Northern Exposure was an hour long sitcom that aired Mondays at 10p.m. for approximately six seasons. I missed the first two because I was an incredibly busy undergraduate at the time, but have since been able to watch them elsewhere online.
The character of Dr. Joel Fleishman, played by Rob Morrow, was a NYC native freshly graduated from Cornell School of Medicine. In return for paying for his tuition, Fleishman signed a contract with the State of Alaska agreeing to work for the State for a period of four years following graduation. Fleishman was originally told that he would be living in Anchorage, but at the last minute, was pulled to a small town located in the middle of nowhere by the name of Cicely.
I really enjoyed the Fleishman character because I could relate to being surrounded by a bunch of rubes. Lovable, understand, but rubes, nonetheless.
Speaking of turnips, I did not like the Kupfer character at all. Walt Kupfer was an aggravating, brain dead, busybody who had worked as a broker on Wall Street, but who then came to Cicely to escape from the stress of his life. Or so he said. Then again, maybe he left NYC because he thought he could spit a Yellow Cab over a campfire and eat it for dinner.
Maybe he wasn’t a broker at all, but an escaped mental patient. Oh wait. NE already had that storyline in the final season. A professional violinist was instantly transformed into a raving nutjob having become obsessed with Maurice’s antique violin upon playing it for the first time for Maurice and his date, Officer Semansky.
Kupfer made a living as a trapper and otherwise functioned as filler – a character in the show that didn’t rate a spot in any of the group shots for the show. I found him to be mildly annoying initially, but as his was only a bit part, and, as long as he stayed on the periphery, he was tolerable. That changed, however, during the episode when Fleishman discovered a fully intact mammoth in a melted glacier, and, before he could get an anthropologist out to see it, Kupfer found it.
Unbeknownst to Fleishman, he then dragged it home where he could slaughter the body and eat the steaks. When Fleishman found out, he was apoplectic. But my opinion of the Kupfer character as the village idiot was permanently solidified thereafter.
After Joel Fleishman, Ed Chigliak was my other favorite. Ed was employed by both Ruth Ann Miller who owned the town’s general store, and, by Maurice Minnifield, Cicely’s wealthiest resident. But his true love was filming home documentaries with his 16mm camera. While Fleishman’s claim to fame was his ability to sound off and get under the skin of anyone within earshot, Ed’s endearing quality was that he related all of his life experiences to the VHS movies he obsessively watched.
Ed also frequently suffered from bouts of low self esteem, which was personified by a little green man who followed him around wearing a tiny sized version of Ed’s black leather jacket.
Seasons three through five were the best, in my opinion, but by the sixth, it was clear that Dr. Fleishman had big screen aspirations. Although Morrow starred in Quiz Show in 1994, his movie career never quite attained the heights that he banked on, I suspect. Regardless, he continued playing Fleishman up til midpoint in season six, but the quality of the show was never quite the same.
Season six was the finale, and was, by my standards at least, an annoying series of WTF. With each passing week, the writers gradually wrote off the Joel character, and, my interest in the show waned in a big way.
The Joel Fleishman that was so obnoxiously amusing at the start of the series became increasingly unkempt, hirsute, erratic and just plain “out there.” I’m sure these were all intended consequences since they jibed with phasing Morrow out of the show, but it was still quite annoying just the same.
Additionally, what you could see of his face through the grizzly Adams facial hair and 80s hair band ‘do, Morrow seemed to have a perpetual shit eating grin on his face whenever the cameras were rolling no matter the scene. But he wasn’t funny, witty or obnoxious anymore. He wasn’t anything. He was just an actor collecting a big cha-ching payday and otherwise going through the motions of fulfilling his contractual obligations. Probably a lot of other fans felt the same way. Or maybe it was just that the show had run its course and it was time to call it quits.
Later on in the season, I became even more irritated with the show when Fleishman was completely disappeared in the fifteenth episode entitled, “The Quest.” But, such is the life of a television actor who outgrows his television screen, I suppose. More than one TV show has bitten the dust because the main character assumed he would have equal or greater success in Hollywood.
In an attempt to infuse new blood into the show, new characters Dr. Capra & wife were trotted out in hopes, no doubt, of filling the Joel void, but I found the Capras to be flat and uninspiring. There was nothing they could say that was as amusing or witty as the Fleishman v. O’Connell wars had been. Perhaps their biggest fault was that in a town populated by eccentrics, the Capras were quite normal. They weren’t sufficiently odd or dysfunctional to really make an impact, and, the balance between the Capras versus the flakes that the writers may have imagined remained to be seen.
The only thing noteworthy about the Capras was that the wife, Michelle, was played by Teri Polo, who, a few years later, had a few cameos in Brimstone as Detective Ash, and, ultimately ended up playing opposite Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents.
Not long after Fleishman disappeared into the wilderness, the neurotic, but infectiously adorable O’Connell character, played by Janine Turner, was eventually paired up with Chris Stevens, which was bound to happen sooner or later since it was evident that the writers couldn’t seem to devote enough segments to Cicely’s only DJ.
I disliked the Stevens character almost as much as I did Kupfer. And for all the many layers of what must have been imagined was “character” that was attributed in an attempt to toughen up his image, Chris Stevens was nothing but an overbearing pompous ass, in my opinion. If there were only a single radio station on my dial and the choice was either “Chris in the morning” or silence, I’d choose the latter.
You can find the series online if you’re interested in buying the boxed set, however, I would not recommend it. NE is apparently yet another victim of the music industry’s insane licensing fees shake down, and, so none of the music that was featured in the original episodes is included in the DVD collection. As far as I’m concerned, this is tantamount to trying to pass off The Silver Surfer without his board or Spiderman minus his ability to spin webs and climb up the side of a building.
Despite the disclusion of the soundtrack, you won’t find a discount in the price tag. Not even the nifty, faux buckskin carrying case makes up for the absence of the music. Pass on this one. Put the tunes back into the show and then get back to me.
©2009 Peyton Farquhar™ and Prattle On, Boyo™. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.