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Northern Exposure (1990)
Not a dumbed down show
The creators of Northern Exposure (NX) gave us a true viewing treat. While many shows tend to dumb down to the audience, NX asked you to wise up to it. With dialogue that in some cases you needed a dictionary for, you had a sense that this is how people should interact with one another. Although the characters were sometimes tough on each other, it was done lovingly. For example, Maurice and Joel never really liked each other, but would always be there to help each other out, out of respect. If only we lived in a world like this. With all that said, you sensed these characters were for real. As if you had been transplanted into Cicely, Alaska.
NX wasn't all mushy either. It picked its moments, and did so with perfect vigor. Intertwined were moments of humor, sometimes laugh out loud, sometimes feel-good with a smile. Joshua Brand and David Falsey found a way to work your emotions, tugging on them like a heartstring. You really fall in love with the characters. Never have I seen a show where you cared so much about what happened to them, with many elements of surprises. I found myself even weeping with Maurice (probably the coldest of the main characters) when he mourned his brother during a Kaddish that Joel was giving in remembrance to his Uncle Manny. You know why? Because you learned of his brother's passing and how it affected Maurice throughout the series. You really felt his pain. As well, I laughed out loud when Joel was being accused of being a Russian spy by the town when they were sick or when a recently squished Rick was brought in on the satellite that killed him during his funeral. I couldn't help but smile when after a picture was taken of everyone at Joel's house; they just scanned over it while Chris talked about being a community and what it means to be neighborly.
This show really taught me a lot, too. I learned of Shittake mushrooms, good French wines, Ingmar Bergman, tribal customs and stories, and clarified butter. I began watching this show in my mid-twenties when it was aired on A&E. I was just discovering the world around me and became a major influence on how I think and act now. I never knew a show that did as much research on things as this. They dig out obscure information that is true. They writers really did their homework and delivered with results. I wish there could be more creative writing in an era where reality shows and asinine sitcoms dominate the airwaves.
If you get the chance, do yourself a favor. Watch NX, and do it from the beginning. You'll be treated to hours of enjoyment. Especially Chris Steven's diatribes, which gave you moments of reflection. I have every episode on tape and watch it over and over. Everyone I've turned on to this show ends up loving it. One person even dreamt (in their sleep) about being there from time to time. I have shared that same experience. It usually comes when I haven't watched it in a while. I guess you can say I get withdrawal symptoms. Northern Exposure is addicting. A kind of drug I love being addicted to.