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.[1] 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 set to practice medicine in Anchorage, Alaska to repay the state of Alaska for underwriting his medical education. However, much to his chagrin, he is instead assigned to the much smaller town of Cicely, which was without a general practitioner before his arrival.

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 involvement with Maggie O'Connell. As the series progressed and the other characters were more fully developed, the show's focus shifted to dive more deeply into the lives of Chris, Ed, Holling, Shelly, Maurice, and Ruth-Anne (along with recurring characters such as Adam and Eve, Barbara Semanski, and Bernard).


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"[2] and its stories of "people of different backgrounds and experiences" clashing but who ultimately "strive to accept their differences and co-exist".[2]

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.[3][4] 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,[5] 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."[6]

Rob Morrow (Joel Fleischman) and his representatives spent much of Seasons 4 and 5 lobbying for an improved contract,[7] 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 1993 Emmy Awards
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 reassigned from his position in a relatively large hospital in Anchorage to the small town of Cicely, where he is bound to practice medicine for four years 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.[8]
  • Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin) is a multi-millionaire businessman, fighter pilot and celebrated 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. He can be pompous, overbearing and openly bigoted, leading to conflicts with other residents, such as the gay couple Ron and Eric. Despite his gruff demeanor, Maurice can also be generous, and he aides almost every other major character in some way during the show's run. He brings the much younger Shelly Tambo to Cicely, but it is his best friend Holling Vincoeur who wins her heart.
  • Maggie O'Connell (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 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.[citation needed]
  • Holling Vincoeur (John Cullum) is the Canadian-born sexagenarian owner and operator 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. Though at least forty years older than Shelly, he looks much younger than his age, and he fears that he will eventually outlive her since most men in his family live well past 100 ad spend final years as heartbroken widowers.
  • 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 chooses Holling and becomes a waitress at The Brick restaurant/bar. Though seemingly naive and flighty, she regularly shows flashes of unexpected wisdom. The character was planned to be of Native American descent until Geary was selected for the role.[9]
  • Chris Stevens (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 (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 remarkably patient 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 as Joel's replacement 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 (a severe allergy sufferer and ecological activist), Richard Cummings Jr. as Bernard Stevens (Chris's half-brother and "spiritual doppelgänger"), James L. Dunn as Hayden Keyes (a ex-con on the fence), William J. White as Dave (the cook at The Brick), Graham Greene as Leonard (the local shaman), Diane Delano as Officer Barbara Semanski (and Maurice's love interest), Adam Arkin as mysterious, obnoxious master chef Adam, and Valerie Mahaffey as his hypochondriac and very wealthy wife Eve; Mahaffey was the only actor from the series to win an Emmy Award.[1]


Although the town of Cicely is widely thought to be patterned after the real town of Talkeetna, Alaska,[10][11] 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 Mort loose, and lured him around with food.[12]


Season Episodes Originally aired Nielsen ratings[13]
First aired Last aired Rank Rating
1 8 July 12, 1990 (1990-07-12) August 30, 1990 (1990-08-30) N/A N/A
2 7 April 8, 1991 (1991-04-08) May 20, 1991 (1991-05-20) N/A N/A
3 23 September 23, 1991 (1991-09-23) May 18, 1992 (1992-05-18) 16 15.5
4 25 September 28, 1992 (1992-09-28) May 24, 1993 (1993-05-24) 11 15.2
5 24 September 20, 1993 (1993-09-20) May 23, 1994 (1994-05-23) 14 14.4
6 23 September 19, 1994 (1994-09-19) July 26, 1995 (1995-07-26) N/A N/A

Notable episodes in the series include the pilot (nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Writing"[1]), the third season's last episode, "Cicely" (which won a Peabody Award,[2] 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.[14] (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".[citation needed]

The show's other awards include:


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”.[15]

As of June 2017, the first two seasons have been rated on Metacritic – season 1 has a Metascore of 80 and a 7.9 User Score,[16] while season 2 has a Metascore of 83 and a 8.0 User Score.[17] For television shows, a Metascore of 81 or higher is considered "Universal acclaim".[18]

TV ratings

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 Roslyn, Washington.

Indie rock band Bon Iver is named after a phrase, meaning "good winter", used in an episode of the show ("First Snow").


Northern Exposure: Music From The Television Series (USA, original soundtrack, 1992)
MCA Records, Inc. MCAD-10685[20]

  1. "Theme from Northern Exposure" – David Schwartz (Pilot, Kodiak)
  2. "Jolie Louise" – Daniel Lanois (Pilot, The Body in Question, Old Tree)
  3. "Hip Hug-Her" – Booker T. and the MG's (Animals R Us; My Mother, My Sister)
  4. "At Last" – Etta James [Slow Dance]
  5. "Everybody Be Yoself" – Chic Street Man (Spring Break)
  6. "Alaskan Nights" – David Schwartz (It Happened in Juneau, Our Tribe)
  7. "Don Quichotte" – Magazine 60 (Jules et Joel)
  8. "When I Grow Too Old to Dream" – Nat 'King' Cole and His Trio (The Big Kiss)
  9. "Emabhaceni" – Miriam Makeba (Roots)
  10. "Gimme Three Steps" – Lynyrd Skynyrd (My Mother, My Sister)
  11. "Bailero" from Chants d'Auvergne – F. VonStade, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Antonio de Almeda, conductor (Wake-Up Call)
  12. David Schwartz Medley:
"A Funeral in My Brain" (Things Become Extinct, Our Tribe, Ill Wind,...)
"Woody the Indian" (Sex, Lies, and Ed's Tape)
"The Tellakutans" (Seoul Mates, The Body in Question)

