"OK, this is how it should have been done from the outset. For those who either don't know or don't remember, NORTHERN EXPOSURE was originally a summer replacement show, beginning to run only a couple of weeks after TWIN PEAKS in 1990. That first summer season ran 8 episodes and the following spring the second season ran for 7 episodes, meaning that Seasons One and Two run to a grand total of 15 episodes. Despite this, the first two seasons were originally released as separate box sets but priced as much as full single seasons. It was one of the most overpriced pair of sets in the relatively short history of DVDs. No sane person would have considered buying them (I rented from Netflix). Now, however, sane people can consider getting the first two seasons. I already own Seasons Three and Four, and now I can add Seasons One and Two.
Before saying a couple of things about the seasons, let me say that people who complain about the soundtrack really need to . . . I apologize beforehand for any impoliteness here . . . shut up!!! Look, music substitution is just going to be part of the future from here on out in TV shows coming out on DVD. There is simply no way around it. Or rather, if you want to blame someone, blame ASCAP and BMI and RIAA. Here is the real deal: as long as these folks continue to exact such huge royalties for the use of songs, we are going to get vastly less expensive songs substituted for the original ones. There is simply no way around it. The makers of the DVDs have two choices: substitute music and sell the sets at reasonable prices or use the original music and sell the sets at absurdly high prices. Want to pay $100 per season of NORTHERN EXPOSURE? Well, neither do I. But to get the original music that is what it is going to cost. So, the choice really is substituting music or paying through the nose for our DVDs. This is the very reason why ALLY McBEAL may never some out on DVD. That show was written too tightly to particular songs to enable substitution. Right now they are unable to come up with pricing that makes it possible to bring it out on DVD. Someday? Maybe. But until such nonproductive entities as I mentioned above (especially RIAA), who own rights but really don't do anything for anyone that matters, especially the artists, start bringing the fees charged down to a reasonable level, substitution is going to be the standard practice.
What gets me about NORTHERN EXPOSURE is how quickly it found itself. The surrealism that graced so many episodes would only come with the second season, but the atmosphere of weirdness took place almost immediately. In the first episode, it was at first Joel Fleischman who seemed a bit weird, as he bored some innocent fellow passenger on his flight to Alaska. But as soon as he was dropped off at the bus stop on his way to Cicely and was picked up by Ed Chigliak, he was one of the least eccentric residents of the town. The show made adjustments. Holling and Shelly were not at first as prominent as they later would be; Chris hadn't quite found himself as the spiritual voice of Cicely; Maggie wasn't yet as odd as she would become; and Peg Phillips as Ruth-Anne wasn't yet a permanent cast member. Still, as shows go, this one was pretty much in Season One the show we would know later. By Season Two, it was pretty much the show it would be through the first five seasons.
One of my preoccupations in watching television has been the ways shows handle narrative. After HILL STREET BLUES in the early 1980s, the mark of most of what has come to be known by TV theorists as Quality TV shows has been multiple, ongoing narrative threads. Especially after advances in TV narrative by TWIN PEAKS and THE X-FILES, both of which overlapped with NORTHERN EXPOSURE, narratives were not merely multi-threaded but long term. NORTHERN EXPOSURE may have been the last Quality TV show to feature almost exclusively stand-alone episodes that resolve all or most of the story arcs with each episode. Especially after BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1997-2003) virtually all Quality TV shows feature long and multiple story arcs (though popular with audiences, few critics or TV theorists have considered any of the shows in the LAW AND ORDER or CSI franchises Quality TV, but as regressions to an earlier period in TV history). One mark of more narratively complex shows is that they have to be shown in a particular order. For instance, you couldn't take an episode of Season Two of BUFFY and put it in Season Four. Although NORTHERN EXPOSURE does not utilize multiple story arcs or use long narrative, it does share this feature for the most part with other Quality TV shows. Although the DVDs frequently reorder the episodes compared with the original airing dates, frequent mention is made to previous episodes. It is an interesting way NORTHERN EXPOSURE varies from other shows structured around stand-alone episodes.
This really is a very special television show, with one of the best collection of characters in the history of TV. I've told friends that while I have shows I like more, like BUFFY and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and ANGEL and FARSCAPE, if I had like the characters in PLEASANTVILLE enter a TV world and live there, my choice would definitely be Cicely. These are characters I've come to love and care about in a way that differs from any other collection of characters. And now that they have repackaged the first two seasons in saner fashion, any sane individual who wants to own them can."
Still One Of The Best Series Ever Shown On Television
Jesse DeBear | 04/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had previously purchased seasons one and two separately and wish they had this option then. You get both seasons one and two for less than the price of season one's issue price alone. I recommend you buy this set if you are a Northern Exposure fan or are just discovering the series. Seasons one and two contain some of my favorite episodes and begin to establish the characters and provide the basic information about the dynamics of Cicely Alaska that will help you enjoy the later seasons. My favorite episodes in these first seasons include: The Series Pilot; Brains, Know how and Native Intelligence; The Aurora Borealis; The Big Kiss and Spring Break. Here is a brief description of all episodes, enjoy!
1.1 One-Hour Pilot Dr. Joel Flesichman, an inveterate New Yorker, arrives in Alaska with plans to fulfill his medical school financing obligation by practicing in metropolitan Anchorage. However, he is quickly informed that his services are not needed in Anchorage, but in a small, remote village by the name of Cicely.
