It looks like a fine winter's morning out there at the 63rd latitude.
October 23, 2015 8:47 AM   Subscribe

 
The final scene of the episode Kaddish for Uncle Manny is by far one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen on television.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:58 AM on October 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


Toy Cows in Africa.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:01 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nice article...thanks for posting...

A couple of years ago I purchased the first couple of seasons on DVR, I think I'm going to have to dig those out this winter.. (once I finish Doc Martin which, now that I think about it, is a very, very similar show in many, many ways)...
posted by HuronBob at 9:13 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really enjoyed this show, even in its uneven last seasons, and it makes me sad to think that it has been 25 years.
posted by nubs at 9:15 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was suprised ED wasn't indingeinious and a little disappointed. My favourite episode was the one where Joel plans the entire trip to seattle for MArylin, and she sloughs it off. Her work, and the inclusion of indingeinous voices, was i think my favourite thing about the show. I wish she was working more, though she was amazing in smoke signals...it's usually two or three years between projects for her.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:16 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


i still relishcall the amorality of this line (as a kid! watching the show ;) "sometimes you have to do something bad, just to know you're alive."
posted by kliuless at 9:33 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I loved this show so much.

However I tried to rewatch it recently, and sadly the television industry has passed it by, in some ways: there is almost no narrative momentum, and the character development is achingly slow by contemporary standards. It's a nice change of pace, but does not lend itself to binge-watching.

I will still always have a fondness for the residents of Cecily, particularly Chris in the Morning.
posted by suelac at 9:36 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have long wondered why no shows in the so-called "Golden Age" of television that The Sopranos kicked off in 1999 have made a run at glorious and yet somehow never saccharine warm-heartedness of Northern Exposure. That David Chase hated the show's tone answers a lot of that: neither he nor his proteges and imitators saw anything to reproduce here.
posted by MattD at 9:38 AM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Does he have to be a shaman?

Thanks so much for this. Husband and I loved this show beyond all reason, and still do.
posted by Occula at 9:42 AM on October 23, 2015


I'm so glad that there are still TV shows, albeit encased in DVD purgatory, that don't lend themselves to binge-watching.
posted by blucevalo at 9:55 AM on October 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I loved this show so much.

However I tried to rewatch it recently, and sadly the television industry has passed it by, in some ways: there is almost no narrative momentum, and the character development is achingly slow by contemporary standards. It's a nice change of pace, but does not lend itself to binge-watching.


I had a similar experience, except that it was the show's treatment of female characters that I had trouble getting past. It's been a while so I don't remember many details of what bugged me, except for the episode where Chris falls in love with the one woman who won't have him during his pheromone thing (the optometrist, I think?) and spends the whole episode bugging her to date him. It was hard to watch and laugh at that at this point in my life.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:00 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


To expand: Few show universes grab me with the sharp, nostalgic longing that this one does. I wanted to go to there. I grew up in a small town full of non-quirky, non-educated, non-open-minded, non-affectionate, non-fun, non-accepting folks. The idea that there was a small town somewhere that was the opposite - that was compelling as hell.
posted by Occula at 10:02 AM on October 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


I really liked Northern Exposure when I first watched in college, and I tried to watch it again a couple of months ago and it really didn't age well for me, especially in terms of how male-centric it is. We're told Maggie's smart, but boy does she act dumb! And the Holly/Shelly thing being played as an amazingly good relationship creeps me out at this point. I'm not saying it's not possible for there to be happy relationships with big age gaps, but she's just out of high school and he's much, much older and they're basically the only happy couple on the show. At some point he tells her very lovingly "I'm not interested in your mind! I love your body! I love your youth, Shelly" and it's like yeah a hilarious reversal but it's also sexist as shit and the fact that it's ironic doesn't make it okay.

There's also an episode where Chris has this smell and all women find him irresistible except one and he finds her fascinating and keeps harassing her about how she can possibly resist him and she's super flattered instead of saying "I HAVE A JOB TO DO LEAVE ME ALONE YOU FUCKING CREEP PLEASE STOP HARASSING ME AT WORK ABOUT WHY I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP WITH YOU" and the whole thing is really icky and gross. To be honest, as a whole I find Chris irritating and not as smart as I think I'm supposed to (oh look a wise autodidact with a troubled past, he quotes Kant, he must be a genius, and also he's great-looking -- it feels super wish-fulfillmenty somehow), I find Joel generally likeable, I think Ed's a delight and I enjoy Maurice, but (other than Marilyn who is fantastic) the show is super-weak on women and just feels super self-indulgent and kind of narcissistic with its focus on men (and mostly white men).

