US TV FEATURE
‘We’re at an interesting point, where Northern Exposure will either start a rapid decline downward or it’ll move into that super-series bracket, like MASH and Cheers.’
Dr Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) and his putative main squeeze Maggie. Wlll thelr romance ever get ott the runway? Probably.
All around this antagonistic romancing, mill characters like the God-like Chris. the philosophising. ex-con DJ. Frankly. he's perfection. Plus. there’s . . . oh, that’ll do. Sufﬁce it to say that this idyllic American retreat is exotic enough to appeal to escapist British audiences. yet folksy and primal enough to feel like home. You can get involved in these people’s lives. ls it a cross between the best. least excessive bits of Twin Peaks and The Waltons'.’ I think so. Chuck in the blithe realism of The Wonder Years, thirtvsometlting, St Elswhere and I ’ll Fly Away. then maybe Chuck out the more cloying, nicey-nice aspects of those shows. and you’re partway to experiencing that Northern Exposure feeling.
Look at the opening credits. There’s that moose wandering. for no good reason, past the mural for Roslyn’s Cafe. with the apostrophe ‘s’ squeezed in by some grammatical pedant (Maurice. as I recall). Underneath. it tells it like it is: ‘an oasis’.
Northern Exposure begins a new series on Channel 4 on 21 February.
chief would summon our hero into his ofﬁce and sternly inform him: ‘You‘re off the case Quincy, you‘re getting too personally involved.’
is for Roseanne. Ms Arnold “(previously Barr) is America’s
genuine housewife superstar. Her grittily realistic sitcom with John Goodman and some of the most effective kids ever seen on TV proved that US comedy doesn’t have to be sickly to be successful. In recent series her out—of-control celebrity status has been indulged to the detriment of the show. but Roseanne remains the First Lady of US comedy (although we could do without those Vanity Fair cover shots).
Twin Peaks: A red herring disguised as a backward-talking dwarl. (right)
.‘ .3 p h... T . I i i ‘ '. i Q n w .. _
One man more fanﬂiar than most with the baggage carousel at JFK and LAX airports is Channel 4’s Conlnissioning Editor for Purchased ProgranInes Michael Rose, who tels us how he picks the us shows that make it over the Atlantic.
What are you looking for in a US series for UK broadcast?:
‘We’re essentially interested in one- hour drama series and half-hour sitcoms. In both areas we‘re looking for originality and innovative approaches to both those genres, for fresh ideas and fresh ways of presenting them. With comedy. obviously the bottom line is “is it funny?” but it also has to have some potential to develop. We see things at pilot stage only. so we have to decide whether the characters and the situation have any mileage basically.’ Which shows would you cite as particular successes?:
‘Cheers, Roseanne. Golden Girls and Cosby were the biggest successes and all have come to an end except Roseanne. We’re about to unveil our big new sensation Home Improvement which has been in the top three in the States for two years now. Northern Exposure looked like risky stuff at the outset but has done incredibly well. It’s not really a cult anymore. It has become a wide crossover hit.
And the ilops?:
‘Evening Shade performed respectably but didn‘t do as well as we'd expected. It was a very generic family type of comedy which doesn‘t always seem as funny to UK audiences. Also. when we buy a hit show we often have to buy others with it, which we naturally don’t expect to do as well, so we aren’t disappointed.’
Any regrets about missing out on
is for Star Trek. 79 episodes
made in a three-year period
from 1966—8 that spawned a worldwide cult. We may laugh at
‘There’s a limit to how many shows we can buy. but if there’s one I would have liked to have had for Channel 4 it would have been Twin Peaks. As it tumed out we were heavily outbid by the BBC and it turned out to be a show that got more critical acclaim than ratings. but all the same it was right for our audience.’
What new shows are lined up for the future?:
‘These Friends ( )f Mine is a new comedy series which I‘ve got great hopes of. very much for a twentysomething audience. and there’s a show that has actually done very badly in America called Bakersﬁeld. It’s a spoof cop show. that doesn’t have a laugh track. but is tremendously funny, extremely well- made and shot on ﬁlm. It’s got a lot of critical acclaim but not the ratings. I think that will do well over here.’ And, most importantly, when is ‘Dream On’ returning?:
‘We built Dream On up as a cult comedy and then had to sidetrack resources into other series. But I'd love to see it back on Channel 4, so I'll do my best. promise.
See you do.
The Cheers Crew: Still heading the list oi Channel 4': Imports
and damned ﬁne coffee in rural Washington State. Initially enthralling. its indulgences rapidly palled, resulting in most American
Scotty’s accent. Kirk's corset and Spock’s ears. but this was truly TV that trod where no man had gone before. The sequel series. The Next Generation is still doing healthy business in the US ratings. with a third spin-off, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine also clogging the schedules (and a fourth in production). And for Phil Sllvers. the scheming Sergeant Bilko of the 505 Army comedy. whose antics on BBC2 livened up many a dull Saturday night in 70s Britain.
is for NI" Peaks. David TLynch’s enormous saga of
supernatural weirdness, murder
stations pulling the plug long before its course was run. BBC2 stuck it out to the bitter end. Its mix of quirkiness, horror and lifestyle triviality made it the bastard offspring of The Nlllght Zone and thlrtysomethlng. And for Taxl, the yellow-cab ensemble-comedy that made stars of Danny De Vito. Christopher Lloyd and Andy Kaufman.
is for The Untouchables. Brian u De Palma’s 1987 movie was a
revamp of this classic gangster series from the early 603 about the Chicago agents who tackled Al Capone and his fellow hoodlums '3'
The List 28 January-IO February 199415