TV - Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks
Here's a reminder of the Cult TV article by Kneel Downe on the series that changed TV for good - Twin Peaks...

The brainchild of David Lynch and Mark Frost first hit our screens in 1990, April the 8th to be exact and things have never been the same since.

Originally commissioned as a pilot, with extra footage filmed as an ending so that the project could be sold worldwide as a movie, the studio soon green lit a further run of episodes that formed the first and some would say best season.Set within the fictional town of Twin Peaks and overlaid with Lynch’s obsession with the seedier side of American suburbia, the show attracted and confounded viewers by equal measure.

Was it a murder mystery, a seedy soap or something much stranger? On the surface the show seems to be an investigation into the brutal murder of town beauty Laura Palmer. Dispatched to solve the case, our initial introduction into the world of Twin Peaks is via the arrival of FBI agent Dale Cooper.

As his investigations commence we are presented with the inhabitants of this seemingly idyllic town and come to realise that something dark lies at the heart of this place. Soap style melodrama is counterbalanced by dark, surreal imagery, as the initial investigation points to the existence of an evil spirit and an alternate reality referred to as ‘the other place’ and later on as the Black and White lodges.

To delve too deep into the plotlines would ruin the drama for those who have not yet had the pleasure of viewing the show, so we shall instead look at the impact and changes that the show brought to genre TV. With viewing figures high and enjoying critical success the show was commissioned for a second season; solving the mystery of Laura’s killer and taking the show off into even stranger directions. True, the second season saw a major dip in quality mid season but again gathered pace for a twisted and surreal end.

A drop in viewers and a lack of belief by the network saw the proposed third season turned down and so Lynch went on to produce the film Fire Walk with Me, which was effectively a prequel and ending all rolled into one.So, what makes the show relevant to today’s CGI obsessed audience? For one thing, Twin Peaks and Lynch brought a cinematic verve and filming style to what at the time was a ‘film them quick and bash them out’ industry.

Season one especially has all the visual hallmarks of a big budget movie. Camera angles, misplaced music and out of place humour all add to the creeping sense of unreality. The repeated use of motifs, trees, owls, traffic lights etc hint at a wider story and meaning we just can’t grasp.The acting throughout is of the highest calibre, proving that TV not need be populated only by toothy, monosyllabic hunks. Lynch himself appears in many of the episodes as Cooper’s boss Gordon Cole, coming across as a slightly twisted and eccentric James Stewart.

The far reaching story arc really came into it’s own here, a concept taken and run with by later shows such as Buffy, Lost, 24 and the X Files. Viewers could no longer be seen as being too unintelligent or disinterested to cope with an unfolding drama rather than the then commonplace, story of the week. In Dale Cooper we have a new and exciting take on the role of the leading man. Enigmatic, weird and just the right side of crazy, Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan give us a hero who, despite his relative short career, is as iconic as Buffy, Mulder or even the Doctor.

Despite burning brightly and briefly the impact of Twin Peaks was quickly noted by the networks and many similar or influenced dramas began to come thick and fast. Wild Palms (1993) made a disappointing stab at the next weird thing, followed by programs as diverse as Northern Exposure, Eerie Indiana and the X Files; which took the strange FBI agent character and ran with it into even wilder and convoluted directions. And of course, THAT ending.

Apparently a middle finger to the execs that cancelled the show, it still stands as one of the best final scenes in any genre drama ever. So there you go. Twin Peaks, the little show that changed it all and whose effects are still felt to this day. If you haven’t seen it I suggest you purchase the definitive gold box edition and discover a town quite like no other. And if you did, remember: The owls are not what they seem…

Image from Amazon.