The show seemed to me like it was focusing on Chris and Joel, two smart attractive young white men, and this zany cast of characters that were there for their amusement. I feel like I'm articulating myself badly but there was this tone to the show -- focusing pretty much entirely on men's problems and feelings and expecting women to be there for support and having a women they keep telling us is smart act so, SO dumb -- that really squicked me out.

There's a lot of good stuff in Northern Exposure, and I totally see why it's a big deal, but watching it with a better understanding of pervasive media sexism gave me a completely different perspective on it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:05 AM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


Ugh should have previewed -- yes, it was the traveling optometrist (or maybe ophthalmologist, I don't know the difference) who drove around in a van giving eye exams to remote communities who Chris harassed.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:08 AM on October 23, 2015


sadly the television industry has passed it by, in some ways: there is almost no narrative momentum, and the character development is achingly slow by contemporary standards.


Still skimming the article, but I feel defensive reading the phrase here “passed it by.” Gone in a different direction, yes. An often more exhausting direction. Yes. In RL narrative and character development IS slow. Doing something like *NE* again would be the experiment at this point. Hell, they were discussing something along these lines at last summer’s Gilmore Girls panel.

I, for whom NE and Moonlighting are all-time favorite TV show, have desperately sought the echoes of that style this century in shows like GG, and perhaps Parks & Rec.

And while I do like some contemporary shows (The Americans, for one), I often say Oy with frenetic pace, violent and vile anti-heroes, extreme and graphic savagery and sex, alienated tones. I’ll take my offbeat escapist fantasy places whose only extreme is witty, urbane dialog, any day.
posted by NorthernLite at 10:08 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


For however acutely he depicts grim tragedies, I think that David Simon comes closest to the spirit of Northern Exposure. Although not edging into magic realism, he really tries to evoke a place which is overwhelmingly central to the life of its protagonists, and capture the joys of their lives. Treme in important ways was his effort to spend more time on this, and less on tragedy, than the The Wire could accommodate.
posted by MattD at 10:19 AM on October 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


NX probably has the highest amount of lines we still quote to one another after, say, The Simpsons. And the characters we impersonate. Walt! My God, Walt. "Are you blind, woman? These are my church shoes!"

And Donal Logue's guest turn as the hotshot movie director will always have a place in my heart. For years when we saw him in something, it was, "Hey, it's the guy who was set upon by wild dogs!"

That Adam was a gifted chef was always somehow hilarious. "It's CUMIN!"

I have to stop. But not inside my own mind!
posted by Occula at 10:26 AM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I recently stopped by Roslyn, WA where the show was filmed and it was magic. Like walking into an episode of the show. And I sat in front of the Brick and kept imagining that at any moment Ed or Maurice would be seen walking down the street. It was just lovely.
posted by ilovewinter at 10:30 AM on October 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


The Holling/Shelly thing was interesting . At some point they addressed the audience assumption that she'd outlive him with a hilarious bit where he worries about outliving her because men of his family are freakishly long-lived and end up outliving all their spouses and dying alone. I'd have to rewatch it to see if it bothered me now, but I always felt like that was their way of addressing the "ew" factor. Also she was a very self-possessed young woman so it never felt like she was being manipulated (at the time; maybe I'd think that now). I think they worked really hard on that aspect.

I also vividly remember the episode where he counters his winter blues with one of those ultraviolet eye-visor things but takes it TOO FAR and goes manic and got a little bit After School Special but in a fun way.

Shelly's childbirth episode was pretty cool too.

I never trusted Chris, he was like the soft-spoken stoner guy who would seem really nice and then try to grab your boobs.
posted by emjaybee at 11:15 AM on October 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


Barry Corbin was in Wargames, you know.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:53 AM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I only just now (as in, a few minutes ago) discovered The Alaskan Riviera, a fan site which is doing episode-by-episode reviews and podcasts of the series. It's nearing completion; they're into the final season. When I posted this, I thought the single link was good enough, but now I wish I had poked around a bit more and put this site into the FPP.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:22 PM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I loved that show! Years later when I learned that John Corbett (Chris the DJ) was in a long term relationship with Bo Derek I'm not sure who I was happier for.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:38 PM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


We've got a couple of episodes of the last season to watch. We've tried, many times, but they're so appalling that we have to turn it off. We can't believe that this was the same series as produced War and Peace (S2E6). It did tank pretty hard after series 3, though; Our Wedding (S3E22) pretty much being a textbook shark-jump.
posted by scruss at 2:06 PM on October 23, 2015


I know this article discusses this but I've only skimmed it since I haven't watched all of this show yet and don't want, uh, "spoilers"-- but at what point does it really turn awful? Maybe I'll just stop watching then. The early show is so idyllic, I don't want to ruin it.

