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Northern Exposure
Northern Exposure-Intertitle.jpg
Genre Comedy-drama
Created by Joshua Brand
John Falsey
Starring Rob Morrow
Barry Corbin
Janine Turner
John Cullum
Darren E. Burrows
John Corbett
Cynthia Geary
Elaine Miles
Peg Phillips
Paul Provenza (1994–95)
Teri Polo (1994–95)
Theme music composer David Schwartz
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 110 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) 1990–93: Joshua Brand and John Falsey
1994–95: David Chase, Diane Frolov, and Andrew Schneider
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time Approx 45 minutes per episode
Production company(s) Cine-Nevada Productions (1990)
Finnegan-Pinchuk Productions (1991-1995)
Falahey/Austin Street Productions (1991-1992)
Brand/Falsey Productions (1992-1995)
Universal Television
Original channel CBS
Original run July 12, 1990 – July 26, 1995

Northern Exposure is an American comedy-drama Northern television series that ran on CBS from 1990 to 1995, with a total of 110 episodes. It received a total of 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. Critic John Leonard called Northern Exposure "the best of the best television in the past 10 years".


A recently graduated New York City physician, Dr. Joel Fleischman, is sent to practice in the town of Cicely, Alaska to fulfill his obligation after Alaska paid for his medical education. Early episodes deal with Fleischman's culture shock in the small town. While the show was nominally premised on the fish out of water conflict between Fleischman's big city ways and the small-town mores of the Cicely residents, its focus shifted to dive more deeply into the quirky personalities of the eccentric townfolk.


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

The series was created by Joshua Brand and John Falsey, who also created the award-winning shows St. Elsewhere and I'll Fly Away.

Northern Exposure has aired in South Africa under a different name; the first four seasons were broadcast in Afrikaans as Goeie Môre, Alaska!, Afrikaans for "Good Morning, Alaska!"


The show started as an eight-episode summer midseason replacement series on CBS in 1990. It returned for seven more episodes in spring 1991, then became a regular part of the network's schedule in 1991–1992. It ranked among the top 10 viewed by 18- to 49-year-olds, and was part of the network's 1992–1993 and 1993–1994 schedules. Its last season, 1994–1995, included a gap during the May 1995 sweeps when CBS broadcast other programming. "The show had a lot of life in it, and the move (Wednesday at 10pm) killed it," says executive producer Andrew Schneider. "This piddling out is sad."

Northern Exposure first concentrated on the protagonist Joel Fleischman, with storylines revolving around his fish-out-of-water difficulties adjusting to Alaska, and his hot-and-cold romantic involvements with Maggie O'Connell. As Northern Exposure continued, supporting characters such as Chris, Ed, Holling, Shelly, Maurice, and Ruth-Anne (along with recurring characters such as Adam and Eve, Barbara Semanski, and Bernard) received more development.

Rob Morrow (Joel Fleischman) and his representatives spent much of Seasons 4 and 5 lobbying for an improved contract, 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.

Cast and characters

Cynthia Geary Rob Morrow and Janine Turner at the 45th Emmy Awards
Cynthia Geary, Rob Morrow, and Janine Turner at the 1993 Emmy Awards
Peg Phillips and Barry Cobin
Peg Phillips and Barry Corbin at the 1993 Emmy Awards
  • Joel Fleischman (played by Rob Morrow) is a young, neurotic Jewish physician from New York City. Fresh out of family medicine residency, he finds himself unexpectedly bound to practice medicine for four years in the small town of Cicely according to the terms of a student loan underwritten by the state of Alaska. Fleischman is a proverbial fish out of water, and his struggles to adjust to his new environment drive the plot in 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.
  • Maurice Minnifield (played by Barry Corbin) is a millionaire businessman and celebrated former astronaut who moved to the area decades before upon retiring from the military. Maurice owns Cicely's newspaper and radio station (KBHR 570 AM) and 15,000 acres (61 km2) of land near the town 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. Minnifield can be pompous and overbearing, leading to conflicts with other residents, most notably when he and old friend Holling Vincoeur vie for the romantic attention of Shelly Tambo early in the series.
  • Maggie O'Connell (played by Janine Turner) is a tomboy-ish Grosse Pointe 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 during the series' 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 romantic partners die strange deaths, leading her to believe that she suffers from an "O'Connell Curse". The character of Maggie O'Connell was inspired by the real-life aviator Norah O'Neill, who wrote the book Flying Tigress, about her experiences flying in the Alaskan Bush in the 1970s.
  • Holling Vincoeur (played by John Cullum) is a Canadian-born sexagenarian owner of The Brick, a popular local bar and restaurant. He and Maurice are old friends, though their relationship was strained at one time by their mutual romantic interest in Shelly Tambo, whom Holling ends up marrying. Despite being at least forty years older than Shelly, he is afraid that he will outlive her since men in his family often live to be much older than 100.
  • Shelly Tambo (played by Cynthia Geary) is another Canadian expatriate and former Miss Northwest Passage. She was brought to Cicely by Maurice, who had hoped to marry her. Instead, she marries Holling and becomes a waitress at The Brick. Though seemingly naive and flighty, she regularly shows flashes of unexpected wisdom. The character was planned to be of Native American descent until Geary auditioned for the role and was selected.
  • Chris Stevens (played by John Corbett) is a philosophical 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 station owner Maurice Minnifield, who fires and rehires him several times during the series run. Chris is also a non-denominational clergyman and occasionally officiates at weddings.
  • Ed Chigliak (played by 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 (played by Peg Phillips) is the elderly and level-headed owner of the local general store and 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.
  • Marilyn Whirlwind (played by Elaine Miles) is Joel's stoically undemonstrative native-Alaskan receptionist. Her few words and 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 try to fill the void left by Morrow's departure:

