‘Northern Exposure’ Fans Don’t Want a Reboot

When Northern Exposure debuted in the 1990s, TV viewers hadn’t seen anything quite like it. The groundbreaking CBS show shook up TV norms with complex female, Jewish, and Native American characters who were more than thrown-in representation. The show wasn’t afraid to make viewers think about subjects like fake twins, ghosts, swapping dreams, and even Franz Kafka.

The show ran for six seasons and earned a cult following, high ratings, and a whopping 39 Emmy nominations. Rumors emerged not long before the COVID-19 pandemic that a reboot was planned. What do fans of the show think about that?

‘Northern Exposure’ was the perfect balance of comedy and drama

The cast of Northern Exposure poses for a photo
Northern Exposure cast (L-R) Elaine Miles, John Cullum, Cynthia Geary, Darren E. Burrows, Janine Turner, John Corbett, Rob Morrow, and Barry Corbin | CBS via Getty Images

As USA Today explains, Northern Exposure‘s story was pretty simple. As part of his scholarship to Columbia’s medical school, a young New York City doctor relocates to the back of beyond in Alaska. 

Its freshman season was more or less misfit-themed. The second season was where Northern Exposure found its soul and won the hearts of an impressive number of viewers, according to Rotten Tomatoes. The series struck a balance between comedy and drama as it continually challenged its audience intellectually.

Northern Exposure went beyond the expected stereotypes and explored characters other shows either overlooked or represented with two-dimensional roles. The main character, Joel Fleischman (played by Rob Morrow), was a Jewish man living in the backwoods of Alaska. The show also took a closer look at indigenous characters and offered the only second same-sex wedding storyline on television at the time.

The CBS comedy-drama was part of a new era in TV. It was funny and unorthodox. It earned high ratings, and its viewership was consistent. Even so, it managed to fall into obscurity in the shadow of Seinfeld, Twin Peaks, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Is a ‘Northern Exposure’ reboot in the works for CBS?

Rumors of a reboot of the cult favorite go all the way back to 2016. Darren Burrows and Film Farms, his production company, held a crowdfunding campaign in an effort to revive the series. The working title for the reboot was said to be Northern Exposure: Home Again. The campaign didn’t reach its goal, but Burrows persisted, announcing that writer David Assael had been hired for the project.

In November 2018, the revival was alleged to be in early development stages with CBS. Series creators Joshua Brand and John Falsey were joined by Morrow to executive produce with Morrow returning to play Fleischman. Barry Corbin, who played Maurice J. Minnifield in the original series, was also named as a producer. There was no confirmation that Corbin was returning to the cast for the revival.

In January 2019, Falsey died. In May of that year, Vulture editor Josef Adalian said via Twitter that CBS canceled the development of the revival series. Adalian further explained that Universal Studios held the rights to the series and had the option of pitching it to another studio. 

In an interview with radio station WGN 720AM Chicago in November 2019, Morrow said he and Brand were going to continue working on reviving Northern Exposure even with the loss of Falsey and CBS’s support.

Fans don’t want a ‘Northern Exposure’ reboot

Fans of the show on Reddit responded to a question posted last year asking if there was any news on a potential reboot of Northern Exposure. The original post pointed out that the revival was getting increasingly unlikely. 

There are three obstacles according to the original poster. First, there was the loss of Falsey. Second, the pandemic threw a monkey wrench in the development of many projects for film and TV.

The third was news that if the reboot saw the light of day, it would not include original character Maggie O’Connell played by Janine Turner. According to MoveHole, she made the announcement on Twitter in December 2018, explaining they “wanted to go younger,” and she was shocked.

Fans of the show responded to the Reddit post. The general consensus was that they really don’t want the reboot. 

“I think leave it alone. Cicely is a state of mind,” one user commented. Another added they feared for the authenticity of a reboot, explaining the fish out of water trope would be hard to do now. The user said they’d rather have the memories of a quality show at the right time than something that would be a “current day shadow” of the original.

Another user added that they felt any attempt to recapture the magic of Northern Exposure would never live up to the original series.

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