Monday, July 25, 2011

1990s Christmas: Northern Exposure

Today's guest bloggers are RigbyMel and J.A. Morris who write the blog Holiday Film ReviewsPlease check it out.  I met them when I was on book tour last November in Richmond, Virginia.  Richmond is an awesome town!  This is also our first Christmas in July guest posting written by two people.  I think that makes it twice as fun :)  Thanks again to RigbyMel and J.A. Morris for participating.  This episode is available for viewing on DVD and Netflix.  You also may want to check your local library.

This quirky prime time drama ran from 1990-1995.
Seoul Mates – Of Ravens And Talking Dogs
Northern Exposure “Seoul Mates”

This episode from season 3 of the series first aired on December 16th, 1991.   It begins with Dr. Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) observing the town of Cicely's preparations for Christmas.  Since he was brought up in a strict Jewish family, Fleischman was never allowed to have a Christmas tree and decides to seize the opportunity and have one of his own for the very first time.   Trouble is, he doesn't quite know what to do with it once he's got it and he seeks advice from Maggie O'Connell (Janine Turner) and various other townspeople about it.

The cast from Northern Exposure--how many do you remember? l to r: Ed, Marilyn, Maggie, Chris, Joel, Maurice, Shelley and Holling.
 Maggie is dreading going home to Michigan to spend time with her family, only to be surprised and a bit confused to learn that her parents have decided to skip the family holiday in favor of a trip to the  Caribbean.

Meanwhile, Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin) learns that he has a long-lost son – Duk Won (James Song) who shows up on his doorstep just in time for the holidays.   It turns out that Maurice's time as a Marine in Korea also has given him a son and a whole family (as mom and grandmother) also come along for the ride.  Maurice has always wanted a son, but is upset by the fact that the son he has is not white.  After several missteps, Maurice gets into the spirit of the holidays and makes an effort to get to know his family and Maurice learns to appreciate his son for who he is.

Maurice with his new family
 The town barkeep, Holling Vincoeur (John Cullum) is concerned about his wife Shelley (Cynthia Geary) who is pining after her traditional, Catholic Christmas.  Holling sets out to fulfill Shelley's Christmas wish appropriating the local Unitarian Church, decorating it in a High Mass fashion with candles and a Nativity and singing “Ave Maria” for her.  (Awww!)

Raven ornament
 In the multicultural 90s spirit of the show, we learn about the Alaskan native tradition of the Raven, which parallels the Nativity story.   The tale is first told to Fleischman by Marilyn Whirlwind (Elaine Miles) and then reprised as a “Raven Pageant” towards the end of the episode.   Here is a YouTube clip of the pageant:


Chris Stevens (John Corbett), the local radio host acts in his usual role as philosopher/Greek chorus for the show and gives us some great thoughts on ravens - including a reference to Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem - and  later shares a childhood Christmas memory that also has to do with talking animals.    This last bit of philosophizing is one of our favorite bits from the whole episode – here's the clip:


RigbyMel says:

Although I watched Northern Exposure quite regularly, this episode somehow escaped my attention until very recently.  (My only excuse is that I was in high school at the time and exams were probably eating my brain in mid-December 1991.)   I watched this episode for the first time this past holiday season largely because of a chance encounter with the lovely Joanna Wilson of Christmas TV History fame.   Joanna was visiting Richmond to promote her Christmas books and she had stopped at my place of business, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.  It was a rainy day and we got to chatting and lo, Christmas TV and movies came up!  Joanna asked if I was aware that Poe's “The Raven” was referenced in this particular Northern Exposure episode and I had to say that I wasn't but would definitely check it out.  Needless to say, the disc with the episode went into the Netflix queue pretty much as soon as I got home from work and I am very grateful for the recommendation.    I loved the multicultural aspects of the show and the fact that the residents of Cicely all get along in spite of their differences.   The raven aspects of the show made it all the more fun and Chris's “my Christmas wish for you – may your dog talk” speech gave me warm fuzzies (especially as our doggie was cuddled up with JAMorris and myself on the sofa as we watched that scene).   I rather suspect that this episode is now required annual holiday viewing in our household. 

RigbyMel's rating:


4 candy canes  (and for the record, 4 is our highest rating)

J.A.Morris says:
Unlike RigbyMel, I remember watching this when it was new.  But I only remembered the part that focused on Maurice and Duk Won until Joanna recommended the episode.  Northern Exposure was one of my favorite series of the 90s, there was a time when I wished I could live in a place like Cicely, even when I knew it was an idealized community. Having gotten reacquainted with episode, it's inspired us to re-watch the series.  “Seoul Mates” is one of the best episodes of the series and has become one of my favorite Christmas episodes. 

J.A. Morris' rating:

4 candy canes

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