Remember that TV show about the big-city doctor who leaves all the amenities behind to live in a small Alaskan town filled with quirky characters? Yeah, we do, too and we still kind of miss Northern Exposure.
Now, there’s Men in Trees, which is pretty much the same set-up, and although it desperately wants to fill that void Northern Exposure left, it doesn’t even come close.
The big-city somebody this time is bestselling self-help guru Marin Frist (Anne Heche), whose specialty is helping women find the right guy. On her way to the small, quaint town of Elmo, Alaska, however, to promote something or another, she finds out her fiancé has been cheating on her. So, like any scorned woman whose whole career has been based on knowing all about men, she stays in Elmo where the ratio of men to women is ten to one, in order to take a little of her own advice and capture a different perspective on the elusive opposite gender for her latest book.
But as one Elmo-ian woman says, “The odds are good. But the goods are odd.” Of course, she’s referring to all the offbeat men in the town, including bar and grill owner, Ben (Abraham Benrubi); grizzled pilot Buzz (John Amos); puppy-dog radio DJ Patrick (Derek Richardson); and the quiet, rugged hunk of the moment, Jack (James Tupper), who naturally catches Marin’s eye right away. You can see how that’ll go, can’t you?
The show’s main deterrent–besides not being nearly as cleverly written or has the same off-the-wall spirit as Northern Exposure–is Heche herself. Sure, it’s nice to see her up and about again after taking some time off to recoup–you know, being Ellen DeGeneres’ girlfriend then going a little nutso in the Californian desert to finally finding her right man, getting married and having kids. But she just grates as Marin, a whiny, self-indulgent woman with very little redeeming qualities. She falls right into all the fish-out-of-water cliches, including not knowing how a skunk can spray you if you just walk right up to it. Oy, vey.
The rest of the cast also follows all-too-similar patterns set up by the terms “quirky” and “eccentric” without too much thought put into their characters. Are people living in Alaska really all that strange?
Bottom Line: Due to a highly unlikable lead character, this Northern Exposure rip off would be hard to keep watching week after week.