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Northern Exposure - The Complete Series

Universal // Unrated // November 13, 2007
List Price: $199.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted December 9, 2007 | E-mail the Author

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Packaging
3. Season 1 Mini-Review
4. Season 2 Mini-Review
5. Season 3 Mini-Review
6. Season 4 Mini-Review
7. Season 5 Mini-Review
8. Season 6 Mini-Review
9. Video
10. Audio
11. Final Thoughts


Northern Exposure is a television drama/comedy that started out as a mid-season replacement and aired from 1990 to 1995. The show's first and second seasons was made up of, respectively, eight and seven episodes. The show continued on for an additional four seasons, which had full billets of twenty-two or more episodes. The series is highly regarded in television history and was nominated for more awards than I have fingers to count. It also won several awards, including an Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series (1992) and Golden Globe for Best Drama Series (1993 and 1994).

The show's initial premise was dealing with culture shock. Joel Fleischman, a Jewish doctor from New York was transplanted to the small town of Cicely, Alaska (against his better judgment) to fulfill a scholarship obligation -- the state of Alaska funded Fleischman's tuition for medical school. In addition to looking at the culture shock of a city boy living in a small town, the series focused on the kooky citizens of Cicely. Each brought a different view on life, as well as a myriad of fun situations.

The success behind Northern Exposure was pure and simple. It had an excellent cast, whose warm chemistry together heightened the show's strong writing and general progression. And as a drama/comedy, the dialogue and the situations continually offered engaging and likeable characters and fun occurrences. While nothing ever grand really happened with the storylines (in direct reference to major season story arcs), the simplest details and smallest developments with the characters were what gave the show an edge.

This review covers Northern Exposure: The Complete Series, which is a collection of the show's entire six seasons and all one-hundred and ten fun-filled episodes. Beyond the episode content, the complete series collection is comprised of the same material found in the individual season DVD releases. There are a couple exceptions. First, the double-sided DVDs used in past releases have been replaced with single-sided DVDs. Second, there is bonus material not originally included. The first and second seasons were originally released as separate sets. In 2006, the two seasons were packaged together and resold. Some season one extras did not make the transition, and DVDs from the 2006 release are included in this set.

On that note, if double-dipping is a question of concern, there is no new content included in this complete series collection or other differences (than previously mentioned). However, the packaging is very unique. Refer to the next section for details and pictures. But the packaging alone will not warrant enough reason to double-dip.

The remainder of this review will consist of a review of the complete series collection packaging, summary reviews of each season with an overview of the bonus features, audio/video details, and concluding thoughts. Each season review will have a link to the full season review (if you want more details).

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Northern Exposure: The Complete Series collection is made up of twenty-six DVDs, which includes all of the content from the show's six seasons. The DVDs are the same pressing from the individual release, although the season one and two DVDs are from the re-release and not the original 2004 DVDs, and single-sided DVDs are used instead of double-sided. The twenty-six DVDs are stored in fourteen thin pack DVD cases (twelve hold two discs while two hold one disc). The thin pack DVD cases are stored inside of the unique Northern Exposure package, which is a mock-up of a fleece-lined messenger bag.

When you first open the custom packaging, you will find a plastic protective layer on the outside. The plastic layer also contains the product information on the backside. The plastic layer easily slides off to reveal the messenger bag. The bag has a short shoulder you can take out and use, if you want. Inside, the bag holds two sets of thin pack DVD cases in a cardboard unit that also helps the bag with its shape and definition. The cardboard unit can be taken out.

Here are several pictures of the bag from plastic protective unit to the unit's innards.

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Season One
click here for the full season review

The Mini Review

Northern Exposure begin its six season run with the episode "Pilot". The episode opens with the show's main character, Dr. Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow), on a plane to Alaska. He tells his life story to the person sitting next to him. He always wanted to be a doctor, but, of course, knew it was too much money for him to pay for. So, he applied to every scholarship he could. And the only bite was from the state of Alaska. In exchange for medical school tuition, Joel is required to serve four years in Alaska as doctor. For four years of medical school, Joel can suffer fours years in Alaska.

Moving ahead, Joel arrives in Anchorage to find out that the assignment he was going to be given is full. They don't need him in Anchorage. However, the state still wants him to check out this small town called Cicely. They have an opening and if it works for Joel, he can stay. When Joel arrives in the small town of Cicely, he is instantly greeted a by cadre of weird locals... and decides to leave. Unfortunately, Joel finds out his contract requires him to stay. So, he sucks it up and takes his post as the big New York doctor in a small town.

