Because the taxpayers of Alaska financed his medical schooling, Dr Joel Fleischman must work as a doctor in the state for four years to pay off his debt and thus we have the fish-out-of-water story of a New York City native forced to live in the middle-of-nowhere subarctic (and fictional) town of Cicely, Alaska. The German name of Northern Exposure, created by Joshua Brand and John Falsey, Ausgerechnet Alaska, is fitting as the location of the show has a major influence on the storylines. The Alaska in Northern Exposure attracted individualists (almost all white characters are Lower 48 transplants) with very different backgrounds, politics, and religions and yet they peacefully co-exist with each other and the Native Tlingit population. Northern Exposure quickly became an ensemble show allowing it to explore different characters and issues including Tlingit culture, marriage equality, voting rights, environmentalism, feminism, death, complex family relationships - all without being judgemental or didactic. Though it is over 30 years old, its themes are still relevant and it has generally aged well. This lecture will explore why Northern Exposure has been called ‘weird’, ‘idiosyncratic’, ‘whimsical’ and ‘groundbreaking’.
Dr. Carrie Ankerstein was born in rural Maine and raised in the middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin and watched Northern Exposure in real time in the early 1990s. Like many of the characters in “NX” she longed for a more interesting life somewhere else and wandered off to live in Germany, England and New Zealand. In 2008 she moved to the big city metropolis of Saarbrücken to take up what was initially a temporary two-year post as a lecturer in English linguistics at Saarland University but the native Saarlandian population intrigued her so much she decided to stay.