Is there anything finer than luxuriating on the sofa, your belly stuffed with pizza, a great episode of Northern Exposure on television, with your dog snoring in your lap?
I think not.
This joyful act of laziness is surely the pinnacle of civilization. The true Saturnian Reign. The Golden Age of Existence.
Occasionally, my French Bulldog shifts position and opens his eyes in reaction to some sound from the television and then returns to snorting against my rib cage.
Ah, life is good.
Northern Exposure has been my all-time favorite show for 20 years. The show was inventive, original, quirky, philosophical, magical and comical. It managed to be, well, nice, without becoming corny or overly sentimental. It ran for six seasons back in the 90’s and introduced us to the oddball community of Cicely, Alaska. I’ve grown a genuine affection for these characters. There is Dr. Joel Fleischman, the fish-out-of-water physician. Maggie, the independence-seeking pilot and deadly curse to boyfriends. Maurice, the wealthy, retired astronaut. Ed, the Native-American Truffaut-aspiring, amateur filmmaker. The list goes on and on.
But my favorite character is, of course, Chris, the poetic radio DJ and ex-con.
We could really use a “Chris” in our media today, to help us sift through all the political mumbo-jumbo being thrown at us on a daily basis. He’d sum up the end of our days nicely with some comforting philosophy and a killer tune. Hey, just as long as we can crash on the sofa with our Bulldog, our tummy full of pizza, well, we’re doing perfectly okay. Everything is fine. All else is vanity.
After watching the show’s initial pilot episode, I was ready to pack my bags and move to the great, white Northwest. I wanted to find a town like Cicely and drink coffee in a rustic café while debating existentialism and the birth of the cool Miles with an ex-con DJ.
Then it dawned on me that this feeling was eerily similar to the reaction of first watching the film Local Hero back in the early 80’s. In fact, the whole premise of Northern Exposure resembles exactly the story premise of Local Hero. A professional man, accustomed to fast-paced city life, finds himself stuck in a quirky little town in the middle of nowhere. All you have to do is remove the endless expanse of northern forests as a setting, and replace it with the dreamy mooniness of a small Scottish village tucked away in a sparkling little bay.
It therefore came as no surprise to read that Northern Exposure’s creator did indeed use Local Hero as an inspiration and model for his television series.
In Local Hero, this remote little village slowly casts its spell over an oil company executive, who arrives there obsessed with the necessity of being able to recharge his battery-powered briefcase. Eventually, he becomes charmed by the place’s subtle quirky magic and becomes the village’s most relaxed occupant. The movie had a similar effect on me.
I first saw this movie in late 1983, while on vacation in London. Drifting through Leicester Square one frosty evening, we decided to catch a movie at The Odeon Cinema. To think that we almost chose the bland Max Dugan Returns instead of Local Hero.
The film was nearing the end of it’s theatrical run, and we were practically alone in the massive theater, laughing every time the oil executive ventured out of his inn and was always nearly run down by the town’s lone motorist, a guy on a scooter who only drove past twice a day.
Genuine fairy tales are rare, my friends. And this movie is one of them.
When we left the cinema, still smiling and feeling fuzzy, the manager asked us how we liked it. I told him it was an instant classic and the best film I’d seen all year.
It turned out to be the best film I saw all decade.