For absolutely no reason, the other day, Northern Exposure popped into my head. Considering what the show was, it almost seemed quite apt that it should just amble through my thoughts, hands in pockets and whistling away. You see, thinking hard, I don’t think I could tell you a single plot from the show, despite the fact that I watched it religiously. It almost didn’t seem like the point. Northern Exposure was a modern day parable. It was about a feeling… about the idea. Sod all that junk about Who Said What To Whom… it was Generation X’s equivalent of The Archers, floating by on a daydream, casting out seeds of thought.
For me and a schoolchum, Northern Exposure was something we muttered about to each other in breaks and lunches. Effectively, away from the ideas and what-have-you, we’d focus our attentions on two people. The first tended to be Janine Turner who played Maggie O’Connell, who we both fancied something rotten. Those conversation would be littered with helpless sighs and dirty laughs.
The second person was probably the most important. Chris Stevens was the hippie-ish DJ for the remote radio station, playing Neil Young records and having an existential crisis once a week. For a teenage lad with a crap haircut and allusions of intelligence, he was the perfect TV hero. He was also super mellow and probably knew a good skunk dealer (also very important to a teenage Gimmers).
The stories tended to be character driven and often felt slightly aimless and wordy. It was an ideal situation for a little dreamer like me. Coming from a super-tough working class family, Northern Exposure allowed me to have my little hippie-dippy moments without getting a dead-leg. It came along at just the right time in my life. It saw me through The Pretentious Years.
Everything about the show was kinda quirky. Right down to the moose that wondered through the opening credits. Right down to Marilyn Whirlwind’s name. I liked the way Ed Chigliak was a dopey, well meaning film-nut with a bad leather jacket. I liked the notion of catapulting a corpse into a lake as a lovely gesture as opposed to it being Jackass.
I pretty much liked everything about it.
That said, like the living, snowy daydream that it was, I don’t think I’d go back and watch it again. Some memories are best kept in your head. I imagine that the show has dated awfully and that the music in it is largely rubbish… but I’ll never know for sure because, every so often, it’ll come sloping back into my brain and continue to be vague and lovely.