The funky, funny TV hamlet, populated by equally funky, funny citizens, has become something of a cliché by now, but such a setting captivated viewers when ''Northern Exposure'' debuted on CBS July 12, 1990. EW writers weigh in on five of their favorite fictional communities.

By Tanner Stransky
Updated July 13, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Northern Exposure

  • TV Show

1. Northern Exposure
Cicely, Alaska (CBS, 1990-95)

The tiny Alaskan municipality’s zaniness was rooted in the residents Dr. Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) met upon his arrival from New York City. Cicely was positively bubbling with endearing eccentrics, from Ross Perot-like former astronaut Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin) to debutante bush pilot Maggie O’Connell (Janine Turner). The town’s influence was felt long after it left the air (remember Anne Heche’s Alaska-set Men in Trees?), while the award-winning series still has a place among groundbreaking TV shows (it featured one of prime time’s first same-sex weddings). Not bad for what Fleischman once called a ”godforsaken hole-in-the-wall pigsty with a bunch of dirty, psychotic rednecks.” —Tanner Stransky

2. Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks, Wash. (ABC, 1990-91)

A nexus point between the material world and an immaterial realm of dancing dwarfs, bow-tied giants, and dark doppelgängers — i.e., a universe that existed firmly in David Lynch’s imagination — Twin Peaks was one bizarre backwater burg. The denizens made it stranger. The Log Lady. Killer Bob. Pie-lovin’ Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). Lovely and lost Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). They and the lunatic idyll that was their home still haunt our dreams. —Jeff Jensen

3. Eureka
Eureka, Ore. (SYFY, 2006-12)

The scientists of this sleepy town, which fronted a think tank founded by Albert Einstein, revolutionized tech for decades despite many, many accidents — such as magnetizing space junk to rain like hail. With its large IQs, larger personality disorders (horny guys leered at centerfolds…of DNA strands), and occasional ruptures in space-time, Eureka was what would’ve happened if geeks inherited the earth. —Christian Blauvelt

4. Gilmore Girls
Stars Hollow, Conn. (THE WB/THE CW, 2000-07)

It was the residents — lusty dance teacher Miss Patty (Liz Torres), cranky diner owner Luke (Scott Patterson), the random troubadour (Grant-Lee Phillips), and, of course, mother-daughter duo Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) — who made Stars Hollow one of TV’s most lovably odd places. Lord knows the town had a lot to overcome after that leper colony moved in during the 18th century. —Jessica Shaw

5. Eerie, Indiana
Eerie, Ind. (NBC, 1991-92)

Middle America was anything but middle-of-the-road on NBC’s short-lived sci-fi comedy. After relocating from New Jersey, streetwise teen Marshall Teller (Omri Katz) found himself in a cul-de-sac of the occult where Bigfoot and Elvis sightings were the norm, Tupperware was used to keep people fresh, and Tobey Maguire played an epistolary-obsessed ghost. Eerie? Sure. Entertaining? Without a doubt. —Lanford Beard

Episode Recaps

Northern Exposure

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