1.2 Brains, Know-How and Native Intelligence While Joel is struggling with evergrowing frustration over faulty plumbing in his cabin, he sensitively deals with Ed's uncle Anku, a proud but ill medicine man who is reluctant to embrace modern medicine.
1.3 Soapy Sanderson After the passing of one of Cicely's most-loved eccentrics, Soapy Sanderson, Joel and Maggie battle over the proper handling of his one hundred acres of land, left to them in his will.
1.4 Dreams, Schemes and Putting Greens Holling gets cold feet and leaves a pregnant Shelly at the altar, while Joel and Maurice try to make a deal with visiting Japanese businessmen to build a resort in Cicely.
1.5 The Russian Flu A flu epidemic sweeps through Cicely and threatens to ruin Joel's romantic weekend with his visiting fiancee, Elaine.
1.6 Sex, Lies and Ed's Tapes Holling and Shelly are caught off guard when Shelly's husband Wayne, a nineteen-year-old hockey player, arrives in town asking for a divorce. Meanwhile, Ed struggles to write a Hollywood blockbuster movie.
1.7 A Kodiak Moment While Maurice ponders life and death after his only brother passes away, Joel and Maggie administer childbirth classes to a group of native Alaskans in a neighboring remote village. Meanwhile, Holling finds out that "Jesse the Bear" has been sighted and vows to take care of him, once and for all.
1.8 The Aurora Borealis (A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups) Joel learns of the legend of "Adam," a Bigfoot-like creature who walks the woods outside of Cicely. Meanwhile, Chris bonds with a black traveler passing through town, who turns out to be the brother he never knew he had, literally.
2.1 Goodbye to All That Joel receives a "Dear John" letter from his fiancee Elaine, while Holling's gift to Shelly -- a satellite dish -- turns her into a TV addict.
2.2 The Big Kiss A wise Indian spirit helps Ed in his search to find his parents, while Chris loses his voice to a mysterious beautiful woman.
2.3 All is Vanity Maggie tries to win her father's approval by pretending that Joel, a successful doctor, is her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Holling contemplates circumcision to please Shelly.
2.4 What I Did for Love Joel thinks twice about a scheduled visit to New York when Maggie dreams of a plane crash and the townspeople take exceptionally well to his substitute, a Jewish doctor from New York. However, the similarities between the two end there. Dr. Gingsberg (guest star Leo Geter), a strapping blond man with an engaging smile, charms the residents of Cicely immediately, leaving Joel feeling jealous.
2.5 Spring Break Temporary madness sweeps through Cicely as the townfolk await the ice meltdown and the arrival of spring. [MC: Running of the Bulls.]
2.6 War and Peace Passages from War and Peace are woven into the lives of Cicely's residents and visitors, who experience Tolstoyesque nightmares and Dostoyevskian passions, when old friend Nikolai arrives in town. Maurice is the only one who is not happy with his arrival. [This is the epsiode where they "break the fourth wall" out of character, they discuss the script and move on.]
2.7 Slow Dance The curse of Maggie has struck again and poor Rick is the victim of "death by falling satellite." Ron and Erick arrive and buy the Inn. Holling meets up with an old friend and Shelly feels like a third wheel.
And P.S. don't listen to the naysayers about the original music issue you will read in the reviews for the other seasons that have been released. There is nothing that can be done about that now and the series still beats anything released in the past ten years. The writing and acting is superb! You will love it! I promise."
Not the same show.
M. Nichols | Washington, DC | 11/15/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I intend not to beat a dead horse, so I'll be brief. Without the same music, this is not the same show. Not bad, just different. I once read a critique of X-Files that likened that show to chamber music. Northern Exposure held the same attraction: atmosphere. I understand the predicament is one of licensing. Perhaps a second version, true to the original, could be released at a commensurate price. I, for one, would gladly pay the premium."
Beware of the price
T. Gabriel | USA | 08/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The pricing of this and other Northern exposure seasons seem to vary a lot. I bought season 1&2 at $19.99. At this moment it is $29.99. I ordered season 3 at $29.99, then within the hour I was fortunate enough to notice that the price was $19.99, so I removed the higher priced season from my order and then reordered. Hold out for the lower price!"
Great shows but confusing packaging
thirty ought seven | 04/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I remember watching the Northern Exposure pilot episode way back when, and I also remember instantly falling in love with the show. It wasn't one of those shows that needed to 'grow' on me, nor did I have to learn to like it. Wonderful scenery too!
However, the packaging of this 2-season set is confusing. The artwork on the Season Two discs read "Season Two, Disc One" and "Season Two, Disc Two." But after you load them up, the Main Menu displays "The Complete Second Season, Disc Three" and "The Complete Second Season, Disc Four" respectively.
This led me to believe that Season Two was comprised of 4 discs, and that 2 were missing. (The fact that the red cardboard box wasn't shrink-wrapped and showed evidence of rough handling seemed to support my hypothesis.) Thank Goodness I did a little research instead of calling Customer Service.
In sum, this set contains 4 discs, 2 per season. The first season contains 8 episodes, the second season 7, for a total of 15. Enjoy it!"