Whenever I watch promotional material for a film or television series, there’s the inevitable interviews with the cast members who praise the director and their vision. They say the cast is wonderful and the finished product is going to be just great. Mark my words, they say, this thing I’ve been working on has been unlike anything you’ve seen before and you don’t want to miss it.
Most of the time, they’re lying. You can see it in their eyes. Whatever they’re working on, whatever they’re promoting – you have seen it before. It’s just a cop show or some variation of a cop show. Or some old sitcom star who is pleading with their soul that this new sitcom will capture that same lightning in a bottle that the old one did. Or a superhero movie. A science fiction mini series. Something that might actually be awesome storytelling but it won’t really change anything. It’s an iteration on a thing that’s been tried and tested a dozen times before. It’s not that unmissable.
The new series of Twin Peaks was marketed to the public like it was your favourite uncle coming back from his travels to tell you tales around a comforting fireplace over a few cups of hot chocolate. But what we got was a ticket to a nightmarish rollercoaster dripping in fire and madness flying top speed through David Lynch’s mind. Free from constraints or limitations. Not concerned about focus groups or audience expectations. Every scene is more fascinating or hilarious or terrifying than the last. Two lines of dialogue from a fleeting character holds more weight and importance than some TV shows can achieve in ten seasons. Lynch is taking the viewer on a journey and all we can do is scream and hold on. And that’s just the first four episodes.
When I was in high school, someone at my local TV station pulled the wrong wire and an episode of the original Twin Peaks went to static, never to return. The next day, word spread that they were going to replay the episode that afternoon. I pleaded with my teacher to quickly run home (I lived close to our school) and fortunately, he was a Twin Peaks fan too. I managed to find a blank VHS tape, hit record and ran back to class. Safe in the knowledge I would be watching the episode later that night. For the TV station to break programming within 24 hours for a repeat program and for my teacher to allow me to leave school for entertainment is probably a clear indication of how highly-regarded Twin Peaks was way back in 1991.
David Lynch and Mark Frost could have easily rested on their laurels and taken us back to Twin Peaks to fill our hearts once again with nostalgia, quirky characters and a safe feeling of our dreams becoming reality. But Showtime gave them millions of dollars and the keys to the creative kingdom. The result (so far) breaks apart the concept of television in a way only the original series could hope to approach. There are concepts, scenes and characters in this new series that shouldn’t be allowed to exist. Not because it is somehow offensive but rather television as a platform seems like it was never built with them in mind. Even more than the original.
These days, shows like Game Of Thrones or Netflix’s Marvel series are cultural touchstones. People talk about them for hours and fans obsess over every character. When you ask someone about these shows, the response is typically “Oh it’s awesome” or something similar. Ask about Twin Peaks and you’re more likely to get a quick intake of breath, a leanback in a chair and a subtle shake of the head. Where do you even start?
Twin Peaks belongs in an upper echelon of what we classify as ‘entertainment’. A glass box in the sky that other shows can’t begin to strive to emulate because they don’t even know it exists. Every location, every line of dialogue, every character and every event in the ‘plot’ is beyond what normal people would regard as criticism. It’s perfect because of course it is. It is meant to be. You can’t describe the events of this show to anybody because, on paper, it sounds like an absolute technicolour mess. Only in its final form, this project is birthed before our eyes and brushes away the cobwebs of the television landscape for the first time in 25 years. And holy hell, it could not have come at a better time. I devoured all four of the first episodes in one sitting and when I came out the other side, it was like blinking into the sunlight. Oh right, this world is still here. Still destroying itself with humanity’s blunders and selfishness and hatred.
The next episode is six days away and I can’t wait to go back. Call for help. Jade give two rides. Hellooo-ooo-oooo.