Couch Critic - Northern Exposure
Northern Exposure CBS Mondays, IOpm (ET)
From TV Guide 3/20/93 (Vol 41 No. 12 Issue #2086)
By Jeff Jarvis
Lately, with all its giggly prattle about Joel and Maggie doing it, Northern Exposure has taken on the air of a highschool locker room. When they stood up in the town tavern and announced that they just did it, a patron reasonably asked, "Did what?" "It," Maggie replied. "Sex, y'know," Joel said. "The deed," she added.
The allure of Northern Exposure used to be that it was sophisticated yet child-like - not childish. Well, no more. Exposure treats sex the way an infantile sitcom would: First, like a peepshow barker, CBS advertised that Joel and Maggie would do it. Then a quarrel between Maggie and Joel almost turned into a fist fight, which turned into sex (which associates sex with violence, and that's not cool). Then they decided that some seasonal wind made them do it and that they'd never do it again. Finally, she forgot that they'd ever done it at all. If these guys ever do it again, I just hope they do it behind closed doors and keep it to themselves.
When a series such as Exposure becomes a habit and a beloved companion to millions, it ceases to be the producers' show; it becomes our show and the producers are merely its caretakers. But Exposure's producers have not been taking care. While they weren't watching - while they were trying to save their other series, I'll Fly Away and Going to Extremes - Exposure lost its innocence and intelligence. Its loopy and lovable characters turned mean: Joel called women "the enemy"; Maggie called Joel repulsive; Ruth-Anne attacked Joel to his face; Chris tried to break a monk's vow of silence because of some strange sexual fantasy, Maurice tried to rip off Ruth-Anne. Only dear Ed is immune from the bad mood that has taken over sweet Cicely, Alaska. Even I found the foul temper contagious; I've been wanting to take Mike, the hyperallergic hypochondriac who invaded Cicely this season, and bombard him with magazine scent-strips until he sneezes and wheezes his way out of there.
Once a TV drama gets off track, it's hard - or perhaps impossible for it to get back on (witness LA Law after Rosalind Shays, Dynasty after Moldavia, Dallas after the shower). And it maybe, in the case of such a serendipitous drama as Exposure, it's simply hard it to stay on track - always inventive - for very long (witness Twin Peaks after its first season). But l still hold out hope for Exposure, because visiting Cicely every week used to be such a wonderful escape from the real world. The town shouldn't resemble a locker room, group therapy, or a funeral parlor (as it did months ago, when characters were dying weeky). It should resemble an odd, innocent, and cold comer of paradise.
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