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.
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.
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.
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.