“For Ed” – a Love Letter to a Nostalgic Crush and Hero

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In the spirit of nostalgia coming back to TV (I’m looking at you, Twin Peaks) I felt it important to take my own stroll down memory lane and present a little love letter to a show (and specific character) that I hope makes a return at some point. 

I believe it is best to start off this paragraph like Sophia of The Golden Girls would…. Picture It, New York, 1997. My mom just dropped me off at my grandparents. There, they give me some yogurt, and flip on the TV. And much like midnight for Cinderella, the hour of 8am was quite a special one, because it meant Northern Exposure re-runs were on. The enchanting tune of the theme song played, the moose walked by Roslyn’s Cafe, and my mind was sucked into the misadventures of Joel (Rob Morrow) and his Alaskan buddies.

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I’ll be honest in that I probably knew little to nothing of what was actually happening on Northern Exposure. The tale of a New York doctor moving to Alaska wasn’t exactly little kid material, and neither were the situations he and the cast would get into. Episodes would deal with topics such as Native Alaskan Drama, Unmarried Bride Curses, and if Joel was ever going to get his vacation. But what got me so hooked on the series were the characters, all of whom had personalities that entertained me regardless of how young I was.

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Dr. Joel had his moments, but sometimes was like the sassy older brother you hated and loved at the same time. Maggie (Janine Turner) was the pilot with all the boy troubles, and took on a similarly sister-type role in my mind. Of course, you can’t forget Chris (John Corbett), the heartthrob radio DJ (who also had an obsession with making art projects during Winter Solstice.) Even Joel’s assistant Marilyn (Elaine Miles) holds a special place in my heart, with her sassy zingers and classic advice.

But even with all the diverse members of Northern Exposure‘s wacky bunch, there was one particular character that stood out to me. Let me introduce you to Ed Chigliak (played by Darren E. Burrows) the individual that has remained both my hero and boy of my dreams for the last 20 something years.

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I’m sure it sounds quite bizarre to hear that in the age of Tuxedo Mask and Leonardo DiCaprio, my eyes were turned towards the direction of a lanky orphan clad in a punk rock leather jacket. But as a kid that was raised on The Ramones, black and white classic film and a sense of individuality, it’s no wonder my childhood attractions would point me in the direction of a character that represented all that and more. And aside from being gosh darn adorable, Ed had a lasso around my heart for a variety of reasons.

You see, I grew up with some struggles, the kind that got me labeled as learning disabled. Some of these included things like dyslexia, language processing disorder – you name it, I had it. Of course, dealing with these sorts of differences made it hard to grasp the world around me, and to communicate within it. But as time went on, I discovered a universal language that everyone around me understood: Movies. And someone else that used the very same language happened to also be my first celebrity crush.

That’s right, Ed was also a bit of a struggling learner himself. Sure, the series never specifically said he had any sort of learning differences, but there was always a line or two that indicated he wasn’t like everybody else. But something that Ed understood brilliantly were movies, and somehow he always found a way to connect one of his friend’s questions or concerns to them.

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Of course, I didn’t make this connection between me and Mr. Chigliak until I was much older. I just always liked his kind nature, goofy smile, pretty eyes, and his weird but cool sense of style. But once it clicked for me that Ed and I were both confident speakers of the cinematic language, I knew he was gonna be my crush for a darn long time.
And since that incredible discovery, there are a few key moments that even further cemented my love for Ed: When he has struggled with love, including his run-in with a motorcycle obsessed girl near the end of season 2. That time he met a demon that looked like a Leprechaun, and  of course, the creation of his short film about Cicely. But the moment that really tugged at my heart strings came towards the last season. It involves  Ed raising a baby bear for a short time, and if that doesn’t make you a member of #TeamEd, I don’t know what will. 
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But ultimately what makes Ed a treasure is his earnest nature. This guy never jokes around about who he is, and only has the most honest of bones in his body. That aspect might have led him down some awkward paths from time to time, but when you find a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve and will openly read Ninja Turtles comics while outside in the woods, then you know you got a winner, and Ed is that champion of champions.
He stands for all the outcasts and nerds within small towns across the world, and even though he might have his own personal battles (including his dedication to his heritage) he never really quits or loses his optimism. And if you know anything about yours truly, I tend to have a glass half full look on life 24/7, which I can’t help feel Ed had some influence on. All of these elements, plus the cinematic connections, make Ed quite the catch in my book.
I’m always of the mindset that our crushes come from more than just the physical aspects of the individual. Sure, they can be attractive on the outside, but it is their inner core that is the real thing we’re drawn to, and that makes up a big part of why Ed means so much to me. He’s got flaws, charms, and a pride in his hobbies (which makes my heart flutter) and that’s what all our crushes (whether fictional, nostalgic, etc) should do.
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So thank you to the writers, creators, and Darren E. Burrows, for making a character that I aspire to be and has kept me confident for all these years. Ed has been my guy and continues to influence me all the time, even to the point where I find myself dawning a similar badass jacket and a varied collection of converse to match. And hopefully one day, other viewers young and old can discover the magic of Ed and the rest of the Cicely gang. They got me through the tough times, and maybe one day they’ll get a whole new generation through them too.
So who are your nostalgic crushes? Did they influence your life in anyway? Have you seen Northern Exposure and loved Ed just as much as me? Comment below and express all your feely feels. And if you yourself want to see Northern Exposure come back, make sure to follow Burrow’s project here. 
Until then, Keep Up The Magic!

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