Remembering Northern Exposure

Back a few years ago we got the hankering to take a drive, so we bundled up the baby and headed for parts unvisited. With no actual destination in mind we meandered toward the Cascade Mountains and eventually arrived in the town of Roslyn. It seemed oddly familiar but the connection eluded me until we turned a corner and saw…

Most of you know this as the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska where the television program Northern Exposure was situated. In reality the production company needed a town they could hoodwink the public into thinking was in Alaska, but still within reasonable driving distance of a major airport. They found just such a place in Roslyn, Washington.

I never noticed how phallic this sign looks. You’re welcome.

The town is still there and looks pretty much the same. Joel’s medical office remains a pretty sketchy looking place and be wary of the weak spots in the floor when you visit. The Brick Bar & Restaurant still has the neon sign and patiently waits for new patronage. Likewise, the Roslyn Cafe, also open for business, yet features the distinctive camel painted on the exterior brick wall – although I’m pretty sure the paint has been refreshed a time or two.

There’s an easy walking tour of the downtown area, showing the various structures that reappeared throughout episodes (you can also do this in the car). In true Hollywood fashion, the sense of town organization and structure in the show was fabricated, most of the iconic locales are scattered in a slapdash of locations. Gotta love the magic of film.

Downtown Roslyn

Watching Northern Exposure, I appreciated its offbeat humor, quirky characters, and unique perspective on human relationships and interactions.

If I could choose any town to live in, fictional Cicely would be high on my list. Roslyn probably isn’t too bad either. It has a certain charm and is obviously still enamored of its fifteen minutes of fame and I don’t think that’s a bad thing, by the way.

In case you need the reminder, here’s an excerpt of the opening episode. The show ran from 1990-1995 and is still fun to watch, if for no other reason than to snicker at the clothing and hair styles. Even so, there are quite a lot of issues, concerns, and foibles that continue to resonate.

Something about Northern Exposure struck a chord with the American public. Perhaps it was the charm of the setting, the sense of nostalgia for simpler times and ways of living, maybe even for the show’s appreciation of the absurd. Too few of us incorporate silly into our lives. Regardless, viewers tuned in to watch the wonderful oddness and celebrate batty behavior that somehow also seemed believable, even genuine.

In case you missed Northern Exposure altogether, it’s readily available at numerous outlets, just waiting for you to swing by. If you haven’t seen it since back-in-the-day, don’t you think it’s time for another visit? Set aside a chunk of time ’cause there are 110 episodes. Yeppers.

I’ve loaded up a few shorts to share some of my favorite bits. Here you go:

The Fling:


A Hunting We Will Go:


The Running of the Bulls:


Just watching these has reminded me how much fun can be had from fictional characters, and even though the written word is my favorite method of exploration, film and television can also move me.

What favorites lurk in the back of your mind? Do you have a particular go-to show or film? Make me some recommendations people, I haven’t watched TV in two years.

…except for HBO’s Dexter.

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  1. #1 by Richad on February 25, 2012 - 8:01 am

    Thanks for the recap. I never watched it, but I’ll have to check it out. Here’s a list of series I’d recommend:

    Breaking Bad
    The Lost Room
    Mad Men

    • #2 by Leslie on February 26, 2012 - 7:03 pm

      To be honest, I haven’t seen an episode in years. I thoroughly enjoyed it back when it was in production, but nowadays I might not be so enamored of the show. Thanks for all the suggestions, I’ll have to shuffle through Netflix and see what’s available.

  2. #3 by Angela Wallace on February 25, 2012 - 9:06 am

    Haha. I watched a few episodes of the first season, but I’m sorry to say the absurd didn’t really do it for me. 😉 I tried watching some of my old favorites again, but I guess my tastes must have changed, because I didn’t enjoy them like I remembered. I’d suggest Stargate, SG-1 though. (And Stargate Atlantis)

    • #4 by Leslie on February 26, 2012 - 7:05 pm

      That happens! Our tastes do change. Over the years I’ve seen shows and movies that I thought were just amazing when they first appeared, but later…whew! Not. So. Good. I think it’s funny sometimes, although occasionally I feel bad to discover a great memory just doesn’t live up to scrutiny. I’m so much more critical now than when I was younger. I saw the original Stargate movie and liked it but never saw the shows…I’ll add them to the list.

  3. #5 by Traci Kenworth on February 26, 2012 - 4:23 am

    Only watched a few episodes myself. Was too weird for me.

    • #6 by Leslie on February 26, 2012 - 7:06 pm

      I tried to watch it every week when it was on (I’ve never been a huge tv junkie), but I can see how it might seem weird. lol

  4. #7 by Traci Bell on February 26, 2012 - 10:07 am

    Hi Lesann,

    I never watched Northern Exposure, though I am a fan of John Corbett 🙂

    My go to is old episodes of Supernatural, which I love for the relationship between the brothers, the drama, and the humor.

    I’ve also been wanting to see Justified. I keep hearing good things about it.

    • #8 by Leslie on February 26, 2012 - 7:07 pm

      I’ll add both Justified and Supernatural to my list. Yep, John Corbett is…yep. lol

  5. #9 by Bridgette Booth on February 26, 2012 - 10:55 am

    You haven’t watched television in 2 years? Cool. Are you purely Netflix or internet tv?

    I always daydream about giving up television and then I think about paying the medical expenses for my husband’s heart attack without a live line to ESPN and I stop.

    Roslyn sounds like a lovely place. I remember the dust-up when the public found out that the show wasn’t filmed in Alaska. I was never a fan, but watched a few times.

    • #10 by Leslie on February 26, 2012 - 7:10 pm

      I go through periods where I don’t watch tv – mostly because I get frustrated with the lack of shows I find appealing. I can’t stand reality tv (sorry all you fans), and the CSI stuff makes me twitch because it’s so unrealistic. I know! I know! It’s entertainment…bah. We’ve got Netflix and Apple TV, but for the last couple of years I’ve seen more Bob-the-Builder and Thomas the Train than anything else. *brain melt*

  6. #11 by Naomi Bulger on February 26, 2012 - 12:05 pm

    I loved this show! Even rented Season 1 a few years ago to relive it. As far as I know, it was the first in a swathe of tv shows around that time that featured a small town of quirky oddballs, shown up for their oddity by the one newcomer (who I guess represented us). I’m thinking Hamish Macbeth, Seachange, and so many more that don’t spring to mind right now. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • #12 by Leslie on February 26, 2012 - 7:11 pm

      That’s interesting! I hadn’t considered how the set-up was carried through from show to show – must have really appealed to the public taste at the time. I haven’t seen an episode since the series originally aired – may have to put in for a marathon week, followed by Twin Peaks and X-Files. (I’m so out of touch with today!)

  7. #13 by Jessica Lahey on February 26, 2012 - 12:35 pm

    Ah, one of my favorites. I watch it again every year as I head into another long New England winter, and here’s this year’s tribute from my blog:

    Thanks for the memories!

    • #14 by Leslie on February 26, 2012 - 7:14 pm

      I enjoyed reading your post…isn’t it funny how we associate certain shows with things we value. I also remember enjoying the episodes with Adam and Eve (love the permutations!)…now I really want to rewatch the entire series. lol

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