More Music From Northern Exposure (USA, 1994)
MCA Records, Inc. MCAD-11077

  1. Ojibway Square Dance (Love Song) – Georgia Wettlin-Larsen
  2. Theme from Northern Exposure – David Schwartz
  3. Stir It Up – Johnny Nash
  4. Mambo Baby – Ruth Brown
  5. Someone Loves You – Simon Bonney
  6. The Ladder – David Schwartz
  7. If You Take Me Back – Big Joe & His Washboard Band
  8. Un Marriage Casse (A Broken Marriage) – Basin Brothers
  9. There I Go Again – Vinx
  10. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (and Dream Your Troubles Away) – Les Paul & Mary Ford
  11. Mooseburger Stomp – David Schwartz
  12. I May Want a Man – Joanne Shenandoah
  13. Our Town—played during the closing scene of the last episode (July 26, 1995) – Iris Dement

Ausgerechnet Alaska (German covers, 1992),[20]
Distributed by IDEAL Vertrieb, Wichmannstr. 4, 2000 Hamburg 52 (Out of Print)

  1. The Moose – Northern Exposure Theme-Mix
  2. The Kingsmen – Louie Louie
  3. Little MiltonStand by Me
  4. Lee Dorsey – Ya Ya
  5. Billy Stewart – Summertime
  6. Little RichardGood Golly Miss Molly
  7. Coasters – Little Egypt
  8. The Drifters – On Broadway
  9. Dolly Parton – It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
  10. Guy Mitchell – Singing The Blues
  11. Patsy Cline – Crazy
  12. Paul AnkaMy Way
  13. The Marcels – Blue Moon
  14. Showaddywaddy – Who Put The Bomp
  15. Trini Lopez – This Is Your Land
  16. Jerry ButlerMoon River
  17. Andy WilliamsLove Is a Many-Splendored Thing

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.[21] 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.[22] Despite not meeting the original $100,000 goal, Darren decided to continue forward with the project.[23]

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.[24]

References and footnotes

  1. ^ a b c Awards for Northern Exposure from IMDb
  2. ^ a b c "Peabody Awards won by Brand-Falsey Productions". The Peabody Board at the University of Georgia. Archived from the original on 2012-02-18. 
  3. ^ Producing Northern Exposure from the website for the book Two Aspirins and a Comedy (ISBN 1594511551)
  4. ^ Review/Television; As Networks Go Rural, CBS Goes a Bit Further, an April 1991 article in The New York Times
  5. ^ Mark Harris & Kelli Pryor (26 July 1991). "Total Exposure". Entertainment Weekly. (via Moosechick Notes, a fansite). Archived from the original on 21 May 2009. Retrieved 21 July 2009. The loyalty the show excites even reached into network offices. "Of course it will be back next September," said one senior CBS executive long before the series was renewed. "My God, there are people here who would start a hanging party if it weren't." When CBS, thirsting for younger viewers, brought Exposure back this spring, it became a top 10 hit among the coveted audience of 18 to 49 year-olds. In the 10 p.m. Monday time slot following Designing Women, the show is drawing its best ratings ever. 
  6. ^ Fretts, Bruce; Snierson, Dan (June 2, 1995). "'Twas the Season". Entertainment Weekly. 
  7. ^ Cerone, Daniel (July 2, 1992). "'Northern Exposure,' Star in Icy Dispute : Television: Holdout Rob Morrow is sued by Universal. He reportedly wants his $30,000-per-episode salary doubled". Los Angeles Times. 
  8. ^ "Rob Morrow's long goodbye to Cicely". 
  9. ^ "Interview to CYNTHIA GEARY". Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  10. ^ Talkeetna, Alaska from roadtripamerica.com
  11. ^ Fictional places we love: Cicely, Alaska, on 'Northern Exposure' from sfgate.com
  12. ^ The Northern Exposure Book. 1995.[page needed]. ISBN 0-8065-1623-2. 
  13. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (Ninth Edition). Ballantine Books. p. 1693. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4. 
  14. ^ Christine Scodari. "Northern Exposure: U.S. Dramedy". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved July 21, 2009. 
  15. ^ Stransky, Tanner (July 12, 2010). "20 Years Ago: The premiere of 'Northern Exposure'". ew.com. Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  16. ^ "NORTHERN EXPOSURE : SEASON 1". Metacritic. Retrieved June 13, 2017. 
  17. ^ "NORTHERN EXPOSURE : SEASON 2". Metacritic. Retrieved June 13, 2017. 
  18. ^ "HOW WE CREATE THE METASCORE MAGIC". Metacritic. Retrieved June 13, 2017. 
  19. ^ Du Brow, Rick (January 14, 1995). "CBS Moves 'Exposure' Out Into the Cold : Commentary: The switch to Wednesday night has been a disaster for the gentle series". Los Angeles Times. 
  20. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions List for "Northern Exposure"". www.stanford.edu. Sharon Bond, Jason Cowart. Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  21. ^ Copyrights Keep TV Shows off DVD, a 2005 Wired article
  22. ^ ""More Northern Exposure Now"". Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  23. ^ ""More Northern Exposure Now Updates"". Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  24. ^ ""Film Farms Facebook page"". Retrieved 6 September 2016. 

External links