A recipe for television success:
Into a mixing bowl pour one part Sex and the City. Add two parts Northern Exposure. Fold through a jaw-droppingly beautiful location, clever scripts and likeable characters. Blend all ingredients well and leave mixture to rise.
Borrowing a little from the idea of ‘Northern Exposure’ which centred around a typical New York city boy moving to a small Alaskan town, ‘Men In Trees’ takes typical New York city girl Marin Frist (Anne Heche) and likewise relocates her to a small Alaskan town. Unlike Northern Exposure’s Joel Fleischman who was trapped in Cicely against his will, Marin has agreed to travel to the town of Elmo for a speaking arrangement to share her wisdom as the author of relationship guidance books. One thing leads to another and she finds herself ‘enjoying’ an extended stay.
Given that the show comes to us from one of the writers and producers of ‘Sex and the City’, it’s hardly surprising that ‘Men In Trees’ injects a similar feel and style. Marin is a writer normally based in New York with a vocal internal monologue who writes about relationships and at times finds herself heartbroken and confused by the opposite sex. Sound somewhat similar to one Carrie Bradshaw?
However like a brisk Alaskan winter, this show breathes fresh new life into a concept which could have very easily gone down the path of a tired old formula. The characters are all three-dimensional and given the chance to develop as individuals, predictable storylines are quickly overcome, and it is respectful rather than mocking of the small town experience. ‘Men In Trees’ promotes all that is good about life in a place where everyone knows your name and your business. Viewers are offered a genuine and warm embrace against a world that often seems cold and uncaring.
Time does not always flow as expected from episode to episode. Sometimes we catch up with characters after a few days while other episodes feel like they are taking place some weeks later, however this doesn’t get in the way of a good story. Aside from the unique episode storylines, several major story arcs related to developing romantic relationships flow continuously in the background. One such relationship is that between Marin and her potential love interest Jack (James Tupper), who are forever almost-but-not-quite getting their timing right.
We are left with one very important question which will not be answered here. Will Jack become Marin’s Mr. Big?