People -- Celebrate the '90s! (Special edition)
Northern Exposure: 1990-1995
This offbeat series about a New York City doctor sent to small-town Alaska instantly struck a chord among viewers in the Lower 48. People reunites the cast that blazed a Yukon trail of audacious romances, oddball plotlines and wry humanity.
Was there ever a more unlikely hit series than Northern Exposure? Unfolding in the obscure town of Cicely, Alaska, it boasted eccentric characters with names like Maurice Minnified and Marilyn Whirlwind, specialized in weird occurrences (like the space satellite that fell to Earth, killing one of Maggie's many jinxed boyfriends) and reveled in the odd couplings of, among others, freewheeling bush pilot Maggie and uptight doctor Joel and graying Tavern owner Holling and his 18-year-old girlfriend Shelly. Audiences and critics, disarmed by the show's winsome humor, ate it all up. During a five-year run on CBS, Exposure earned Top 20 ratings, acheived cult status and picked up a Best Drama Emmy in 1992.
"It was a show about a place everyone wished existed," says Barry Corbin (Maurice). And it was populated by characters "we all recognized," says John Cullum (Holling), "fathers, uncles and cousins who didn't quite fit in, who were at odds a lot, but when they got to Cicely they made it work. It gave you a sense of community that was rough-and-tumble."
The same could be said of the show's eclectic, mostly unknown cast. "Our first season, we all stayed in these efficiency apartments," recalls John Corebtt (Chris). "It was the first time in my life I had all this dough. I spent three grand on beer every month."
At the beginning, "Everybody couldn't be more different in our group," says Darren E. Burrows (Ed Chigliak). Yet "by the time the attention came on us [midway through the first season], we had found a real funky groove," he says. "Everything I've done since," says Janine Turner (Maggie), "I've never experienced the bond that we all had as a cast."
To Rob Morrow (Joel), shooting the show in Seattle was an extra bonus. "At the time, there was this whole music scene that was really happening," he says. "I used to run into Kurt [Cobain] and Courtney [Love]. We were alwasy flying back and forth to L.A. together. They were sweet."
Cynthia Geary (Shelly) loved Seattle so much, she still lives in the area. "It afforded me a certain lifestyle, which is great," says Geary, who has a lakeside home with her husband and two kids and only acts occasionally. "We have our ski boat in the backyard, and we're 45 minutes from snow skiing."
But in 1995, after five years together, it was time for the rest of the cast to leave town. Exposure, says Corbin, " was a lot of fun to do until the last season. The scripts weren't as good." And Rob Morrow's decision to bolt midseason to make movies disappointed the show's fans and sealed its fate. Morrow remains grateful. "It was like going to film school for five years," he says. "I got the dailies every day and immersed myself" in the production process. He even argued with the producers about his character's send off. "Josh [Brand, Exposure's cocreator] always felt that Joel would go back to New York and would step into the life he always wanted [as a big-city physician]," says Morrow. "I didn't care for that ending. He's on a boat in New York Harbor in the last shot, but I think of it as mythical rather than literal. I'd like to think Joel moved on and didn't go back to the life you expected."
His final episode (in which Maggie has rejected Joel's plea to come live with him) was emotional on camera and off. "I was crying when we were shooting it," says Morrow, "and so was Janine." Turner, for one, hopes someday to return to Cicely for a TV-movie sequel. "I think people would love to see [the show again]," she says. "There's never been anything else like it."
Then: "It was a homey type of show," says Miles (far left, in a 1992 cast photo). "It didn't have any violence."
Now: From left: Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Barry Corbin, Cynthia Geary, Elaine Miles and Darren E. Burrows moose around. [click on photos for a larger view]
Where are they now?
Rob Morrow: Dr Joel Fleishman
Morrow, 43, left the show midway through its final season to costar in the '94 movie Quiz Show and take on other big-screen roles. In 1998, he married Debbon Ayer, who delivered their only child, daughter Tu (as in "tomorrow"), three years later. Now playing an FBI investigator on the CBS crime show Numb3rs. Morrow recently directed an episode. But don't page Dr. Fleischman for an Exposure reunion movie. "I don't want to repeat myself," he says.
Cynthia Geary: Shelly Tambo
"I'm enjoying motherhood," says Geary, 41, who gave birth in January to Lyla, her second daughter with husnad Robert Coron, a real-estate developer.
Barry Corbin: Maurice Minnifield
The twice-divorced Corbin, 65, now costars on The WB's One Tree Hill and relaxes on his 15-acre Fort Worth ranch.
Elaine Miles: Marilyn Whirlwind
With acting gigs sporadic, "I started doing stand-up comedy about five years ago," says Miles, 46, a single mom to son Dustin, 12. "I do a lot of Indian casinos."
Darren E. Burrows: Ed Chigliak
The actor, 39, who's half Native American, shares a ranchette outside Los Angeles with wife Melinda Delgado, a French chef, and their four sons, ages 3 to 11.
John Cullum: Holling Vincouer
At 76, "I'm still kicking," says the stage veteran (Show Boat, Urinetown). Married for 47 years to playwright and dancer Emily Frankel, he now perfoms mostly off-Broadway.
Janine Turner: Maggie O'Connell
"People still call me Maggie," says Turner, 43, who has continued in television (Lifetime's Strong Medicine). In 1997, the same year she played June Cleaver in the Leave It to Beaver movie, she gave birth to daughter Juliette, now 8, with whom she shares a ranch near Dallas. "She's my everything," says Turner. "I loved her father [whom the actress won't name]. Since then, I've had blind dates. Everybody wants to set me up."
John Corbett: Chris Stevens
Bored with playing nice guys -- he was the groom in 2002's My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Sarah Jessica Parker's boyfriend Aidan on Sex and the City -- Corbett, 45, quit acting a few years ago to fulfill his dream to be a country music star. The cover photo of his self-titled first album was taken by girlfriend Bo Derek, who also appears in the video of his single "Good to Go." "We're going great," he says. "We've been together for four years."