Things began going badly after Morty the moose died a year ago in January.
His amble through the opening credits of “Northern Exposure” had become a signature of the hit television series, and his death did not portend well for the show - or the little Cascade mountain town of Roslyn that had been cast as Cicely, Alaska.
Sure enough, CBS announced Wednesday that it is canceling the series, which debuted in 1990 as a summer experiment, then defied the network’s low expectations with its witty writing and off-kilter characters.
Not only did “Northern Exposure” charm viewers and critics coast to coast, but it also revived sleepy old Roslyn, infusing it with the kind of money and energy that hadn’t been seen since the last coal mine had closed in 1962.
But what now - now that “Northern Exposure” and presumably the tourist trade it generated are going the way of the timber industry and the coal mines?
“I’ll tell you one thing,” longtime resident Helen Bone ventured from the top of her front stoop. “There’s gonna be a lot of people out of work. It’s gonna hurt, no two ways about it. I’m glad I don’t have little ones to bring up now.”
Before “Northern Exposure’s” producers came courting, Roslyn, once a bawdy, bustling coal town of 6,000, had become a shell of its former self. Fewer than 900 residents remained.
“You could shoot a cannon down the street on a Saturday night and not hit anybody,” said Dave Divelbiss, the town’s mayor pro tem.
The CBS series brought a renaissance to Roslyn.
Although much of the show was actually filmed on a sound stage in Redmond, Roslyn was the backdrop for most of the outdoors scenes. And the number of tourists along Pennsylvania Avenue, Roslyn’s main drag, seemed to grow in direct proportion to the show’s popularity.
Residents say it was not uncom mon to see a dozen tour buses, all filled, roll into town on a single day, their camera-ready passengers eager to catch a glimpse of the “Northern Exposure” cast.
Eleven new businesses moved to town after “Northern Exposure” began, more than 100 new jobs were created and city sales tax revenue increased more than 30 percent.
The cast and crew have so en deared themselves to the townsfolk that last month, when the season’s filming was done and doubts about the show’s future could no longer be ignored, Roslyn’s residents rented the Eagles Club and threw them a big potluck bash. Everyone in town brought a dish to share.
“It was our thank-you,” Blair said. “A small town is like a family, and they have become part of the family.”
The town’s residents are confident they will weather “Northern Exposure’s” demise by building on their rich heritage and the recreational opportunities that abound in the surrounding mountains - wonderful camping, fishing, crosscountry skiing and snowmobiling.
“We were here before the show,” Divelbiss said, “and we’ll be here after the show.”
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