Archive for April 1st, 2011


North by North-Esalen

April 1, 2011

the push-me pull-U bicycle

Image Credit: Bits & Pieces

I begin to think that I have a genius for working like an ox over totally irrelevant subjects. …I am filled with an excruciating sense of never having gotten anywhere—but when I sit down and try to discover where it is I want to get, I’m at a loss. … Joseph Campbell, journal entry, 1932

Esalen Tribute:

 Joseph Campbell: A Lifelong Journey into the Heart of the Mystery

Image Credit: Daryl’s Take ~ “Meandering ruminations, shared for the benefit of those who probably need to get out more.”

 Northern Exposure [1990 – 1995]


With the first episode airing just three months after Twin Peaks debuted, Joshua Brand and John Falsey’s creation was a much gentler affair than Lynch and Frosts but was no less odd. Rob Morrow starred as Dr Joel Fleischman, a young New York doctor who finds himself forced to relocate to the eccentric Alaskan town of Cicely to pay off his student debts.
Brand and Falsey were both members of the Esalen Institute in California, which promoted a humanistic alternative to mainstream education, drawing heavily on Eastern philosophies and the writings of Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung and B.F. Skinner who was an early leader at the institute. Many of the teachings of Esalen found their way into the scripts for Northern Exposure which also drew on the ‘magical realism’ of authors like Italo Calvino, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez et al and the show frequently diverted into strange fantasy and dreams. It even spoofed Twin Peaks in the 9 August 1990 episode, Russian Flu which sent-up the music and look of Peaks and made mention of the enigmatic Log Lady as well as explicitly referencing the coffee and cherry pie that most of the inhabitants of Twin Peaks seemed obsessed with.


Image Credit: Cheerful Cynicism



During the early run of Northern Exposure, producer Joshua Brand was involved in a similar series, Going to Extremes, which sent a group of American medical students to a Caribbean island and again meeting an odd assortment of characters. It proved to be just a bit to much like going over old ground and the show lasted a single season

John Cullum aka Holling Vincoeur aka Vito the Squirrel

Image Credit: Some Russian Site

Northern Exposure was a outré  than Twin Peaks, less concerned with surreal horror and much happier to play with surreal light comedy, and the characters were generally more likeable. This may explain why it outlived Twin Peaks, running to six excellent seasons packed full of intelligently written essays on the eccentricities of life in a remote, cut-off community.

~ words Kevin Lyons