Northern Exposure: Season 1 (1990)

Recommended
USA
Television Series
Creators: Joshua Brand, John Falsey
Cast: Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Barry Corbin, Darren E. Burrows, John Cullum, Cynthia Geary, Elaine Miles, Peg Phillips

A newly qualified doctor from New York struggles to adapt to life in rural Alaska, in this decidedly gentle and relatively straightforward though never less than thoroughly entertaining first season of a series that would go on to much greater things.

1. Pilot
Jewish New Yorker Joel Fleischman, a newly qualified doctor, travels to Alaska in order to fulfil the terms of his scholarship, but instead of the Anchorage hospital that he was expecting he finds himself shipped off to Cicely, a small town in the middle of nowhere, peopled with oddballs and eccentrics, where he very reluctantly sets himself up as a GP.

2. Brains, Know-How and Native Intelligence
The broaching of the subject of Walt Whitman’s homosexuality by Chris Stevens on his radio show leads to his sacking by Maurice, who also replaces him, filling the airwaves with show tunes in the process, much to the chagrin of the local populace; whilst Joel struggles both to get Ed’s medicine man uncle to take his prostate cancer seriously and fix his own faulty shower in the wake of Maggie’s chastisement of him over his helplessness and general lack of self-sufficiency.

3. Soapy Sanderson
When 82-year-old hermit Soapy Sanderson takes his own life, leaving his 100 acre estate to Joel and Maggie, the oft bickering pair look set to be brought closer together, but a $50,000 offer from a local Indian tribe interested in using the land as a tax haven soon puts paid to that.

4. Dreams, Schemes and Putting Greens
Maurice’s plan to build a holiday complex on the outskirts of Cicely, complete with 18 hole golf course, grabs the attention of Joel, who embraces the idea wholeheartedly, striking a deal to become the resident physician in exchange for having a year knocked off his “sentence”, but news of Shelly’s pregnancy and impending nuptials threaten to disrupt matters, when the former astronaut’s eye is taken off the task of wooing of a pair of Japanese businessmen.

5. Russian Flu
When his fiancée, Elaine, flies in from New York for a weekend visit, Joel’s time is spent not in the carnal throes of passion that he had envisioned but attending to the town’s populace, who have all, barring one or two notable exceptions, come down with a particularly nasty strain of flu, which Marilyn, with her malodourous tribal remedy, seems better equipped to deal with.

6. Sex, Lies and Ed's Tapes
While Ed struggles to write a screenplay for the new, post-Jaws Hollywood, Holling develops a phantom neck injury in the wake of the arrival of Shelly’s secret husband, and Rick fears that he is to be the latest victim of Maggie’s curse, when Joel discovers an errant tumour during a check-up.

7. A Kodiak Moment
The death of Maurice’s brother causes him to contemplate his own mortality and seek a new heir to his empire; whilst Ed and Shelly accompany Holling on a hunting expedition, when it becomes known that Jesse, a great grizzly bear with whom he has a history, is back in the area; and Joel and Maggie fight and bond a little whilst giving a prepared childbirth class in Boswell.

8. Aurora Borealis: A Fairy Tale for Big People
The first of the series’ many great episodes: whilst the residents of Cicely struggle to sleep under a particularly bright full moon, an IRS worker from Portland rides into town on a motorbike, unable to explain why he’s there, and teams up with Chris, with whom he has an uncanny rapport, to help create his large Aurora Borealis sculpture; elsewhere, Joel, returning from a long-distance house call, breaks down in the middle of nowhere, where he encounters Adam, the legendary local bigfoot, who turns out to be a gourmet chef, albeit one with questionable hygiene habits and social skills. Iain.Stott