I have a flashback to my youth this summer. Swedish television is showing Northern Exposure now. This series was made between 1990 and 1995, and is about the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska. Joel Fleischman, a Jewish graduate doctor from New York received student loans from the state of Alaska. He has to pay it back by working there for 4 years. He didn’t exactly show his most sympathetic side when he showed up in Alaska. In his mind he was there to pay back what he owed; not to make friends. He had left civilization behind, so he figured he might as well leave all cilvility behind in New York as well. That might not be the best way to start.
It turned out that he fit right in because the whole village was insane crazy. There are many wonderful characters in this series, but unfortunately the series collapsed when Rob Morrow (Fleischman) left the series in favor of a film career, which didn’t amount to much. The series didn’t work without this alien doctor. A lot of the success was based on the funny situations that occurred because this neurotic doctor had to find a scientific explanation for everything (this was after all in the middle of an indigenous area).
There was also a lot of good comedy in his interaction with the other locals, such as Maggie O’Connell (Janine Turner). The two argued about everything and could not quite decide whether they loved or hated each other.
The most unique character was perhaps Adam (nicknamed Foodie), played by Adam Arkin. He had a guest role and showed up in individual episodes. This guy was a brilliant cook, but hated people and could be characterized as a sociopathic savage. Watch a scene with the paranoid Foodie.
Whether we are talking about books or TV/film I really immerse myself in the people and places (one of my other favourite places is Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s estate in Derbyshire from Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice). It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way about a TV show or film. I still have Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins with me, but the fantasy isn’t as vivid as it was when the films were new. I miss that feeling.
TV today is pretty much all reality. It is very convenient for the TV channels, because they don’t have to make any manuscripts or pay the actors. They mostly just film the action and then edit. I find it incredibly boring and even a channel like Discovery has stopped producing interesting programs. There is a lot of good stuff there if you love to watch rough men cutting down trees or driving trucks on ice roads, but the science seems to be gone.
Maybe it’s not very flattering, but I spent quite a bit of time in Cicely in the 90’s. It almost felt like I was living there myself. Getting through college took so much energy that I didn’t have much of a social life back then. I guess the different fantasy worlds I had replaced some of that. A good thing I don’t need the escape into my fantasy worlds anymore. Today it’s more entertaining than anything else. It would be bad if that wasn’t the case and all I had were reality shows from hell.
Right now I’m in a bit of a no-mans-land. There haven’t been any new series for years, nothing I have liked at least. These re-runs of Northern Exposure have been a nice comfort during this wet and chilly summer, though. Probably the kind of summers I’d be used to if I lived in Alaska.
Here are some of the other series I really liked:
Darling Buds of May
From Lark Rise to Candleford
Upstairs Downstairs (1971-1975)
The Young Riders