Thursday, April 8, 2010

David Lynch and Twin Peaks (1990)

Above: The cover of the October 10, 1990 issue of Time.

The pilot of "Twin Peaks" aired 20 years ago today, on the night of April 8, 1990. What to say about that? This strange series not only altered narrative television, but it was popular enough to prompt the nation to ask "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" - a question which in and of itself became a pop culture catchphrase. There's much to say about that, and there will certainly be more exhaustive reviews and summaries of the anniversary on the Internets (such as Pop Candy's "Ten Unforgettable Moments" from the series). I loved the show, despite, and probably because of, its overt and wonderful oddness. Believe it or not, it was actually my mother who alerted me to the series and encouraged me to watch its premiere, as she had, somehow, discovered David Lynch and his work prior to 1990. It was fun, it was intriguing, it was campy. I was glued to the set each week (although I recall that the series was not as popular with my classmates as I had initially expected it might be). It apparently lasted only thirty episodes (fewer than I remembered, too few for it to be truly profitable in syndication) and vanished from the airwaves for good by June of 1991. A feature film prequel, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, came in 1992, bringing it all to an end.

The series was unavailable on DVD for some time, and when it first came to the format, the two hour pilot episode was only available as import, while the remainder of the first season - without the pilot - was released domestically. This, I understand, has been remedied with subsequent releases, including a far more definitive edition which includes both versions of the pilot and the entirety of the series. Several years ago, I watched most of the first season again on DVD and was surprised that the performances seemed as wooden and stilted as they did. That of course, is a hazard of watching something you enjoyed immensely in your youth and revisited in your adulthood. But here, the experience was a bit more startling, because I did not think of "Twin Peaks" as something that would suffer with age as it apparently had (to me). Alas. Perhaps I should give it another shot in the coming weeks and watch the entire series start to finish. Or, more likely, maybe I should simply let it exist in my memory as a series I very much enjoyed watching as a teenager. Yes, I think I'll do the latter. It is safer for my well being.

1 comment:

Ryan S. said...

Given what writers have learned from "Lost" in the way of, say, planning ahead more than five episodes, it would be interesting to see a return to the premise. If 90210 can get a rebirth, why not Agent Cooper?

As a high schooler, I did not watch much TV, and the Friday placement of the series meant I missed too much of the first season when I did tune in. But I did get caught up, and did see "Fire Walk With Me" in the theater.

Does the series hold up? Maybe not. Does Sherilyn Fenn hold up? I think so.

As a side note, I was visiting friends in Seattle in 2000 and we drove a bit out of town. I realized the waterfall I was looking at was the one used as the establishing shot for The Great Northern hotel, and I was standing in the same place they shot the footage. It was a bit unsettling.