Also I haven't watched The Sopranos but the David Chase stuff in this article makes me haaaaaate him. And the rise of the fucking antihero.
posted by easter queen at 2:20 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


As an Alaskan, i didn’t hate the show but it was always weirdly wrong, yet at the same time you felt like that when creating the show they’d visited a town for a few weeks and based some of the characters off of their impressions of locals they’d seen.

For example, the young guy who wore the leather jacket always seemed like they realized “oh, Alaska has ‘alternative’/punk/indie rock kids, too” based teenagers they saw around town.
posted by D.C. at 2:29 PM on October 23, 2015


Glad to see so many others loved this show! I couldn't believe it lasted more than one season, since my love has a way of killing them off (anybody remember Profit?); it was sad to see it go downhill during the last couple of seasons (I had no idea it was David Chase's fault), but that it lasted so long and kept up as much quality as it did was a miracle. Thanks for this post!

(Is it true that the DVDs don't have the original music? Because I'd love to have something other than my dusty old tapes, but I ain't watching it with replacement music. The music was important, dammit. I identified strongly with Chris Stevens.)
posted by languagehat at 2:59 PM on October 23, 2015


As an Alaskan, i didn’t hate the show but it was always weirdly wrong, yet at the same time you felt like that when creating the show they’d visited a town for a few weeks and based some of the characters off of their impressions of locals they’d seen.


IIRC, the showrunners had all the writers read John McPhee's Coming into the Country, which I suspect is much the same as visiting for two weeks, if they did no other research.
posted by suelac at 3:00 PM on October 23, 2015


This show premiered when I was in college - probably the perfect time to fall in love with it. After hearing Chris read from Interview with The Vampire on the Blood Ties episode, I fell in love with that series, too. I think I'll avoid revisiting both of them, since I'm guessing neither have aged particularly well.
posted by ericbop at 3:14 PM on October 23, 2015


Every time I hear John Corbett's voice in a Walgreen's radio ad, my brain's first impression is--just for a second--"Huh, I guess Chris left Cicely."
posted by corey flood at 3:35 PM on October 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


I liked this show well enough when it was on the first time... but then years later reruns showed up in the night-owl slot, CBS was running them at 3 AM or something. I liked it a lot better then. There's something about the show that really suits the middle of the night, when everything is quiet and it feels like the whole damn world is asleep, except for you. The cute stuff goes down easier, and the wise stuff hits harder. It doesn't seem slow then. The pace is just right.

(Seeing almost any show at 3 AM can give it surprising depths, while seeing almost any show rerun at 10 AM makes it seem silly and weirdly depressing. I guess at 3 AM you're primed to take stuff in because the world is cold and dark and you're all alone trying to hold off the bad thoughts, while at 10 AM you feel like you should be out there getting stuff done and it seems wrong to be spending time in some make-believe TV world. If you're watching TV at 10 AM, something is wrong. Either you're home sick or you've been awake all night and still can't sleep or you're shrinking your chores or something. Never watch TV at 10 AM, if you can help it.)

I've always thought this show was kind of an unofficial remake/ripoff of Local Hero. Young, ambitious, neurotic and kind of arrogant big city guy is forced to stay in this wintry little town full of eccentrics, and hates it at first but slowly finds himself falling in love with the place and its people. Sound familiar?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:58 PM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


I take issue with the idea that this "Golden Age of Television" started in 1999. For me it's clearly c 1990 when Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure and The Simpsons premiered. Finally we were treated to fully intelligent shows that were willing to play with every single convention in television. Viewers were treated with respect and the directors, actors, and writers were all allowed to actually be artists. That was the beginning of this most recent Golden Age which then ended with the finales of BSG and Lost. Now everything feels derivative of the programs from those years regardless of how well-made they are. This was the closest TV will ever get to its modernist period and now we bask in the glow of its postmodern era.

My memories of Chris are better than he actually was. This is mainly because I -- and we -- are so much more sophisticated than we could have been then. But I think he still holds up really well given that it's been 25 years.

Ed is much better in retrospect than he was then (as the article so rightly and lovingly points out). I feel like there's something we missed out with him.

It was a different time and certain things do seem problematic by today's standards but as Derrida pointed out justice is never settled and we should proceed cautiously when considering it especially when exploring the past (and super especially when considering contemporary art -- but that's for a different discussion).

