Whilst I am a fan of the show I do feel that some of the episodes lose their way and seem to be written when they couldn't think of anything to write about - so they include lots of potentious dream scenes for various characters, back in time episodes and the inclusion of characters that really don't fit into the show - take Adam for example, a rude, obnoxious idiot that I fast forward everytime he is on. His featuring in season one was enough but they felt he needed more exposure!
Nothern exposure does have a warmth about it, and some very likeable characters - Maurice Minnifield a tough say it like it is ex Marine fighter pilot, Marylin Whirlwind - a calm Native American and doctors receptionist who doesn't say much, but she doesn't have to, Ed ChigliaK - a mild mannered half Native American movie enthusiast and Maurices dogs body. Ruth Anne - the local store owner and of course Holling Vincoeur and Shelley Tambo - the unlikely pair who run the Brick bar and restaurant. All of these characters fit into the shows surroundings and story lines very well.
The other main characters I could take with a pinch of salt and feel their inclusion, even the two main cast members in the first few seasons are not as good as the above mentioned characters. Dr Fleichman, though well acted and not the actors fault and the actress that plays Maggie Mole have a constant love hate relationship which gets very boring by season three when they are still at it.The writers fault again!! Chris Stevens - the local disc jockey is at times good, and others very potentious with his assumed great wealth of knowlege and goings on about complete rubbish most of the time. Though Dr Flechman's character was the premise for the show, I think they could have relied on something other than a love hate theme which is so very boring and cliche.
I think the show could have been a lot better than what it was, at times it seems the writers were trying to be clever or try something different and off the wall, but by doing this they made terrible episodes. Far too many 'dream' epsiodes.
70% of the show is very good, the rest in my opinion isn't worth very much with a very sad let down of a last episode. I know the show had its problems with Rob Marrow wanting more from his contract, which was apparent in the last two seasons when he slipped away, but I don't think they did very much to hold onto a great idea.
It is worth noting that Doc Martin and the new series of Hart Of Dixie is really just another take on the same story. Doctor from the big city moves to rural location to become a GP.