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This Is Uncomfortable
Screen Wars

"Twin Peaks" returns to a TV landscape it helped create

David Weinberg Oct 7, 2014
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It’s been almost 25 years since Americans first saw the opening credits to “Twin Peaks,” David Lynch’s strange and violent TV series set in a small town in a Pacific Northwest forest. It debuted on ABC in 1990 and captured a staggering audience. More than 34 million viewers tuned in to watch Special Agent Dale Cooper search for Laura Palmer’s killer.

Now Showtime has announced it will produce a third season of “Twin Peaks” in 2016. Creators David Lynch and Mark Frost will pick up the story 25 years later.

After “Twin Peaks” ended, Lynch followed it up with the feature film “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.” The opening credits appear in front of TV static until  someone smashes the screen with an ax.

“Some people took that as David Lynch saying, ‘I’m never going back to TV,’” says Greil Marcus, a critic who wrote about “Twin Peaks.”

Back in 1991, Lynch worked in a television industry wildly different than it is today.

“People would look you right in the eye and say, ‘I don’t watch television.’ And that was supposed to be shorthand for ‘I’m too smart to watch television,’” says Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara.  

“Twin Peaks” helped change that. Lynch was a highly regarded filmmaker, and the huge audience he attracted watched TV in a new way.

“When ‘Twin Peaks’ originally aired, it created — in a lot of respects — the concept of watching a television show closely and analyzing it for clues,” says Indiewire TV editor Liz Shannon Miller.

The show found a new audience in young people on Netflix, making a revival more attractive to studios. And “Twin Peaks” had planted a seed.

“A show like ‘True Detective‘ would obviously never exist without David Lynch moving into television,” Marcus says.

Because it’s airing on Showtime, Lynch is free from many of the constraints he faced in the ’90s.  Showtime says it’s giving Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost carte blanche. That seed that Lynch planted has grown into a Lynchian forest of new TV shows with dark themes and mysteries that aren’t always revealed.  Now Lynch will return to the forest.

 

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