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How will Twin Peaks Fare Against Modern TV Series?
I’m sure everybody on the planet has heard the news about Twin Peaks after it broke out at 11:30am last Monday. After 25 long and nerve-racking years of not knowing what was going to happen to Dale Cooper (he couldn’t stare into that mirror forever!) we learned that the cult classic series is due to return to our small screens on Showtime in 2016, to finally give Twin Peaks fans the ending they have waited so long for.
If you don’t know much about Twin Peaks or if you haven’t heard of it, consider this: it has nearly been 25 years since the show first aired in 1990, and I guess you could say it changed television to such a degree that series after it were all keen to emulate its success, by either using some of the series’ tropes or taking inspiration from its plot and tone.
The story of Twin Peaks seemed simple: a dead homecoming queen named Laura Palmer washes up on a river bank in a seemingly friendly small town called Twin Peaks. However, that is where the “normalness” ends. What followed was a series of surreal, nightmarish dream sequences, an FBI agent who solved cases using mystical and native American mythology, a dancing dwarf, and lots and lots of “damn good coffee” (that’s just to name but a few).
The series was a cult hit, with fans hosting regular “Twin Peaks” parties in which they would all watch the show together, and then discuss “what the hell just happened.” The fact that it is still being talked about to this very day is something to behold. However, yes, that may be due to its sheer popularity, but many still talk about it because there are as yet so many unanswered questions leftover after its cancellation in the second season in ‘91 (WARNING. SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FIRST TWO SEASONS). What did Dale Cooper do after he left the bathroom? Did Audrey survive the explosion in the bank? How’s Annie!? How will Cooper deal with Bob being inside of him? How’s Annie!? Perhaps though, the biggest question right now is: will Twin Peaks hold its own against modern day television, even though it was at the forefront of the ‘TV Golden Age’?
The first thing we have to remember is that series creators, David Lynch and Mark Frost would not have revived the show if Showtime, Lynch, and Frost didn’t think it would work, as specifically Lynch is not someone to milk a franchise. It is clear it is not a rushed decision, as Frost told DEADLINE last week that “when the gold box DVD set came out in 2007, that’s when I think we (Lynch and Frost) both started thinking separately about it. And then about three years ago — we meet for lunch once in a while, often at Musso and Frank just because we both like old Hollywood stuff — we just found ourselves talking over lunch and some ideas popped up about the show. So many people had enjoyed the gold box set. We found ourselves drifting back to that town, realizing that there were more things we wanted to know about it. And everything flew from that point forward. That was I think three years ago in August.”
One of the main reasons Twin Peaks will still fare well against TV nowadays is because of its timeless quality. The show always carried themes which are still relevant and will be for quite some time – like domestic violence, gambling, drugs, superstition, love, and faith. Those themes were, and still are, themes that are dealt with in film and TV today, but Twin Peaks used these themes in a quirky and unique way, as it mixed soap opera, with a who-done-it mystery, and with a dreamlike/surreal tone, which were all things that hadn’t really been experienced on TV together before. Plus, David Lynch has always been someone who prefers to steer well clear of clichés and sticks to what “feels” right to him. He uses “feelings” and “images” from his head to create scenes and the story without worrying that it is not fitting a particular plot point, or if it doesn’t stick to traditional story structure. It might not seem that daring now, but back the, when almost every show was either a cop procedural, or a family comedy, it was groundbreaking.
Another uncanny method is that Lynch likes to show the sub-conscious of the human mind by using living metaphors to emphasise his points. So in Twin Peaks’ case, he used a wild eyed, long grey haired, shiver inducing man called Bob to live inside the father of Laura Palmer. Whenever the father (Leland) would induce domestic violence on his daughter he would transform into this other, more crazy and psychopathic person (Bob) who Laura no longer, literally, recognised. It mixed a dark fantasy element with schizophrenia. It was the first of many symbolism’s that Twin Peaks was so well known for, and was why it drew so many fans in.
