Northern Exposure

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Northern Exposure TV Poster Image
Quirky '90s comedy captures diversity of small-town life.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Through its characters, the show stresses diversity and individuality within the context of a quirky small-town community. Themes include gratitude and humility. There's also a palpable sense of connection among the characters, in spite of their cultural and physical differences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The supporting cast is remarkably diverse, including Native Americans as well as actors of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Characters mostly get along in spite of their differences. Female characters are particularly strong in the series -- Maggie is an independent aircraft operator who speaks her mind easily.


Actual violence is rare but guns are present, mostly used for hunting. There are also some injuries with small amounts of blood.


Light sexual tension/banter between male and female characters. A married couple consists of an older man with a much younger wife and there are ongoing storylines relating to the appropriateness of the match.


Audible words include "crap," "hooker," "damn," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking, with occasional drunkenness played for humor. Many scenes occur in a bar/restaurant.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Northern Exposure is a quirky series that offers some good but subtle lessons about the benefits of diversity and the ability of people from different backgrounds to get along within the confines of a small community. It's not a comedy in the traditional sense either, but the overall tone is light rather than dramatic. Expect to hear some low-level swearing (including "crap," "damn," etc.) and see a little social drinking that sometimes leads to drunkenness. There's also some light sexual tension between male and female characters, along with a bit of violence (and occasional blood) related to hunting or some type of minor injury.

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byGutsygirl789 August 3, 2015

Great show for Tweens and up!

This is a great show! It's classy, has good acting, and strong female role models.
However, there are several sexual situations best left for Tweens and u... Continue reading

What's the story?

It's a case of NORTHERN EXPOSURE for young New York City doctor Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) when he learns he's been assigned to the small town of Cicely, Alaska -- and that he's contracted to stay there for at least four years. Now, he must live and work among the locals, who include gutsy pilot Maggie (Janine Turner), widowed store owner Ruth-Anne (Peg Phillips), philosophizing disc jockey Chris (John Corbett), and aspiring filmmaker Ed (Darren E. Burrows).

Is it any good?

This Emmy-nominated series picked up a pair of Peabody Awards for television excellence in its portrayal of small-town diversity. Airing for six seasons on CBS from 1990-1995, it did so in such a way that its quietly quirky tone remains unique to this day. As the town's resident radio philosopher, Corbett's character in particular provides a calming and poetic narrative that ties all the elements together and usually gives the viewer something to think about. 

Although much of Northern Exposure's appeal lies in its varied cast of supporting characters, Morrow and Turner have a magic of their own, putting a fresh twist on the classic Sam-and-Diane tension that worked so well on Cheers. Turner also offers a refreshing take on the concept of a female protagonist, redefining in her own way what it means to be a woman on TV.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the diversity of characters seen on Northern Exposure and compare it to other series currently on television. How common is it to see Native American characters on TV, for example, and how are they usually portrayed? Does this series reinforce or refute negative stereotypes?

  • How can you tell this series is supposed to be a comedy? In terms of style and tone, how does it differ from other TV comedies on the air?

  • What are the benefits of small-town life? Are there any drawbacks? What size town would you rather live in?

  • How do the characters in Northern Exposure demonstrate gratitude and humility? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love travel and adventure

Character Strengths

Find more TV shows that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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