The cult phenomenon will return in 2016
"We were at Du Par's, the coffee shop at the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura and all of a sudden, Mark Frost and I had this image of a body wrapped in plastic washing up on the shore of a lake."
That's a quote from David Lynch on the origins of his and co-creator Mark Frost's brilliant cult TV show Twin Peaks, which ran on ABC for two seasons from 1990-1991. The above quote is also rather typical for Lynch's descriptions of his work. Like his characters, it's bizarre but kind of endearing.
On October 6, 2014, it was announced that a limited series will air on Showtime in early 2016. David Lynch and Mark Frost will write all nine episodes, with Lynch directing. Frost has emphasized that the new episodes will not be a remake or reboot but a continuation of the series. The episodes will be set in the present day, and the passage of 25 years will be an important element in the plot.
"I've Got Good News. That Gum You Like is Going to Come Back in Style"
Twin Peaks was unlike any show that came before or after in the history of television. Indeed, many detective shows have been equally inspired by Twin Peaks, including Hidden Palms, Psych, The Killing, and to some extent HBO's True Detective.
The show follows an investigation headed by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) into the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). It's pilot episode was first broadcast on April 8, 1990, on ABC. Seven more episodes were produced, and the series was renewed for a second season that aired until June 10, 1991. The show's title came from the small, fictional Washington town in which it was set.
A unique show that mastered the detective series genre and secured it's position in national and international pop culture
Twin Peaks became one of the top-rated shows of 1990 and was a critical success both nationally and internationally. It captured a devoted cult fan base and became a part of popular culture that has been referenced in television shows, commercials, comic books, video games, films and song lyrics. Declining viewer ratings led to ABC's insistence that the identity of Laura's murderer be revealed midway through the second season. The series was followed by a 1992 feature film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, which serves as both a prequel and an epilogue to the television series.
The pilot episode was ranked No. 25 on TV Guide's 1997 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. The series was ranked No. 45 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time in 2002, and it was included in its 2013 list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon." Twin Peaks was listed as one of Time's "Best TV Shows of All-TIME" in 2007, and it placed No. 49 on Entertainment Weekly's "New TV Classics" list and No. 12 in their list of the "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years."
Video: As with all David Lynch projects, the show is scored by the BRILLIANT Angelo Badalamenti. The Twin Peaks soundtrack is perhaps Badalamenti's crowning achievement.
Twin Peaks artfully balances every-day life with the eclectic
As with much of Lynch's other work, notably Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks explores the gulf between the veneer of small-town respectability and the seedier layers of life lurking beneath it. As the series progresses, the inner darkness of characters who initially appeared innocent is revealed, and they are seen to lead double lives.Twin Peaks is consistent with Lynch's work as a whole, in that it is not easily placed within an established genre. Its unsettling tone and supernatural features are consistent with horror films, but its campy, melodramatic portrayal of quirky characters engaged in morally dubious activities reflects a bizarrely comical parody of American soap operas. Like the rest of Lynch's work, the show represents an earnest moral inquiry distinguished by both offbeat humor and a deep vein of surrealism.
The incredible thing about the series is not only how it balances these multiple genres, called by some a "Gothic Soap Opera," but the array of memorable characters that are all developed so well and so endearingly.
The characters are unique, exccentric, and lovable
The cast is lead by Kyle MacLachlan's FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, very much based off of David Lynch himself. Dale Cooper is an FBI agent who arrives in Twin Peaks in 1989 to investigate the brutal murder of popular high-school student Laura Palmer. He falls in love with the town and gains a great deal of acceptance within the tightly knit community. Cooper displays an array of quirky, sometimes almost childlike mannerisms, such as giving a "thumbs up" when satisfied, sage-like sayings (often inspired by his fascination with the nation of Tibet, as seen in the video above), and a distinctive sense of humor, along with his love for cherry pie and "a damn fine cup of coffee." One of his most popular habits is recording spoken-word tapes to a mysterious woman called "Diane" into a microcassette recorder he always carries with him, which often contains everyday observations and abstract thoughts on his current case. His investigative techniques go far beyond the usual ones employed by the FBI, including intuitive exercises and analysis of his dreams. He becomes deeply involved with the inhabitants of Twin Peaks, and remains in town after the resolution of the Laura Palmer case, especially once his nemesis and former partner, Windom Earle, starts menacing the town in order to exploit its supernatural properties.