There's much more to be had from analysing NE but it appears that it doesn't get the academic love it deserves (eg, I don't know how to make this happen but Slayage needs to open itself up to NE as it clearly is the modernist foil to Buffy's postmodernism.)

On a practical note, do not watch this show from the DVDs post season 1. The original soundtrack was ditched in subsequent seasons for cost reasons. You'll need to find the original TV airings from some other source.
posted by bfootdav at 4:09 PM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've always thought this show was kind of an unofficial remake/ripoff of Local Hero.

Which I now see TFA references.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:11 PM on October 23, 2015


Few show universes grab me with the sharp, nostalgic longing that this one does. I wanted to go to there. I grew up in a small town full of non-quirky, non-educated, non-open-minded, non-affectionate, non-fun, non-accepting folks. The idea that there was a small town somewhere that was the opposite - that was compelling as hell.

Oh jebus, this a thousand times over. I grew up in a small western town and moved back here five years ago. I would KILL for some quirky, educated, open-minded folks, not to mention a local radio station that did not spit out bland country or conservative hate-talk (although the roots/jazz/blues/indie public radio station outa Fargo makes do pretty well) AND a cafe/bar that didn't insult my modest intelligence and taste buds. I got a few folk here I can depend on to be decent and a little artsy but man, it's nothing like Cecily.

For a couple months I worked on a project that looked at municipalities in Montana and Colorado. Every mountain town I'd see online I'd think, "this is it, this could be the one." Someday I'll go looking for a little piece of Cecily in the Front Range of the Rockies. Wish me luck.
posted by Ber at 4:51 PM on October 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Barry Corbin was in Wargames, you know.

And No Country for Old Men, in one of the best Coen brothers scenes ever.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 5:05 PM on October 23, 2015


A couple more things about the show itself. Chase really ran this thing off the rails. I can watch the first few seasons but the magic really dies for me after that. Last great episode was probably Maurice throwing that banquet for Adam but all around the episode everything is fire and ash.

Janine Turner drove me nuts. I definitely crushed on her in those first couple seasons but it faded. Maybe I sensed that she was going to turn into a wingnut conservative? It didn't help that a coworker knew someone on the crew for the show and reported that everyone in the cast was wonderful, even Rob but bring up Janine and tales of prima donna bullshit came flying out.

But in my heart there is still a Cecily, where Adam sometimes works the grill, where the DJ spins sweet tunes and philosophical ramblings, where a moose walks down the middle of the street, and where everyone can gather in a meadow to watch a piano get launched by a catapult.
posted by Ber at 5:06 PM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, this show. I was in high school when it first came on and it was my favorite and of course I was desperately in love with Chris in the Morning. And I still get a huge smile on my face when I think of the theme song.

I was another who was convinced that if I just moved out to a remote town I'd find a bunch of awesome, quirky locals whose values more-or-less matched mine. I've even taken a couple of jobs in remote areas with this hope... no dice so far, though every time I get the itch to move somewhere new a small part of me hopes I'll find the real Cicely.
posted by TwoStride at 5:53 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


This show taught me why so many people think of us New Yorkers as dicks.

I mean, after 29 years, Im a Californian by choice. But I was born/raised in the 5 boroughs

And the insufferability of "This backwards little effort at civilization is not Zabars" I came to understand by watching NX.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:56 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like others have stated here, I reallllllly liked this show in high school. It was the highlight of my week. I remember feeling like it was amazing and how could it possibly be just on TV like all the other stupid shows when it had such MEANING. Now I really can't sit through a whole episode, for noticing all the uncomfortable things others have mentioned, its male centricity, the really draggy pace, etc. Bummer.

Another awesome thing though was that during high school when I was enamored of the show, it was also my grandma's favorite. We didn't have a lot of other overlapping interests so it's fun to remember that.

We both thought Chris was some sort of shuckster even then, with all the yammering on and on.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:45 PM on October 23, 2015


The music was important, dammit.

While the show was still on the air, I remember periodically I'd see articles in the New York Times where the general thrust was, "who is the genius picking the music for this show?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 PM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Either you're home sick or you've been awake all night and still can't sleep or you're shrinking your chores or something.

God damn it. That should have been shirking, not shrinking. One of the medications I'm on has a weird side effect where I sometimes substitute a word for another, similar-sounding word. (I know it's the drug, because I stop doing it whenever I go off the drug. I've also heard other people on the drug report the same thing. Drug side effects are weird.) My spell-checker never catches it, because the word isn't misspelled, it's just the wrong word.

