Northern Exposure (1990–1995)
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Soapy Sanderson 

Dr. Joel Fleischman is depressed when grumpy old patient Soapy Sanderson completely ignores his medical advice, and is stunned when he and Maggie are named joint executors of his 140 acres ... See full summary »


Stephen Cragg


Joshua Brand (created by), John Falsey (created by) | 3 more credits »




Episode complete credited cast:
Rob Morrow ... Dr. Joel Fleischman
Barry Corbin ... Maurice J. Minnifield
Janine Turner ... Maggie O'Connell
John Cullum ... Holling Vincoeur
Darren E. Burrows ... Ed Chigliak
John Corbett ... Chris Stevens
Cynthia Geary ... Shelly Marie Tambo
John McLiam ... Soapy Sanderson
Christa Miller ... Laurie Batan
Darryl Fong ... Kim Cheng
Elaine Miles ... Marilyn
Phil Lucas Phil Lucas ... Accountant
Nick Ramus ... Chief
John Murray ... Surveyor


Dr. Joel Fleischman is depressed when grumpy old patient Soapy Sanderson completely ignores his medical advice, and is stunned when he and Maggie are named joint executors of his 140 acres forest estate where only wolves live. Maggie wants to turn it into a nature reserve, however un-required it is in this part of Alaska. Joel is rather tempted by the Indian chief Ronkomkoma's idea to turn it into a tax shelter by formally drilling for oil which everybody knows isn't there, hoping it may pay his way back to New York. Later Joel learns Soapy was a spirituality college professor for 20 years. Soapy also left them a $200 Lafitte-Latour for their trouble, which nearly works a romantic wonder, and a journal. Meanwhile the press gets interested. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama


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Release Date:

26 July 1990 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Although she had appeared in the previous two episodes, this is the first time where Cynthia Geary actually has any dialogue. See more »


The quote attributed to Chief Seattle actually came from a screenplay by Ted Perry in the 1970s. See more »


Holling Vincoeur: Soapy used to say that Alaska wasn't a state, but a state of mind.
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References The Searchers (1956) See more »


Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)
Written by Little Jimmy Dickens (uncredited)
[When Joel talks to Chris in the radio station.]
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User Reviews

Almost there, but not quite...
16 November 2018 | by soundphurySee all my reviews

If "Soapy Sanderson" had run in one of the later seasons of Northern Exposure, we no doubt would have been treated to a joyless and dreary meditation on the nature of aging, or solitude, or suicide or some other such pompous nonsense.

Fortunately, we're still in the first season, where, thankfully, the writers, more often than not, felt these topics were best dealt with using a heavy dose of light comedy. And the result is the beginning of some truly great television.

Soapy Sanderson is the first episode where it really feels like all the disparate elements of this gem of a television series are finally starting to come together - interesting characters, outlandish plots and, at the center of it all, Morrow's causticly petulant Dr Fleischman. And, as a true testament to how great this show is, it's not the main plot (Fleischman's attempts to duplicitously sell off land that he and Maggie have just inherited), that garners the praise here, but, instead, it's the subplots and secondary characters that really start to come to the fore, foreshadowing the strong ensemble nature that this show will eventually take on. Case in point: Ed's introduction to film making by a documentary film crew, as well as how we get to learn more about the citizens of Cicely through their interviews. High points here include the first time we get to hear David Schwartz' beautifully contemplative piano theme that would serve as a sort of leitmotif for Maggie's character throughout much of the series, as well as an early television role from guest star Christa Miller.

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