On July 12 of 1990, an hour-long comedy-drama created by Josh Brand and John Falsey debuted on CBS. Entitled Northern Exposure, it followed the humorous fish-out-of-water encounters with rural Alaskan culture of New York doctor Joel Fleischmann, as portrayed by Rob Morrow at the beginning and the end of a promising career. The show would nourish the careers of a number of writers and producers of the similarly quirky and whimsical Mafia sitcom The Sopranos, as well as making household names of the likes of Cynthia Geary and Apsenahkwat.
Innovative and entertaining as it was, Northern Exposure would likely be an entirely different show today, and not only because America’s supplies of whimsy and quirk have been entrusted to an identical series of women named Zoë. It is clear from watching the first season alone that it is a product of its time, the likes of which we shall never see again.
WAYS NORTHERN EXPOSURE WOULD BE DIFFERENT IF IT AIRED TODAY
- State of Alaska wouldn’t spend over $100,000 training an American physician, but would merely import an anaestheseologist from the Maldives
- Dr. Fleischman could have ascertained location of Cicely from checking Google Maps
- Maurice Minnifield’s character is insufficiently lunatic to adequately represent political character of present-day Alaska; would have to be replaced by Janine Turner, who is actual right-wing Tea Party kook in real life
- Roslyn, Washington now too overdeveloped to stand in for rural Alaskan town; nearby Snoqualmie Pass would have to serve as Cicely, with Roslyn standing in for Anchorage
- Script overestimates aptitude of New York Jews for medicine, underestimates propensity of New York Jews for lawsuits
- Ed would just be another boring nerd with a four-at-a-time Netflix subscription
- Marilyn too overweight and ethnic to appear on television now; would be replaced by attractive Puerto Rican posing as native
- Action of pilot episode could be compressed into 10 minutes with use of cell phone, GPS
- Rednecks in bar playing pinball machine instead of Golden Tee
- Dr. Fleischman maybe shouldn’t have encouraged a couple to get back together after the wife shot her husband and then stabbed him the next day
- Ed would not refer to his uncle Anku as a “witch doctor” because he is an Alaskan native and not an ooga-booga African caricature from a 1937 cartoon short
- Moral lessons that gay people are okay if they are also great poets and we should pretend famous people weren’t gay so they can keep being heroes are a bit murky
- Curative properties of moose shit still not medically established
- Shelley’s addiction to television would occupy every minute of her waking hours in each episode of the show
- Plots involving cabin fever, isolation easily mooted by ready availability of internet pornography
- Episode involving Cold War era Soviet crooner would need to be rewritten to make him the Russian from “The Pine Barrens” episode of The Sopranos
- “Adam” would long since have been hunted down and exploited to extinction by West Coast foodies
- At least once per week, a character would be required to loudly praise the state of Alaska’s policy of sharing its oil revenue with the citizenry in the form of subsidy checks; The Brick to be renamed the “Drill Baby Grill”.
- Character of Chris Stevens removed altogether as an apology for the career of John Corbett
- Role of Dr. Fleischman to be recast with Max Greenfield
- Dan Harmon to be named showrunner, then fired the next day, just to fuck with him