So it pretty much just stagnated on my "to-watch" list, perpetually getting bumped down in favor of something more immediately rewarding. What a fool I was! Oh Past-Keith, you great slippery twat! What the hell were you thinking? Didn't you know that Twin Peaks is amazing?!
Luckily, (this) summer happened. Summer is the perfect time of year for my own personal brand of escapist hedonism. It's a time for media binges of every variety. It's a time to watch an entire television series in one sitting. Curtains drawn. Unwashed fists shoving dry Kix into grinning mouths. Demented, bleary-eyed glee. Let summer never end!
Uh... anyway. The premise, in case you're not familiar, is this: Laura Palmer, typical popular high school girl, is found dead in the sleepy northwestern town of Twin Peaks. The crime must be solved! And that's it. What most shows would base a single episode on, Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost construct an entire series around. You had better believe that these guys have wicked sack.
With the murder as its starting point the show expands outward, and soon it's clear that this wholesome little town is festering with various ancient evils, as well as plenty of regular ol' sex and drugs. It brings to mind Blue Velvet for obvious reasons, and not just because of Kyle MacLachlan's presence as Special Agent Dale Cooper. It must be said though: MacLachlan ties everything together brilliantly. When I was watching the first episode I was consumed with doubt, ready to turn it off and dismiss Twin Peaks as "one of those things." Then about 20 minutes in, "Coop" was introduced, and the show transformed into something ten times what it was. It's hard to explain, but Lynch's direction combined with MacLachlan's acting just... well, you've seen Blue Velvet. It's a very, very good thing.
And speaking of Lynch's direction, it's raging at full force here. You get the definite sense you are taking part in a David Lynch product through a good portion of the series. It's actually kind of uncanny--almost immediately, within the first shot, it's 100% clear whether or not Lynch directed the episode you're watching. Long before his credit ever pops up on the screen you can feel him behind the camera. Or not. Unfortunately, once the second season rolled around, it was usually "not." Lynch took off after completing its premiere, and was absent for most of the show's remaining life. And this is where the Twin Peaks universe takes a sharp nose dive. For most of the over-long second season, the show loses any momentum it had built up. The writing becomes ridiculous even by Lynch standards, the acting turns rancid, and the direction eeks by as just short of mediocre.
A lot of this had to do with the fact that the writers were suddenly pressured by the network jerk-offs to solve the murder of Laura Palmer. Idiots aren't fond of open-endedness, as we all know, and the fact that a mystery could begin without being neatly solved 44 minutes later was a terrible strain on their struggling attention spans. So the writers (the poor dogs) solved it. Right in the middle of the second season, they shit all over what made the show so goddam compelling in the first place. Suddenly and without warning, Twin Peaks had no premise, no direction. Each episode was more laughable than the last, and they struggled to find a reason for their core characters to even appear on screen. For the second time in my marathon run, I considered simply turning it off and forgetting the whole damn thing.
Apparently TV viewers of the time felt the same way, because ratings fell sharply and the show was canceled in the middle of the second season.
But wait! Didn't I just say something about the "over-long" second season? Yes, oh yes! Thanks to the overwhelming power of pre-internet nerd-enforced petitions, the show was revived, and David Lynch returned to hoist it out of the sickening rut it had dug for itself. Of course I didn't know any of this while I was watching it, so I was thoroughly confused when the final 6 or so episodes suddenly got good again. But they did! Oh, how they did!
Then it was really canceled. Shortly after, there was one last desperate kick of activity as a feature-length prequel was released (to much hissing and booing), and then the Twin Peaks franchise finally died for good.
The X-Files existing without Twin Peaks paving the way.
Speaking of which, one of David Duchovny's ealiest roles was on Twin Peaks, as Dennis "Denise" Bryson, the cross-dressing DEA agent. Without this show spotlighting his ability to play a slightly abnormal federal agent, who knows what The X-Files might have turned into. And countless other familiar faces will pop up as well: pre-SNL Molly Shannon, Billy Zane, Heather Graham, David Lynch himself, that one guy from RoboCop, Henry from Eraserhead, David Motherfucking Bowie (!?)... the list continues. Oh yeah, and one of my personal favorites: David Patrick Kelly, a.k.a. that asshole from The Warriors. You know the one--the finger pointer with the annoying voice who really shot Cyrus.
Okay, I'm gonna stop. I don't really want to go into any more detail here anyway, because even the slightest clue could totally ruin the show for one who hasn't seen it. So see it! Then we'll discuss.