Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Northernly Exposed, Again

In the early '90s, my television habits mostly consisted of educational programs and cartoons. There were shows that my parents watched that were forbidden to me and my younger brother, such as Beverly Hills 90210, but the one "adult" show that they never had a problem letting me join them for was Northern Exposure. I was not even 8 years old when the show first aired, so I'm sure some of it went over my head (Chris in the Morning quoting Jung, for example), but I loved it. Now that the show is reairing on a local PBS station (which means no commercials), I can experience the show from an older and supposedly wiser perspective.

Northern Exposure aired from 1990 to 1995. The show was about Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow), a Jewish Columbia med school grad, who was forced to practice four years in the fictitious town of Cicily, Alaska to pay off his medical school debt. The characters are what appealed to me so much the first time--Joel's love interest and sparring partner Maggie O'Connell (Janine Turner), the sweetly innocent film buff Ed Chigliak (Darren Burrows), the Rolling Stone-ordained minister and DJ Chris Stevens (John Corbett), Joel's often silent secretary Marilyn Whirlwind (Elaine Miles), the young and silly Shelly Tambo (Cynthia Geary) dating the much older Holling Vinceour (John Cullum), and the rich astronaut Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin).

What I didn't remember about the show is how brilliantly the wide range of music tied in with the plots. One particular example that stands out is "Pretty Lady" from Sondheim's Pacific Overtures during a flashback of Maurice seeing Shelly for the first time. It sounds like pretty background music for a love at first sight scene, but the lyrics about sailors mistaking a Japanese girl for a prostitute reveal that the situation is more about love than lust.

It's pretty rare to find a show with intelligent dialogue that balances funny and tender moments. It's even more rare to find a show that everybody in my family enjoys. I'm so happy to have rediscovered it, I just may be tempted to save up for the complete series on DVD.

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd...

I tend to view Entertainment Weekly as a guilty pleasure magazine, but I am often pleasantly surprised at how well-written and informative it can be, especially in the Holiday Movie Preview issue. I usually don't like to read too much about a movie that I'm anticipating because I like to be surprised, but I really enjoyed this article by Steve Daly about the making of Sweeney Todd. It gives an interesting look at how the film was made, without giving too much away. I especially loved that Stephen Sondheim approved Depp for the role without hearing him sing.