It will be very strange to see a series that is the kind of mother-ship for all things different and strange in TV series nowadays, to be going up against the shows that have been inspired by it. These shows are not afraid of showing that influence either.
The Sopranos, which first aired nine years after Twin Peaks, loved to use long dream sequences to show what was going on in the main character’s head, sometimes spending half an episode inside of a dream, a trope that I doubt anyone would have had the guts to do before Twin Peaks.
It’s not just Twin Peaks’ dream sequences that are influencing TV today, as the recent cop drama, True Detective, took the Dale Cooper way of solving a case: having one of the main characters in the show, Rust Cohle, using deep and philosophical methods to make assumptions on what motivated the killer. True Detective, throughout its eight episode run, had a gothic and mythical tone that was always in the background in every scene – just something that reminded me of the same feeling I would get when Twin Peaks had a scene in the Black Lodge.
Another show runner that was heavily influenced by the series was Damon Lindelof, who said Lost was influenced in the way where you don’t have to answer every question you pose to viewers; a trope Twin Peaks used so to make viewers use their imaginations to fill in the blanks.
So, Twin Peaks gave birth to all these tropes and ideas to other TV writers, but it’s the show’s catalogue of characters who all link into the central story in unique and interesting ways, the masterful score by composer Angelo Badalamenti, and the willingness of the writers to go in “blind” and find out what is going to happen in the story as they go along, that all add up to make Twin Peaks a TV series that is both memorable, and timeless. It will never matter which era it airs in because it will always feel like it has arrived from another, stranger planet. Nevertheless, this time, with all the other great TV shows out there, will Twin Peaks be influenced by other shows now?
First off, David Lynch doesn’t take inspiration from any other film or TV show, he is a kind of maverick who only listens to the feelings he gets. He is an artist – a painter at heart – who can literally make you think you are watching a moving painted up on screen when you watch one of his films or shows. No other filmmaker has mixed sound as well as Lynch has, and to this day many say “his films are fifty percent sound.”
Nothing will influence Lynch and Frost as to which direction to go in for season 3 which only means, again, that other shows will be looking up to Twin Peaks as the kind of flagship for surreal and inventive TV, as they have recently promised that they have some very exciting, “new, inventive ideas” for the show, and that “there will be a very strong central storyline.”
Even though it is hailed to this day as a classic, Twin Peaks never reached its full potential back in the 90s, and that is down to one reason: control issues. Lynch and Frost were told by CBS (the network at the time) that they had to reveal Laura’s killer halfway through season 2, which meant that the writers were stuck with where to go next. Also, Lynch at the time, was off making his new film Wild at Heart. So his creative control had almost completely gone. Now though, season 3 will be written by both Lynch and Frost and directed by Lynch, which means that they can stick to their vision, and make Twin Peaks finish on a high that only then will make it a series that reached the heights it strived for in its first season. I suppose, a show that Lynch and Frost could take inspiration from in that respect, is Breaking Bad which, for all the things it did so right, above them all, was knowing when to stop, and making sure the series went out on top.
It’s all gearing up to be an exciting few years ahead, as we build in anticipation for the premiere in 2016, which will mark the 25 years that Laura Palmer mentions in a scene inside the Black Lodge in the final episode.
A lot of anticipation will also build on the social media scene on places like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, which also are a factor in Twin Peaks faring well in more modern times; after each episode there can be debates and chat about the weeks ahead as well as, inevitably, this question creeping up: “what just happened?” because, surely, something is going to blow us away in the upcoming nine episodes.
One person who is already blown away is Mark Frost, who said “The fact that this is still alive and kicking 25 years later is a great joy for everybody involved in it, and I’m just glad we are able to bring something back to the people who really have been the most instrumental in keeping it alive all this time.”
Be sure to stay tuned as we bring you all Twin Peaks’ new as casting and other announcements will probably flood through in the coming months. For now though, let’s rock!
Be sure to let me know below whether you think Twin Peaks will match up against modern day TV series.