As the first season continues, never really big ever happens. That is the season's biggest drawback. There's a lot of definite potential with the show. Rob Morrow is fantastic in his role. He provides a very likeable individual and delivers his dialogue well. Furthermore, he has solid chemistry with the rest of the cast: Maggie O'Connell (Janine Turner), Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin), Chris Stevens (John Corbett), Holly Vincoeur (John Cullum), Shelly Marie Tambo (Cynthia Geary), Ed Chigliak (Darren Brown), and Marilyn Whirlwind (Elaine Miles).

Some of the issues addressed throughout the season one episodes include Joel and Maggie's love-hate relationship, Maurice temporarily adopting Chris as heir, Ed and Shelly's relationship (he's old enough to be her grandfather, but they love each other), the entire town getting the flu and using Marilyn's mystic poop remedy, and Ed trying to write a movie script. Overall, it is a fairly uneventful season (in terms of big picture), but how well the cast handles the situations makes it a pretty fun season. While not great, it is good.

Bonus Features For extras, there is not much in diversity. There are deleted & extended scenes and outtakes for select episodes. In the original 2004 season one release, deleted scenes and outtakes were included for all season one episodes.

  • Deleted scenes (30:51) are included for "Pilot", "Brains, Know How and Native Intelligence", "Dreams, Schemes and Putting Greens", "Sex, Lies and Ed's Tape", and "A Kodiak Moment".
  • Unexposed footage (19:29) is included "Soapy Sanderson", "Sex, Lies and Ed's Tape", and "A Kodiak Moment". Unexposed footage is a series of retakes, bloopers, and behind the scenes moments.

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Season Two
click here for the full season review

The Mini Review

Northern Exposure's second season is very much like the first. There is no real overarching story arc or underlying purpose to each episode. In addition, the second season is also a short billet with only seven episodes. However, while nothing big real happens, the episodes are still enjoyable and continue with the likeable candor found in the first season. One of the notable changes is more dream sequences. This style of storytelling was introduced in the latter half of season one. The characters will imagine or dream of themselves and others in wild, different dream states. It is an interesting touch to the show that gives it a slightly peculiar edge.

The season begins with Joel getting a letter from Elaine. During their time apart, she found someone else and breaks up with Joel via postal mail. He takes it poorly and the rest of the Cicely gang does their best to give him closure and move on. Afterwards, the romantic chemistry between Joel and Maggie continues to build. Of course, her boyfriend Rick is still in the picture... although at the end of the season his character exits the series.

Some of the other notable happenings this season include Holling deciding to get circumcised to please Shelly, Maurice falling for a tough female cop, when Maggie's dad visits; she tells him Joel is her boyfriend, Ed receives help from an Indian spirit to learn about his father, and Maggie considers sleeping with Chris to get under Joel's skin.

Bonus Features

  • Deleted scenes (34:53) are included for episodes "Goodbye to All That", "The Big Kiss", "All Is Vanity", "What I Did For Love", "Spring Break", and "War and Peace".
  • Unexposed footage (30:11) is included for episodes "Goodbye to All That", "The Big Kiss", "All Is Vanity", "What I Did For Love", "Spring Break", and "War and Peace".

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Season Three
click here for the full season review

The Mini Review

Northern Exposure's third season was a major turn in the series. It was the first season to receive a full episode billet with twenty-three episodes. The season's format is similar to season two. The content is episodic with very little emphasis on season story arcs. However, season three introduces more continuity by revisiting developments from the first two seasons. As for the quality, this season was very well received by viewers and critics. It was nominated for sixteen Emmy Awards and took home six.

The season begins with cast saying their final goodbyes to former reoccurring character Rick (Maggie's boyfriend). Rick bit the dust in an unlikely manner at the end of season two. The town of Cicely honors his memory with a bronze statue. Everyone soon finds out Rick was two-timing Maggie when his girlfriend from Juneau arrives to see the statue. It hits Maggie pretty hard. Joel is also kidnapped by woodsman/friend Adam to tend to his mentally "sick" wife Eve.

As the season progresses, the Cicelian residences gets into a variety of kooky situations. Some of the notable happenings include Adam taking a more permanent reside in the town of Cicely as a cook at the Brick, Joel's ex-fiancee Elaine paying a visit, Maurice meeting the son he never knew he had, Joel being adopted by an Indian tribe, Shelly's best friend Cindy asking her to divorce Wayne who Cindy is also married too, Chris and his half-brother Bernard, Marilyn finding love, the awkward romance of Maurice and Officer Semanski, and the story of Cicely's founding.

