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Welcome back to Cicely, Alaska, where whimsy and magical realism are always in season. While Northern Exposure's heart is as big as all outdoors, its charms are starting to wear a little thin in its penultimate season, particularly John Cullum's New Age-y DJ McDreamy, Chris (one longs for that season 1 episode in which he lost his voice). But there is compensation in such sweet, unexpected moments as the one in "A River Doesn't Run Through It," in which bush pilot Maggie O'Connell (Janine Turner) finds the tape recorder of Dr. Joel Fleishman (Rob Morrow), who is out in the field, and, missing his voice, sits down to listen to one of his tapes. The long-awaited thawing of what Joel calls their "bizarre" relationship is this season's biggest development. Their efforts to "go out" and be nicer to each other are frustrated by such nuisances as a dust-mite allergy ("Mite Makes Right"). Another blessed event is the birth of Shelley's (Cynthia Geary) so-called "Little Pooper," but not before she freaks at impending motherhood ("Baby Blues") and has a series of laundromat encounters with her future child at different stages in her life, from Barbie-playing adolescent to aspiring Dallas Cowboy cheerleader ("Hello, I Love You"). Aspiring young filmmaker and shaman Ed (Darren E. Burrows) finds himself at a crossroads in "Rosebud," one of his better episodes, in which he is charged with organizing a film festival to put Cicely on the map. Peter Bogdanovich, as himself, regales one and all with his Orson Welles stories, and encourages Ed to finally make a movie. A quintessential love-it-or-hate-it Northern Exposure episode is "Mr. Sandman," in which the Northern Lights cause the residents to swap their dreams. The season ends on a heartwarming grace note with "Lovers and Madmen," in which Joel, who has always kept himself aloof from the close-knit community (in "Rosebud," he resists joining the volunteer fire department), at last accepts that he has become a "Cicelian," after discovering a frozen wooly mammoth.

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MC26664 Northern Exposure 5th Season DVD (1994) $34.98 $29.99