The stars of Northern Exposure — Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Barry Corbin, Cynthia Geary and John Corbett — reunited to kick off this week’s Vulture Festival. During the panel Monday, the cast members reminisced about their time starring in the CBS series, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, though there was no mention of a revival series that was originally announced in 2018.
“Your chance of having a hit television is probably as good as your chance of going to space and circling Earth,” Corbin said about Northern Exposure’s success. “The casting fit, the location fit, the music fit. Everything fit.”
Corbin, who starred as astronaut and retired Marine fighter pilot Maurice J. Minnifield, agreed with his fellow cast mates that all the elements behind Northern Exposure made for a high-performing series that stood out from other shows at the time.
When the Emmy-winning series hit the air in 1990, Northern Exposure was simply about young Dr. Joel Fleischman (Morrow) and his efforts to set up shop in the small town of Cicely in Arrowhead County, Alaska. However, as the series progresses, Fleischman and his band of Cicely locals face the past, outer space, the apocalypse and more.
“The weirdness just came and went,” Morrow said of the show. “I never thought of it as weird, it was just idiosyncratic.”
Turner, who starred as the ambitious Maggie O’Connell, dubbed the show “intellectually stimulating” given its subject matter and presentation. But in addition to taking audience members for various adventures through space and time, Northern Exposure took risks and offered a a fresh take on the roles women held in television. She said Maggie O’Connell went against conventional beauty standards for women and showed that women can be more than home-keepers and housewives.
The actress added that given its summer slot, Northern Exposure didn’t feel the same pressure to fit the same mold primetime shows presented at the time — thus having more freedom to touch on odd topics and themes. Geary agreed, noting that “everything in this show is groundbreaking,” from its dream sequences to Morrow’s character breaking the fourth wall.
Corbett, whose Chris Stevens was a DJ and ex-convict, said that the oddities and charm of Northern Exposure left viewers with a sense of whimsy, which prepared them for the upcoming week. But Northern Exposure‘s ability to attract people from all walks of lives, from well-paid doctors to “hillbillies,” contributed to its long-lasting effect, he said.
“When you can get that group together to like a show, that was magical,” he said.
Northern Exposure was created by Josh Brand and John Falsey; Falsey died in 2019.
CBS announced in 2018 that a revival of the quirky series was in the works that would feature Morrow reprising his role. Written by Brand, the revival centers on Morrow’s Dr. Fleischman, who returns to Cicely for the funeral of an old friend and finds a new set of quirky characters and reunites with old ones in continuation of the series.