Twin Peaks features members of a loose ensemble of Lynch's favorite character actors, including Jack Nance (Eraserhead), Grace Zabriskie (Wild At Heart, Inland Empire), and Everett McGill (Dune, The Straight Story). Isabella Rossellini, who had worked with Lynch on Blue Velvet was originally cast as Giovanna Packard, but she dropped out of the production before shooting began on the pilot episode. The character was then reconceived as Josie Packard, of Chinese ethnicity, and the role was given to actress Joan Chen. It casts several veteran actors who had risen to fame in the 1950s and 1960s, including 1950s movie stars Richard Beymer (West Side Story), Piper Laurie (Carrie), Russ Tamblyn (The Haunting), British actor James Booth (Zulu), and former The Mod Squad star, Peggy Lipton.
Due to budget constraints, Lynch intended to cast a local girl from Seattle, reportedly "just to play a dead girl." The local girl ended up being Sheryl Lee. Lynch stated "But no one—not Mark, me, anyone—had any idea that she could act, or that she was going to be so powerful just being dead." And then, while Lynch shot the home movie that James takes of Donna and Laura, he realized that Lee had something special. "She did do another scene—the video with Donna on the picnic—and it was that scene that did it." As a result, Sheryl Lee became a semi-regular addition to the cast, appearing in flashbacks as Laura, and portraying another, recurring character: Maddy Ferguson, Laura's similar-looking cousin.
My Experience with Twin Peaks
Since I was born in 1989, I didn't come to Twin Peaks until it was made available for streaming on Netflix (and still is!). The show was famously not widely available on DVD until recently thanks to the outrage of Twin Peaks' STRONG cult following. Being a major fan of Lynch, I've now watched the show more than three times, and I am a huge fan of the prequel/sequel 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, which was famously met with scorn from critics and fans of the show alike because of it's radical departure in tone from the TV series. Then again, the film deals with the final days of Laura Palmer and suitably should be grim. Fire Walk with Me has grown in the coming years to have as equal an appreciation among Peaks fans as the series itself. Some critics have declared it Lynch's finest film.
The idea of a cult show I love but didn't "live with" coming back during my lifetime is very exciting, to say the least. As many Twin Peaks fans are aware, the show, while initially beloved by critics, experienced a backlash and a decline in ratings after it was revealed who Laura Palmer's killer was, a demonic spirit known as Killer BOB, who inhabits the body of Laura's father Leland Palmer. Killer BOB is a demonic entity from the Black Lodge, a realm of pure evil which exists on an alternate plane of reality. While possessing humans, he commits horrible crimes to elicit pain, fear, and suffering from those around him. These feelings, which Black Lodge residents refer to collectively as garmonbozia, act as a form of nourishment.
BOB is a truly terrifying character, just look at this clip below:
With the resolution of Twin Peaks' main drawing point (Laura Palmer's murder) in the middle of the second season, and with subsequent story lines becoming more obscure and drawn out, public interest began to wane, and interest in the program seemed over. This discontent, coupled with ABC changing its timeslot on a number of occasions, led to a huge drop in ratings after being one of the most-watched television programs in the United States in 1990. A week after the season's 15th episode placed 85th in the ratings out of 89 shows, ABC put Twin Peaks on indefinite hiatus, a move which usually leads to cancellation.
Lynch expressed his regret at having resolved the Laura Palmer murder, stating he and Frost had never intended for the series to answer the question and that doing so "killed the goose that laid the golden eggs." Lynch blames network pressure for the decision to resolve the Palmer storyline prematurely. Frost agreed, noting that people at the network had in fact wanted the killer to be revealed by the end of season one.
The Show's Defining Moment: Cooper's Dream
I think most critics and Twin Peaks fans point to "Cooper's Dream" in "Episode 2," also known as "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer," the third episode of the first season.
"Episode 2" introduces the character of The Man from Another Place, played by Michael J. Anderson. The Red Room seen in the episode's final scene was created from scratch by Lynch for the European release of "Pilot," and was not originally intended to be a part of the American series. Lynch was so pleased with the result that he decided to incorporate it into the regular series. The Red Room would later be revealed as a waiting room for the Black Lodge, a mystical dimension bordering the town of Twin Peaks. Lynch claims to have conceived most of the sequence while leaning against his car on a cold night while its chassis was hot, and free-associating ideas. The director first met Anderson in 1987 while continuing work on Ronnie Rocket, a planned film project about "electricity and a three-foot guy with red hair" which was ultimately scrapped. He thought of Anderson immediately upon conceiving the Black Lodge.
The scene below is one of the most celebrated sequences in television history, and introduced a whole other dimension to a seemingly simple detective story: Cooper retires to bed at his hotel room, and experiences a strange dream that takes place in a room hung with red curtains. The Man from Another Place (Michael J. Anderson) and Laura Palmer speak to him in a jarring and disjointed manner, before Laura leans over to whisper in his ear. Cooper wakes up, telephones Harry, and declares that he knows who the murderer is.
