ood morning, Chris.’

‘Hey, mornin’.’

‘Beautiful morning, isn’t it?’ ‘Yeah. It has possibilities.’ ‘l’ll say. . .’

Maggie and Chris meet up on a wooded. flowered, sun-strewn path, exchange glowing greetings in the Alaskan wilds. Everything beams. Maggie says she turns 30 the next morning. and is quite chuffed at the prospect. ‘Good,’ grins Chris. ‘ln the west we’re too hung up on age. too obsessed with imposing ‘chronological imperatives’ on ourselves and

US TV from A to Zee

fell in love on a, er. boat. is for MASH, the first sitcom M to develop a political conscience. and how. For twelve years from 1972 Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and his associates wisecracked in the face of death and gore and created a pointed and bleakly funny series that rarely allowed sentiment to get in the way of the brittle one-liners. The Mary Tyler-Moore Show also specialised in the metropolitan liberal quip in the face of adversity. spinning off ' into equally sharp urban social comedies in Rhoda and Lou Grant.

N is for Northern Exposure. post

Twin Peaks surreal comedy

drama set in Alaska with an

l ‘L friendly oddbods. Climatic 14 The List 28 January—l0 February I994

Northern Exposure: tolksynd prlmal eough to teel


MASH: It they were so mohlle, why did they stay In the same place tor 12 years?

assortment of rather more viewer- l _. '

Oprah: A salary to match the waistllne

It’s a grin up north, finds Craig McLean, as Rob Morrow takes time off from receiving awards to talk about the magic of Alaskan drama Northern Exposure.

I; -. I... 2".

Illke home.

others. Now in the Orient, wisdom and status advance with the years. In the west, you’re 30 and you’re set, that’s it. You know where you’re going, you’re getting what you want.’ ‘You do, you are?’ Maggie’s thinking now. What and who has she got; where and how is she going? But Chris is up and running, talking hippy philosophy and soul-deep psychology. Them birthday blues are a needless cosmic crisis of the late 20th century western world. Maggie, though, she’s not so sure . . . Another Northern Exposure moment is upon us. Another episode, and another series. starts. Time to lose yourself


I "

similarities have made this a substantial hit in Scotland. Also HYPD Blue, Steven Bochco’s controversial new ‘badges ’n’ buttocks’ series. of which more

is for Oprah, America’s best- 0 paid entertainer ($30 million a

year and counting). Her secret is the confessional talk show, whereby celebs and nonentities alike queue up to confess their kinks and personality defects of the ‘I had sex with my brother-in-law’s analyst’ ilk. Slightly lower-rent shows are hosted by the likes of Phil Donahue and Arsenio Hall, and daytime TV is mobbed with second-division presenters persuad- ing members of the great American public to discuss their most arcane and embarrassing shortcomings.

and find yourself.

‘I read the script and it read like no other TV script I’d ever read, it read more like a movie. I didn’t really look at it in terms of its premise, I looked at it and thought it was intelligent, it was somewhat literary, and it had a sense of humour that wasn’t over-the-top. It was an ironic sense of humour, which I prefer.’

Rob Morrow is taking a day off from filming the fifth series of Northern Expsoure. Right now he’s in Seattle, an hour-and-a-half by car from the town of Roslyn, Washington that is the setting for Cicely, Alaska the backwoods community (pop. 840) that is the epicentre of Northern Exposure and its mellow appeal. Tonight, at an awards ceremony in Los Angeles. Morrow will find himself plum in the middle of the TV gloss and glitz that the series does its best to neutralise. He’s up for a Golden Globe for best actor, for his role as Dr Joel Fleischman. If he wins it’ll be yet another gong for a show that was launched with little fanfare in the USA in July 1990 (here it debuted in March I992), and now, on the eve of the launch of the fourth series in this country, coolly marries cult appeal with mass acclaim.

‘Yeah,’ says Morrow, ‘we’re at an interesting point, where it’ll either start a rapid decline downward or it’ll move into that super-series bracket, like MASH and Cheers. It’s at that crossroads I can’t tell where it’ll go.’

Hey, who wants to know? What’s great about Northern Exposure is that all human life is here, thriving and fretting and loving and laughing and, weeell, just drifting. There is no real drama. No wham-bam, sudden-impact story- lines or plot-twists. No thrills, chills and caricatured TV character—freaks. Northern Exposure is close-quarter drama, keenly- observed and finely-sketched. There are no heroes or heroines, either. Fleischman, the New York doctor forced to practise in Alaska to pay off the state’s sponsorship of his passage through med-school, is endearing and infuriating, a brattish, uptight urbanite cast into the slo-mo wilderness. His sparring partner is Maggie O’Connell, who keeps Cicely in touch with the world at large via her plane. She’s uptight, too. Maggie and Joel haughtily, officiously refer to each other by their surnames. ‘The relationship between Maggie and Joel starts to get fleshed out and they start to move closer together,’ says Morrow. But we knew that anyway.

is for PBS, the state P(under)funded and sponsored

channel devoted to ‘worthy’ programming. This usually means British productions. which occasionally results in the bizarre situation whereby The House Of Eliot is broadcast to a bemused American public under the heading Masterpiece Theatre. Also for Peyton Place, the 605 soap opera (commissioned as an American answer to Coronation Street) that launched the careers of Mia Farrow and Ryan O’Neal.

is for nulncy. From 1976 Jack

Klugman played the irascible

coroner in a routine whodunnit series. So formulaic were the scripts that you could guarantee that just

before the first commercial break thfl