20 Years Ago: The premiere of 'Northern Exposure'

Northern-ExposureImage Credit: CBS/LandovExpectations were low when CBS launched Northern Exposure in the middle of July, traditionally a TV dead zone. “I don’t know whose idea it was to launch in the summer,” says Rob Morrow, who starred as Joel Fleischman, a New York City doctor forced to relocate to tiny Cicely, Alaska, where he discovers a bevy of wacky townspeople, including love interest Maggie O’Connell (Janine Turner). “I don’t think anyone had any idea what they had on their hands.”

Critics took to the show’s sweet, quirky sensibility, and the program quickly developed a cult following. Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker gave the first episode a B+, writing that Exposure “may well prove to be summer television’s most likably eccentric series.” CBS stuck with the show despite so-so ratings, eventually moving it from Thursday to Monday. Suddenly, the network found itself with a bona fide hit — something that became obvious, Morrow says, when engineers showed up one day to reinforce the flimsy set. ”We were thinking, They made us work like that?” he recalls with a laugh. “Now they have an interest in us!”

The surging rating — and infusion of cash — allowed Exposure‘s writers to take risks with story lines, which included prime time’s first gay wedding. The show went on to win the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy in 1992, as well as two Golden Globes and two Peabody awards. “As a series, it has a benevolence about it, and an intelligence,” says Morrow, who will star on ABC’s legal drama The Whole Truth this fall. “It spoke to the heart in a way that was refreshing. That is refreshing still.”

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  • Gina

    Loved that show!

  • Sue1

    I loved this warm, funny, endearing show, it doesn’t seem as if it was 20 years ago. It would be nice to see it pop up in re-runs somewhere.

  • John W

    One of my favorite shows ever. I miss Maggie O’Connell.


    N-X will forever be part of my youth and onward – re: as a television show for any person to watch over and over again, AND…be glad they helped it survive!

    (*it had the best intro to episodes) (**it had the best music) (***it had the best stuff to make it popculture worthy in television history)

    • AliFran

      And it had the best charactors. Everyone who watched it has a favorite. I loved Ruth Ann!

  • mark in nyc

    amazing show filled with grown up characters.
    sadly, we wont really see a show like this again.

  • Lorie

    Ah, memories! Loved this show!

    ITA with Sue1, this should be on reruns. C’mon, TVLand, how about picking up this gem?

  • Thorny Rose

    I loved this show’s diversity, various races, ages etc,… It was special. I loved the moose in the intro.. The stories were touching and funny. I wish there were more shows like it!

    • Jimmy

      There are some shows that you may enjoy. Try Everwood or October Road. Men in Trees might also work for you if it ever comes out on dvd.

  • Jimmy L

    Why has there not been a reunion movie checking in on these wonderful characters? The 20 year mark seems like a great opportunity. Come on CBS – do a movie. I bet ya a buck ratings would be strong enough that you could turn it into a series of movies like the Tom Selleck Jesse Stone films.

    • Shiny

      Hey. Don’t mess with Jessie Stone or he’ll punch ya in the mouth. Just kiddin’, Jessie Stone only punches people he likes. Again, just kiddin’. I just like to say “Jessie Stone” as often as I can on a daily basis. Ahem.

  • Shiny

    Fleischman had the best dream sequence ever on network tv. I’d love to see a reunion of these great characters more than I’d like to see another Sex in the City nightmare.

  • laylagalise

    I love Northern Exposure- I just wish Cicely existed so I could visit!

    • cicely mitchell

      Actually it does exist. Roslyn Washington…the moosefest festival is this weekend and cicely lives!!!

  • FF

    Anyone else see the irony in Rob Morrow talking about how great the show was when it was his ego that killed the show?

    • Anouska

      You remember that too?!?

  • Summer

    I loved everything about Northern Exposure – Maggie, Joel, Chris at the radio station, Shelley and Holling. It was a crazy, zany, but heartfilled hour each Monday night. Seems like it was a good precursor to Everwood, too. Same idea – a big city doctor transported to nowheresville and he decides to stay…

  • Danielle

    I loved this show! Rocky Mountain PBS used to show commercial free reruns Monday-Thursday last year and I really miss that. I thought the show missed something when Rob Morrow left. Loved Ruth Anne; she was my favorite along with Marilyn.

  • Jean

    Northern Exposure changed how series drama was written, and the unique concept combined with a talented ensemble cast created television with humor, heart, charm, and memorable characters. Even if the show is inexplicably nowhere to be seen now, I’ve enjoyed watching Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, John Corbett in other projects.

  • Eric

    The Hallmark Channel ran reruns for a bit. I think the problem is hour shows die in syndication. I have the first 3 seasons on DVD and need to get the others. Shame they had music rights issues and had to change out so many of the tunes.

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