Tuesday, October 7, 2014

TWIN PEAKS is returning in 2016 ... but should it?

"The owls are not what they seem."

Yes, TWIN PEAKS is coming back. We've pretty much known that since David Lynch and Mark Frost shared identical (and appropriately cryptic) tweets on Oct. 3:
The Internet quickly went batshit, just as it should have. TWIN PEAKS was a series ahead of its time in so many ways andhas only gotten better with age. Its inventiveness ultimately proved toxic to its narrative, though. When the second season began, a television show built on the pretense of a finite mystery ("Who Killed Laura Palmer?") suddenly had to justify its own existence in prime time. How do you resolve a show's central conceit without bringing everything to a crashing halt?

The minds behind TWIN PEAKS never adequately answered that question. By the time they unmasked the killer, nobody much cared anymore. Today's the show's cult following has glossed over that bit of history, but it's important to remember that TWIN PEAKS died with a whimper, not a bang.

This is the 100,000th website to use this image during the last 24 hours.
So, is it good news that TWIN PEAKS is returning to the air waves in 2016? Suggesting they've learned from past mistakes, Lynch and Frost quickly explained their earlier tweets, announcing this week that TWIN PEAKS would be returning as a nine-part "limited series" on Showtime. (For those of you keeping score, TWIN PEAKS aired only eight episodes during its first season.) That certainly solves the original riddle of TWIN PEAKS' open-ended narrative. But that's hardly the only problem facing an attempt to bring back a television series after more than two decades.

Frost and Lynch have spent the last few days in pitched combat with the media, which has been aggressively pursuing information about the show. So far, the two men have let very little slip. Frost revealed he and Lynch have been edging closer to a TWIN PEAKS revival since the release of the "Gold Box" DVD collection a few years ago, and that their occasional interactions gradually led to inspiration. Frost also told The Hollywood Reporter that the new series will eschew "binge watching" by taking a traditional weekly broadcast schedule, as opposed to the full-series dump favored by Netflix and Amazon.

 Then, on Monday, Kyle MacLachlan shared the following via Twitter:

We can assume this means that MacLachlan will be appearing in the new series. Besides that, we don't know much else about the TWIN PEAKS revival.

Except we sorta do.

Ignoring the reality that revivals tend to satisfy nobody (90 percent of all online discussions about STAR WARS devolve into arguments about THE PHANTOM MENACE, according to statistics I just made up), neither Lynch nor Frost are the people they were back in 1990. Lynch's work has only grown more Lynchian over the years, and he's hardly made anything resembling a traditional film since THE STRAIGHT STORY in 1999.

And then there's Mark Frost. While he's done some good work since TWIN PEAKS ended, none of that success has migrated to the screen. His novels, such as THE LIST OF SEVEN, are great fun. But his work on the two FANTASTIC FOUR screenplays have created the kind of karmic stain that will hopefully follow him through several reincarnations.

There are other factors at play that are almost certainly working against the revival. The original series ended in a way that will make it difficult to resurrect TWIN PEAKS in a recognizable way. By all rights, much of the principle cast should not be returning. The TWIN PEAKS that was cancelled looked very little like the TWIN PEAKS of the pilot, but the show's early episodes are what people generally remember. The show's many catch phrases are still part of popular culture, but what about Windome Earle? Or Denise/Dennis Bryson, the cross-dresser/transvestite/transgender DEA agent played by David Duchovny? Or that Agent Cooper, when last we saw him, was possessed by the spirit of Killer Bob? Is Lucy still working as a receptionist at the sheriff's office 25 YEARS LATER?

Because Lynch hired adults to play teens on the original series, the entire cast looks disproportionately older today ... which is fine. I've always admired how MacLachlan flaunts his gray streaks, but he's a man and will be judged by a much lower standard than his female co-stars. And what about the show's phantoms? Are we to believe that Laura, the Giant and the diminutive "Man from Another Place" have been subject to the ravages of time in the Black Lodge? Will we see them at all?

And, without these elements, is the show still TWIN PEAKS? There's a very real threat that a new series will spend more time answering "What ever happened to ...?" questions than in telling a story.

This column isn't meant to be an exercise in parade pissing, but fandom has a habit of throwing victory celebrations before the contest even begins. (Remember all those cosplayers who trotted out TRON LEGACY costumes in advance of the film's release?) We tend to raise our expectations to grotesquely unrealistic levels, leading to the inevitable conflagration of disappointment on the Internet. And the Internet is something the original TWIN PEAKS never had to deal with.

I'm cautiously, maybe even foolishly, optimistic about the return of TWIN PEAKS. If Lynch has an original, independent concept in mind that's connected -- but not dependent -- on the original series, that might be interesting. But there are some incredibly high hurdles to clear, and Lynch's long-standing refusal to revisit the town of Twin Peaks, Washington, has only built them higher.


hicktown gal said...

Foolishly, dangerously, wildly, crazily optimistic. It is impossible to live up to my dreams but will hopefully be a little satisfying...

James N Spielberg said...

As I posted on my FB page: It was disgusting and horrible enough the first time. An ugly, violent,
nonsensical mess of a tv show, and I regret the time I spent watching
it the first time. NO THANK YOU!

Unknown said...

I actually missed this show growing up. I wonder if I should start with the source material first or start with this?

Walter Neff said...

Actually, no, I have no memories at all of any Tron: Legacy-based Cosplay. Don't look for the downsides here... it's 9 hours of David Lynch on the telly. Huzzah!

Walter Neff said...

I love that pic next to the comment, really apropos.

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