It sucks, and it happens often enough that I should really consider adding this note to my Metafilter profile.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:49 PM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Young, ambitious, neurotic and kind of arrogant big city guy is forced to stay in this wintry little town full of eccentrics, and hates it at first but slowly finds himself falling in love with the place and its people. Sound familiar?

never cry wolf :P

I take issue with the idea that this "Golden Age of Television" started in 1999. For me it's clearly c 1990...

stng!
posted by kliuless at 1:04 AM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Seeing this post is a little weird for me because just a few days ago I hit on a reference to NX (which looks like it should be followed by a -01) and read up on the show and read all that Wikiquote had to offer and found Moosechick Notes and perused that to revisit Cicely. But in my reading, I came across the Chris quote that starts off TFA, and heard it in Chris’ voice, and it’s set me back a bit.

For a little over a decade, I was sort of exiled to a deeply rural place, a la Joel. And despite there being some good people around and making a few dear friends, I was Joel. I would not assimilate to this backward place. I fought against it tooth and nail. And when you’re married to someone who thinks it’s the only best place to live, that makes things a little touchy to the point of splitting the sheets. I was not in that place when I lived there, I didn't do anything while I was there, and it is not a better place for my having been there.

All these years after it aired, I’m wishing I had watched at least that episode more carefully.
posted by bryon at 1:57 AM on October 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wasn't comfortable with Maurice's casual racism and anti-Semitism, especially since there were so many episodes that revolved around Joel being a fish out of water, Joel not understanding How Things Are Done, Joel being stingy with his time and/or resources ... I mean, the whole point of the show was that Joel got a good deal on his student loans, but resented having to fulfill his end of the bargain.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:10 AM on October 24, 2015


See, Maurice's comments didn't bother me; it was clear that he was kind of a pompous jerk, and that everyone else knew it. But that was the thing - in Cicely, there is even room for the pompous jerks.

There was even an episode where the two men who ran the B&B got married (in an unofficial capacity, thanks to Chris being a Universal Life minister) and I think there flat out was an open exchange between them and Maurice where Maurice flat-out said "I find their sexual habits abhorrent, but they are respectable and responsible citizens," and the couple,said something like "likewise, we think Maurice's politics and morals are conservative to the point of paranoia, but he comes through for you in his way."

I got a serious live-and-let-live vibe about that, where the rest of the town maybe had tried talking to him but it hasn't worked, so he was like that one uncle where it can't be helped and you just roll your eyes when they say something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:24 AM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


You know, I watched this show from the very first episode. (My mom was cutting my hair in the kitchen that night.) And I still say "In your dreams, Fleischman," to no one's sympathy.

I…I think I might have to watch the first season again this winter, and I just don't watch TV any more. *sigh* What a great show.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:46 PM on October 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wasn't a fan of the show but wound up watching a fair bit of it anyway because it aired during my college years and in the group of friends I hung around with a couple of the gang had crushes on Janine Turner.

Which makes it at least slightly ironic that I eventually wound up in a small-by-outside-Alaska-standards Alaskan town, surrounded by quirky neighbors, and sharing a rotating time slot on the local public radio station with same quirky neighbors.

My life in Southeast Alaska isn't anything like the show except in superficial ways but the things that several people have expressed a yearning for in this discussion do exist here -- a smaller community, surrounded by wilderness, that's tolerant of outsiders, and that encourages people in their creative endeavors while accepting their idiosyncrasies. That part's pretty great. There are other parts that represent trade-offs, though. On balance, however, it's a pretty nice place to live if you can deal with rain. (26.73" so far this month, with 7 days' data still to be recorded. Hoping to beat January's 31.01"!)
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:35 PM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


a smaller community, surrounded by wilderness, that's tolerant of outsiders, and that encourages people in their creative endeavors while accepting their idiosyncrasies.

That was Barstow, some years back. At least, that was my take on it. Unfortunately I went back to visit about a year ago and the town had gotten very meth-y and sad.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:35 PM on October 25, 2015


That camaraderie and mutual tolerance was one of the things I liked about the show, so it's funny that I really disliked the treatment of Maurice and Joel's characters.

Perhaps it's because of the later seasons in which the "quirkiness" knob was turned up to 11 while the characters remained oblivious to it. Maurice started out as "racist but what are you going to do" and he ended up "he's racist! and I'm a shaman! and she's a feisty puddle-jumping pilot! and you're a Jew from new York who doesn't fit in!" The characters had almost turned into caricatures, and issues that should have been dealt with were now cast in stone. Joel was never going to fit in; Maurice was never going to change or be treated the way he deserved. Something that looked as though it would it would have a payoff was now part of the scenery; Chekhov's gun would stay on the mantelpiece forever.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:41 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


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