Bonus Features

  • Deleted scenes (1:05:52) are included for all season episodes.
  • There are three unexposed footage featurettes. They include "Unexposed: Forgot Your Lines?" (4:40), "Unexposed: Laughing Matter" (3:11), and "Unexposed: Those Crazy Cicelians" (6:13). The theme of each featurette is similar to the title.
  • "Ed's Cutting Room Floor: Unexposed Documentary Footage" (4:16) is a short clip of black/white shots of Cicely. It is Cicely through Ed's eyes.
  • Lost storylines are a collection of four different plotlines cut from the show. The footage is for episodes "Jules et Joel" (12:49), "Seoul Mates" (2:27), "Things Become Extinct" (6:12), and "Three Amigos" (5:04).

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Season Four
click here for the full season review

The Mini Review

In season four of Northern Exposure, the writers had to get a little creative. Why? Well, technically Dr. Joel Fleischman's four year term in Cicely was coming to an end. Joel's final moments were approaching. Or so he thought. Fortunately for fans of Northern Exposure, Joel's term of service did not end. The writer's cleverly integrated some bad news (for Joel) into the season's wild Thanksgiving episode. Due to inflation of the dollar, the value of Joel's service was extended by a year.

As for the season four content, the season flows very much like season three. It is driven with rich and witty dialogue that balances out with dramatic storylines, quirky characters, and a humorous subtext. Of note, this season focuses on what has worked in past seasons, such as using episodic storylines with lots of continuity. Specifically, Maggie's romantic troubles are revisited, i.e., her bad luck with boyfriends. This season introduces Mike Monroe, who is also known as the Bubble Man. Mike lives in a bubble on the out skirts of town. He thinks almost everything in the world causes him medical illnesses. Maggie develops a strong relationship with him throughout the season, which ends with a goodbye.

The season also looks at other aspects developed in past seasons: Maurice and Duk Won continue their displaced father/son relationship, Ed focuses more on becoming a film director and also gets closer to his past, Officer Semanski drops in to say hello to the residents of Cicely (and to take Chris into custody), Marilyn's old flame comes back with a proposal, Adam and Eve visit with their newborn baby, and the Joel-Maggie relationship gets pretty steamy.

Of course, the season has a several new developments for the cast: Holling is visited by the daughter he never knew he had; she is a real piece of work, Shelly gets pregnant and can't stop singing, Ruth-Anne buys the store from Maurice and it causes some major tension, Maggie takes Joel home to Michigan to meet the family, and Ed faces an arranged marriage. These developments are only minor samples of the crazy antics the cast gets into with season four.

Bonus Features

  • Deleted and extended scenes (1:03:04) are included for episodes "On Your Own", "The Bad Seed", "Thanksgiving", "Do the Right Thing", "Crime and Punishment", "Survival of the Species", "Revelations", "Duets", "Grosse Point, 48230", "Learning Curve", "Ill Wind", "Love's Labour Mislaid", "Northern Lights", "Family Feud", "Homesick", "The Big Feast", "Kaddish, For Uncle Manny", "Mud and Blood", "Sleeping with the Enemy", and "Old Tree".
  • Gag Reel #1 (6:59) and Gag Reel #2 (7:02) feature various unexposed footage from season four.
  • Three Northern Exposure promos are included with Rob Morrow & Janine Turner (1:06), Janine Turner & Barry Corbin (0:54), and Janine Turner & Rob Morrow (0:52).

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Season Five

The Mini Review

Season five is the last season with Rob Morrow as a fulltime cast member. In season six, he appears as a reoccurring character and is eventually replaced by another doctor. The change did not leave Northern Exposure feeling like the good old Northern Exposure we have come to know and love. Regardless, Morrow continues in season five with the stellar cast and gets into one goofy situation after the other. However, the general tone of season five is not quite the same. Throughout the first four seasons, a huge part of the series was the love/hate relationship between Joel and Maggie. This relationship goes a different way after they official acknowledge the building romance between them and become a couple.

Partly into the season, the episode "Mite Makes Right", the romantic chemistry between Joel and Maggie reaches a pinnacle. They go on their first date and officially become a couple. From this moment on, the relationship changes from love/hate to lovey-dovey. For some, myself included, the new relationship did not feel as rich as before. Still, season five continues to have some pretty fun moments with Joel and Maggie.

