Here’s an interesting, uneven, impudent comedy-drama that may well prove to be summer television’s most likably eccentric series. Northern Exposure, from two of the folks who brought us the oddball doctors of St. Elsewhere, is about an oddball New York doctor who moves to a tiny town in Alaska. The series is a culture shock comedy: Our hero, played by Rob Morrow, doesn’t want to be in Cicely, Alaska, pop. 500 — he’s obligated to spend some time there to pay off his med-school loan. Morrow does a good job of conveying his character’s seething resentment at being stuck in a hick town, and then his bemused resignation.
Creator-producers Joshua Brand and John Falsey proved with St. Elsewhere that they know how to mix comedy and drama in a way that dilutes neither. The best thing about Northern Exposure is the way appearances always deceive and defy TV cliches: The town’s so-called ”crazy Indian” (Darren E. Burrows) proves to be a smart, sensible fellow; an attractive woman (Janine Turner) isn’t our hero’s love interest, but his landlady; a smiling, 62-year-old naturalist (John Cullum) isn’t a serene saint but a rowdy womanizer.
With a cast of regulars like this, plus Rob Morrow’s earnest yet uncomfortable doctor in the midst of them, Northern Exposure promises to take some original twists and turns over the course of its eight-episode run.