the second she left the area where our cokes were was covered in ants. but at least the ants came AFTER. they didn't get in her hair. victory.
Joel Fleischman the big time big city Big Apple doc who it's a big misunderstanding and wants to get the fuck outta Palin Country. Rob Morrow played the part brilliantly with an annoying arrogant snooty snotty smarm, later warming to his surroundings. or cooling to them. mostly because of Maggie the bush pilot and babe of the show. Janine Turner was at her vampiest in a plaid shirt and lumberjack pants ironically. the big scandal was when she cut her hair pixie-cut. i distinctly remember the episode where the two fucked. i remember dialogue about scratching nails down backs that i had never heard of before. i learned about life on tv.
Maurice by Barry Corbin up there in the Johnny Cash cowboy hat, the rifleman in the promo and all-around military guy who was as you'd imagine, tough-as-nails and not taking any of Joel's urban hippie shit. cos Maurice was country and urbane. i remember under Maurice's fire and deer mount he goaded Joel into singing The Internationale to see if he was a Communist spy. speaking of hippies, Chris by John Corbett was the freshfaced poet free spirit hunk of the show who learned the arts in prison and was the philosophy-spouting disc jockey liberal who just wants free love. and he gets it. i remember him waxing on and on about a six-point buck deer hunt kill. Shelly the beauty queen valley girl who marries the much-older Holling. and btw, let's all take a moment and say the name Holling out loud. that is such a beautiful name for a man.
Ed Chigliak, the cutie my teacher fawned over, the Native Alaskan aspiring filmmaker who is tactless, love that word, and adorable. he gets cock-deep into the native spirits of the land, Low Self Esteem among them, and he loves Woody Allen and Fellini. see even when you're simple on this show you're complicated. Ruth-Anne the old biddy who can still fuck and snags a man and loves her films as much as Ed. look at precious Peg Phillips up there, don't you just want to eat her? the conversations with those two were like my quickhand encyclopedia of movies. i listened and didn't have to go to film school.
Marilyn Whirlwind, Joel's immovable Native guide played by cutie Elaine Miles who offers up spiritual sagacity from her people to try to calm the neurotic New Yorker down, which of course makes Joel more exasperated.
and various other oddballs and eccentric village folk
the big scandal was when they didn't renew Joel's contract and Rob Morrow went into the wilderness for the final season. Paul Provenza gave it the old college try, like i was doing, he tried, he really tried, he gave it the old Italian try, but it just wasn't the same. and his wife Schowdowski cos, well, Schowdowski.
and ADAM ARKIN! he was the best on this show! i fell in love with Adam (not the First Man) here and started watching Chicago Hope as religiously as ER. i know, i'm a traitor to the stethoscope.
the point was EVERY character no matter his station was INTELLIGENT AS FUCK. they spoke on a higher level with an advanced vocab and breadth of knowledge they shouldn't have for their lowly job. that's what made it quirky. that's what made it different. that's what made it noble and edifying. you know when you watch a youtube vid or clip or show and you feel you've actually gotten dumber for having sat through that dreck? it was the exact opposite after an episode of Northern Exposure. you wanted more. you wanted the next lesson. this is the only tv show i ever watched while taking notes.
Northern Exposure was the writer's wet dream.
CLICK HERE A GET A SENSE OF THE ROMANTIC AND FAMILIAL DYNAMICS IN THE SHOW
CLICK HERE AND GET A SENSE OF THE COMMUNITY INTERACTION. OH THOSE HOLIDAY EPISODES I'M TELLING YOU
CLICK HERE FOR ADAM ARKIN'S RELIGION, DON'T TELL HIS DAD ALAN
CLICK HERE, HERE, AND HERE FOR BLOOPERS
other contenders: that country in the news. New Zealand. The Naked Brothers Band and their obscure poo-poo juice, Nancy Grace, Naturally, Sadie which was a sciency and Canadian Being Eve, Neighbours, fraught, okay the only scene i ever remember is that ethnic girl with the black hair who has a diving accident and is confined to a wheelchair and her mouth is all messed up so that her accent is even harder to understand, Nick Arcade and Guts inferior to Temple, Night Court with that catchy intro, Noddy i never saw only heard weird rumors about, NYPD Blue which was a late bloomer but that Jimmy Smits can act, huh? La Raza proud and hope there's more 24, with Carter or maybe even a brand-newier cast next time. and Evangelion which is too insane to even begin to explain.
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