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I remembered "Northern Exposure" as a small-screen version of "Doc Hollywood," a fish-out-of-water fable in which a hotshot, big-city doctor named Joel Fleischman finds his humanity when forced to practice in an Alaskan town with barely enough residents to form a hockey league.

But in rewatching the series, now streaming on Prime Video, I discovered something more sentimental: a love letter to pop culture.

By the time Joshua Brand and John Falsey launched the CBS show in 1990, they had already created "St. Elsewhere" and "I'll Fly Away," two of the finest dramas we've ever had. "Northern Exposure" wasn't nearly as ambitious. It was more of celebration of other great TV, not to mention movies and music.

Let's start with the tunes. You may remember town DJ Chris Stevens, played by future "Sex and the City" suitor John Corbett. He was a dreamboat, a guy who could chop wood for an hour straight while quoting Fyodor Dostoevsky. But the character's greatest contribution was his record collection, an eclectic mix of Glen Campbell, Louis Armstrong, Little Jimmy Dickens and Beethoven.

He wasn't the only one with good taste. In one the show's sweetest moments, pilot Maggie O'Connell (Janine Turner) celebrates a happy moment by dancing alone in her living room to Sinead O'Connor's cover of Cole Porter's "You Do Something to Me."

Clearing the music rights was the main reason it took so long for the show to become available for streaming. Cutting through the legal red tape must have been as daunting as a polar bear in heat.

One of Stevens' biggest fans was Ed Chigliak, portrayed by Darren E. Burrows, one of the first Native Americans to land a three-dimensional TV role. Chigliak was obsessed with movies, which he had to devour on videotape, since the town didn't have a proper movie theater — or a police department, for that matter. The local drugstore was also the post office and library.

He might not have known how to talk to a crush, but he could quote dialogue from "Boys Town."

The show's writers were equally smitten with classic films. The first two seasons nod to "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Doctor Zhivago," "It's a Wonderful Life" and Charlie Chan mysteries. One episode owes so much to "The Wizard of Oz" that you half expect "Over the Rainbow" to play over the closing credits.

But Brand and Falsey seemed to be deepest in love with TV.

The town may not have a single fast-food restaurant, but everyone gets the references to "Leave It to Beaver," "thirtysomething" and "Cagney & Lacey." In the most bizarre moment from the first season, there's a dream sequence dedicated to "Twin Peaks," which was red hot when the episode first aired. Brand and Falsey weren't shy about recognizing their own work. In one scene, the characters admire "A Year in the Life," the team's short-lived miniseries from the mid-1980s.

The creators are all too aware that they are over-the-top nerds. In the second season premiere, written by future "Sopranos" contributor Robin Green, waitress Shelly Tambo (Cynthia Geary) gets addicted to satellite TV, dressing up like Vanna White to watch "Wheel of Fortune" and staying up all night to catch a Japanese-dubbed version of "Magnum P.I."

Her passion for television threatens her relationship with bar owner Holling Vincoeur (John Cullum) — which is just fine with me. It's kind of a creepy affair considering there's a 44-year age difference between the two lovebirds. They're not the only couple who don't belong together. The will-they-or-won't-they interplay between Fleischman and O'Connell doesn't elicit the same sparks that Sam and Diane created on "Cheers."

"Northern Exposure" was best when it focused on a different sort of romance, a love affair with pop culture that still resonates nearly 35 years after it first began.