It's 100 percent Lynch, bizarre, intriguing, strange, funny, and mysterious. Unlike anything seen on television before or since. Lynch would further deal with dreams in later works like Lost Highway (1997) and Mulholland Drive (2001).
Lynch also deals with Hitchcockian themes, and Twin Peaks is no exception. Especially with the duality of Laura Palmer and her cousin who bears a strong resemblance to her, Madeleine "Maddy" Ferguson (both Laura and Maddy are played by Sheryl Lee). The character is an elaborate reference to Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film Vertigo, in which Kim Novak plays a blonde/brunette dual role, much like Lee plays Laura and Maddy. Madeleine is the name of Novak's blonde alter ego, while Ferguson is the surname of James Stewart's character in the same film.
A popular feature of the series was Frost and Lynch's trademark use of repeating and sometimes mysterious motifs—trees (especially fern and palms), water, coffee, donuts, owls, logs, ducks, fire—and numerous embedded references to other films and TV shows, such as The Twilight Zone (mysteriously malfunctioning electrical equipment), and The Patty Duke Show (the phenomenon of identical cousins).
A series within a series: Invitation to Love
The show also had fun poking the soap opera genre, which I've mentioned above.
The satire aspects include a fictional show within a show called Invitation to Love.
Invitation to Love is a fictional soap opera in Twin Peaks. It is seen briefly on TV screens in all seven episodes of the first season and was shot in the Ennis House. The show sometimes acts as a commentary on events unfolding in Twin Peaks itself, highlighting some of the more outlandish or melodramatic elements of the show. The most obvious example of this "show-within-a-show" commentary can be found when Maddy Ferguson, the near-identical cousin of Laura Palmer, first arrives in Twin Peaks. Just before Maddy first appears on the show, an episode of Invitation to Love is shown in which it is revealed that there are identical twin characters in Invitation to Love who are played by the same actress, much as Maddy and Laura Palmer are almost identical, and are both played by Sheryl Lee. It is also implied in the brief snippet of the show that is shown that Jade and Emerald, the two characters in Invitation to Love, are characters with very different personalities, much as sweet and innocent Maddy is diametrically opposed to the dark and secretive Laura in Twin Peaks.
Another example can be found in the final episode of the first season, when Leo Johnson is shot in a dramatic fashion, and a similar event is shown happening to the character of Montana in Invitation to Love. Lynch later reused the motif of a show-within-a-show in his film Inland Empire (2006), which incorporated a secondary series, Rabbits.
Conclusion & Moving Forward
I've only begun to scratch the surface of Twin Peaks, but more than a routine crime procedural, the show was capable of being melodramatic, hilarious, and downright terrifying within the span of minutes. Coffee, doughnuts, and cherry pie were consumed in mass quantities. A middle-aged woman with an eye patch was obsessed with inventing silent drape runners. A ponytailed truck driver attacked his wife with a bar of soap stuffed in a sock. Twin Peaks was unclassifiable and undefined, yet still engrossing to both viewers and critics yearning for the next generation of distinguished television.
Almost twenty-five years later, Twin Peaks continues to fill fans with wonder. It has even inspired, since 1992, a yearly Twin Peaks Festival that takes place in Washington state where thousands of fans go to celebrate the series, and cast members go for Q&A's with the fans. Much like the Lebowskifest, it's evolved into a HUGE event.
A novel, titled The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks, to be written by series co-creator Mark Frost, will be published in late 2015, and will detail what happened to characters over the past 25 years.
As reported earlier this month, Showtime is bringing back Twin Peaks as a limited series in 2016. The nine-episode revival will be written and produced by Lynch and Frost, and pick up in the present day in the fictional town of Twin Peaks, Washington, 25 years after the original ABC show went off the air.
Like I've said, every episode of Twin Peaks is available on Blu-Ray, and streaming on Netflix. In advance of the revival, Showtime will run the first two seasons of the original series.
Director, David Lynch, discusses Twin Peaks with David Letterman. (Loving the tie, Mr. Letterman).
Twin Peaks blu-ray trailer.
'Donahue' with the cast of Twin Peaks. Eric Da Re a.k.a. Leo Johnson's hair is pretty epic.
David Lynch on CNN.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992 Documentary).
David Lynch on Jay Leno, 1992.
Monsterpiece Theater does Twin Peaks, featuring Cookie Monster as Agent Cookie.
Twin Peaks comedy sketch originally aired in 1990.
Ok, needless to say, I'm excited about the return of Twin Peaks. But what about you?