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

Major recurring characters include Apesanahkwat as Lester Haines (a native millionaire), Anthony Edwards as Mike Monroe (allergy sufferer and ecological watchdog), Richard Cummings Jr. as Bernard Stevens (Chris's half-brother and "spiritual doppelgänger"), James L. Dunn as Hayden Keyes (ex-con on the fence), William J. White as Dave the Cook (an employee fixture at The Brick), Graham Greene as Leonard (the official local shaman), Diane Delano as Officer Barbara Semanski (and Maurice's love interest), Adam Arkin as mysterious wilderness wanderer and former master chef Adam, and Valerie Mahaffey as his chronically hypochondriacal wife Eve; Mahaffey was the only actor from the series to win an Emmy Award.


Although the town of Cicely is widely thought to be patterned after the real town of Talkeetna, Alaska, the main street of Cicely and the filming location was that of Roslyn, Washington, located in the Cascade Mountains. "Northern Exposure II" (the main production facility) was located 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 him loose, and lured him around with food.


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

Reception: awards and reviews


Over the course of Northern Exposure's run, the series was nominated for over fifty Emmy Awards and multiple Golden Globe awards. In addition, Joshua Brand and John Falsey received two Peabody Awards, in 1991 and 1992, sharing the latter award with CBS and Finnegan-Pinchuk Company. During one of their thank you speeches, Brand and Falsey said that they appreciated the drama awards, "but it's a comedy".

The show's other awards include:

  • Emmy Award (1992), Joshua Brand and John Falsey, Outstanding Drama Series.
  • Emmy Award (1992), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Valerie Mahaffey.
  • Emmy Award (1992), Andrew Schneider and Diane Frolov for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing for a Drama Series for "Seoul Mates".
  • Emmy Award (1992), Thomas R. Moore for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Editing for a Series for "Cicely".
  • Golden Globe (1992), Best Drama series.
  • Golden Globe (1993), Best Drama series.
  • Directors Guild of America Award (1993), Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Shows, "Cicely"


Emmy Award:

  • 1994 – 3 Nominations, 1 win
  • 1993 – 16 Nominations
  • 1992 – 16 Nominations, 6 wins
  • 1991 – 3 Nominations

Golden Globe:

  • 1994 – 3 Nominations
  • 1993 – 4 Nominations, 1 win
  • 1992 – 3 Nominations, 1 win

Additional awards and nominations

  • American Cinema Editors – Eddie nomination for Best Edited One-Hour Series for Television – Briana London – for episode "Lovers and Madmen"
  • Environmental Media Awards, USA – Award for Ongoing Commitment – Josh Brand and John Falsey
  • Screen Actors Guild Awards – Nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
  • 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: Northern Exposure Theme – 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


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”.

It has not been rated on Metacritic.

TV ratings

  • Season 1 (Thursday 10 pm): 12.4 rating (highest rated episode: A Kodiak Moment; 10.1 rating) (competed against NBC's Must See TV)
  • Season 2 (Monday 10 pm): 15.5 rating (highest rated episode: Goodbye to All That; 13.9 rating)
  • Season 3: 16.3 rating (highest rated episode: Wake Up Call; 19.6 rating/26 million viewers)
  • Season 4: 15.8 rating (highest rated episode: Northwest Passages; 18.3 rating)
  • Season 5: 14.5 rating (highest rated episode: A Bolt from the Blue; 16.2 rating)
  • Season 6 (Monday at 10 pm; Wednesday at 9 pm): 11.2 rating (highest rated episode: Eye of the Beholder; 13.7 rating)

Popular culture

The TV series The Librarians (2014) paid tribute to Northern Exposure by setting its final episode of Season 2 in the quirky small town of Cicely, Washington.

Indie rock band Bon Iver are named after an episode of the show.

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. 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 re-released together in packaging that matches the third through sixth seasons.

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 October 8, 2007 November 11, 2009

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 of Northern Exposure. The working title for this project is "Northern Exposure: Home Again" according to the "More Northern Exposure Now" website. Despite not meeting the original $100,000 goal, Darren decided to continue forward with the project.

On June 17, 2016, Film Farms announced on their Facebook page that writer David Assael had been hired to write for the project. He previously wrote several episodes of Northern Exposure, including "Russian Flu," "Spring Break," and "It Happened in Juneau," among others. Originally envisioned as a two-hour "visit to Cicely," a 10 episode format is currently being pitched for network, cable, or streaming venues.

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