Northern Exposure

As I’ve noted or hinted at before, my wife and I find ourselves watching roughly an hour a night of TV (except Movie Saturday)–but most nights, it’s not really TV. It’s some of the great old series on DVD. (Moonlighting is at least as good as we ever thought it was; Remington Steele is as good as we ever thought it was; Greatest American Hero has its moments and is always fun; we’re finishing the catching-up process on Gilmore Girls–and there, unlike Buffy, Moonlighting, Remington Steele, I don’t think there’s much chance we’ll ever watch the series a second or third time.)

We’d picked up and watched the first short season of Northern Exposure, a series we loved in its day–but it was overpriced compared to the other series we’ve been dealing with, at a discounted $40 for eight episodes as compared to $35-$40 for 22 episodes. That’s particularly annoying because Northern Exposure is such a barebones DVD release: Double-sided DVDs with a few deleted scenes and outtakes. You get a strange little parka, but…

The second season’s just as bad: Two DVDs in a single-width case, seven (eight?) episodes, $40. And this time with music substitutions because of licensing problems. We held off. (No, we haven’t purchased the wildly-expensive Star Trek sets. Or particularly wanted to. We watched all the series, but…well, if we did want to re-view some of them, we’d use Netflix.)

The third season was a full season, 23 episodes, same price (still bare-bones packaging, to be sure, packing 23 episodes on three DVDs instead of the six that, say, Buffy would use).

And I had two Target gift cards (bennies of using good credit cards: $5,000 in purchases yields a $50 gift card). So, what the heck, we picked up seasons two and three. We’d already gone through the tiny first season.

Which is way too much background for this: We watched the second episode last night. And were blown away by the sheer quality and subtlety of the writing (and acting) on this series. The dialogue between Ed and One Who Waits, his 200+-year-old spirit guide, was nothing short of priceless.

The music substitution is dumb (but relatively harmless so far). The packaging and pricing are annoyances. The series…well, maybe the pricing is OK after all. What a pleasure to revisit Cicely.

I wonder whether the biggest problem for contemporary network television isn’t so much the proliferation of cable networks and amateur video as it is “competing with themselves”–competing for our attention with the best series from past decades, in better-than-broadcast video, with extras, and without commercials.

4 Responses to “Northern Exposure”

  1. Dorothea says:

    Oh, gosh, I loved that show! I wish the quirky ensemble cast dealiebob would come back into fashion. You can occasionally find them overseas these days (Australia’s SeaChange, a couple-three from Canada, Ballykissangel before it got mawkish), but not here.

  2. Greg says:

    Even though NE wasn’t actually filmed in Alaska, I still like to think it’s one of the reasons that we ended up there on our honeymoon.

  3. Mark says:

    I absolutely loved this show also, for various reasons. But I have to say, the music substitution *is* a huge deal for me. In fact, when I decide to watch them it means I’ll rent them vs. owning them as I’d prefer. This show had the most eclectic musical tastes, and to know that some stupid/greedy licensing issues prevents (or even just changes) that is unacceptable to me.

    Thanks for the info Walt.

  4. walt says:

    I’m not happy about the music changes (and it would be nice to know whether it’s pure greediness on music-licensors part or whether Universal stinginess has something to do with it). But on balance… Still, it’s an annoyance, one that shouldn’t be necessary.

    And these are pretty clearly shows we will watch at least one more time.

    As for Alaska itself: Whatever gets you there, it’s worth it. (Some day, we’ll see a little more of Alaska besides the southeast tip…meanwhile, we’d like to go back again.)