Beyond the slight change in mood between Joel and Maggie, the season has quite a number of important developments and fun happenings with the cast. One notable development, which picks up from season four, is Shelly's pregnancy. At the end of season four, she started singing in lieu of talking regularly. It is something that was cute at first, but quickly started to get annoying for the Cicelians. In the season five premiere, she stops. However, her pregnancy is still a key plotline until she gives birth midseason, such as the baby shower episode.

Other fun happenings this season include Ed trying to organize a Cicelian Film Festival to Maurice's high standards, Joel refusing to join the volunteer fire department and the ironic aftermath, Joel's parents visiting, a diary of secrets revealing an awkward family history between Holling and Ruth-Anne, Ruth-Anne and guest star Walt Kupfer (Moultrie Patten) exploring a romantic relationship, and Maggie becoming the local high school homecoming queen.

Bonus Features

  • Deleted scenes (38:36) are included for episodes "Jaws of Life", "Altered Egos", "Birds of a Feather", "Heal Thyself", "A Cup of Joe", "Mr. Sandman", "A Bolt from the Blue", "Hello, I Love You", "Fish Story", "A Wing and a Prayer", "Grand Prix", "Blood Ties", and "Lovers and Madmen".

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Season Six
click here for the full season review

The Mini Review

Season six is Northern Exposure's final season. The show has its first major cast change, losing its primary character Joel Fleischman. His departure occurs early in the season. In the episode "Full Upright Position", Joel and Maggie go to Russia. Joel is scheduled to speak at a conference. During their trip, things go wrong between them. In the following episode "Up River", Joel is no longer living in Cicely. He has moved up river and refuses to come back to Cicely. Maurice sends Ed to convince him to return, but he is unable. However, Joel returns to Cicely on a reoccurring basis until his last appearance in "The Quest".

With the departure of Joel, Cicely was missing its town doctor. A pair of new characters replaced him; they are Phil Capra (Paul Provenza) and his wife Michelle (Teri Polo). They are Californians who have similar issues adapting to the new way of life as when Joel first arrived. However, they came voluntarily and learn that the Cicelian life is not very fun. Along with the change of cast, the void in Maggie's love life was filled by having a relationship develop with Chris.

Of course, along the way there are many new developments and silly storylines along the way, which include Maggie becoming the mayor of Cicely (which is when Chris starts to fall for her), a man claiming to be Holling's son visits, Phil and Michelle have the entire town over for dinner, the state of Alaska determines they were wrong to keep Joel an extra year, give him some money, and say have a nice day, Chris has an oral exam for his master's degree, which goes sour when the professors turn on each other, and Officer Semanski thinking about turning her back on the law.

All in all, Northern Exposure's final season did not feel the same. Without Rob Morrow fully on board, the show did not have the same fun feeling. While there are still some fun moments, there are several episodes that get a little dry. It is especially the case when the new characters Phil and Michelle are the central storyline. They just did not fit into the show as well as Joel.

Bonus Features

  • Deleted scenes (39:56) are included for "Eye of the Beholder", "The Letter", "The Robe", "Up River", "Sons of the Tundra", "Realpolitik", "The Great Mushroom", "Horns", "The Mommy's Curse", "The Quest", "Lucky People", "The Graduate", "Balls", "Ursa Minor", "Tranquility Base".

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The video is given in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame color. The picture quality is good considering its age. The image is a bit soft at times. For the most part, it looks good with a slight grain and no noticeable issues attributed with video compression.

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The audio in this release is in English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo. The quality is quite good. The audio is fairly flat, which is due the show being dialogue driven. This release has English subtitles.

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Final Thoughts:
Northern Exposure: The Complete Series collection contains the entire series on twenty-six DVDs. The entire series consists of six seasons and one-hundred and ten episodes. The show is a fun-filled comedy/drama about a New York doctor who is forced to spend four years in the small town of Cicely, Alaska. The show's focus also included the simplistic and quirky personalities of the citizens of Cicely. Their eccentrics and neuroticisms gave the show plenty of goofy, awkward situations and fun-filled storylines. For those who enjoy rich dialogue and colorful characters, Northern Exposure is a great series and this complete series collection is a wonderful way to pick up all the DVDs at once. However, if you are already familiar with the show, own the individual seasons on DVD, and are considering double-dipping, there is no new content with this set. Unless there is a pressing need to replace any double-sided DVDs in your possession or the custom packaging really strikes your fancy, then there is no reason to double-dip.

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