1.) Great townsfolk
Really, everyone’s personality is so nailed down here that you just like watching them talk to each other because you almost know what they’re thinking. Dr. Joel Fleischman, who recently graduated from med school, is sent to Cicely to practice for a while because they paid for his education. Joel is hyper-verbal (a lot of the people on the show are) and complains constantly about his situation. Here’s him on the phone in the pilot after arriving in town: “I don’t like it – I hate it! And I demand to leave! … Well that is because you are not the one who is supposed to spend the next 4 years of his life in this Godforsaken hole in the wall, pigsty with a bunch of dirty, psychotic rednecks!” The town’s resident rich guy/ex-astronaut Maurice is cheerfully glad to have him, though. “When I heard we had a crack at a Jew doctor from New York City… well, I don’t have to tell you I jumped. You boys do outstanding work.” So, yeah. Some fish-out-of-water comedy going on…but so much more!
2.) Cicely, Alaska
The town of Cicely is basically a character unto itself. It’s the kind of place where everyone’s eccentricities are accepted and the artistic impulse is sort of celebrated. But the show doesn’t take itself too seriously about this stuff. And this leads me to number 3….
The antics and philosophy of resident artist/hippie Chris Stevens. He helps make Cicely the kind of town where you could walk down the street and stumble upon a conceptual art event like flinging a piano with a giant catapult. (He was initially going to fling a cow.)
It’s also home to Adam, whose visits were a highlight for me. He’s always super pissed off about something, but like many of the show’s small-town weirdoes he’s oddly articulate, so he can ramble on angrily like this.
5.) The requisite romantic plot
I guess nearly every show has a to have a will-they-or-won’t-they thing going on, but Maggie and Joel’s version of this was good for the most part. They were both really smart and talky, so the antagonistic, almost screwball-comedy feeling that these sorts of pairings almost always have was pulled off well. They were actually interesting characters, so that helped.
So, there you have it. If you like quirky drama/comedies from the 90s (and you really should) you need to give this thing a watch already. In closing…