I've been wondering who'd make the first (and obvious) Northern Exposure connection. While I like this new show, perhaps it's due to longing for the older, smarter, and, yes, I'll use it: "quirkier" show.
Sure, MIT is cute. But it's a classic example of how difficult pitching an original idea really is. The creators were less than creative, putting a slightly different spin on virtually the same small Alaskan town, swapping main character genders, and replacing the moose with (so far) a raccoon and a skunk.
We have the transplanted New Yorker (Anne Heche) immediately attracted to the town hunk, the sexual tension dialed down to fit the gender reversal (part of the deliciousness that made Northern Exposure such a delight was the prolonged love-hate between Joel and Maggie O'Connell, played by Janine Turner).
We've already seen Marin's former fiancée appear out of nowhere. I believe it wasn't until episode 5 when Elaine Schulman, Joel Fleischman's soon to be ex-fiancée, arrived in Cicely.
Marin is initially more or less obsessed with the same luxuries as was Dr. Joel Fleischman (perfectly portrayed by Rob Morrow until the series death null arrival of his replacement, Paul Provenza). Of course, Marin seems more focused on attire than where to practice her golf swing.
At last! A striking difference: Marin is quite content in Elmo as doing so aids her escape from reality, e.g. her failed relationship and failing career. Joel tried anything and everything to return to the Big Apple, forever escaping indentured servitude to the State and Maurice Minnifield.
John Amos steps into Janine Turner's plane as the local bush pilot. The local bar, the Chieftain, is operated run by an odd couple, separated and dysfunctional, vs. Holling and Shelley's May-December committed romance as proprietors of the Brick. The always likable Abraham Benrubi, large man that he is, combines two rolls as Ben: filling the shoes of John Collum's Holling, as well as Barry Corbin's pompous Maurice Minnifield, Cicely's money man; Ben a former high powered executive, Maurice a former astronaut.
John Corbett as Chris Stevens, the D.J., quoted everyone from Jung to Shakespeare, while spinning everything from Mahler to Bella Fleck and the Flecktones. Occasionally accompanied in the booth by Ed Chigliak, Ed's (Darren E. Burrows) character supposedly had a high IQ, but you'd never know it from daily conversation. Again, role reversal: Marin broadcasts her advice to the lovelorn, relieving the affable yet arguably less informed Patrick from his on-air duties of talking about his mom.
There's even the grumpy female forest ranger: MIT's is sexually frustrated, NE's was one step removed from a dominatrix.
The latest episode revolved around the death of a beloved local, the town elder, "Franklin Cook." It harkened back to NE's third episode, "Soapy Sanderson." I couldn't help but wonder if they were going to skip ahead by simply stealing an unforgettable scene from NE and catapult the old guy's coffin into a lake!
On a positive note, so far, this is the most likable character of Anne Heche's career.
Town meetings, sister townships, will the parallels continue ad nauseam, ad infinitum? Too soon to tell... sort of.
Sept. 21, 2007
Okay... almost a year later and I'm watching the re-runs. I give, I give!! It's a good show.
But Northern Exposure WAS the original, and still better.
"When my life is over, will my wasted time be refunded?"