On April 8, 1990, the boldest, weirdest network television show ever premiered on ABC. David Lynch’s Twin Peaks defied genre and viewer expectations, bringing the same unsettling, fever dream energy from his films to the small screen.
Twin Peaks was prestige television before the concept existed. For one incredible season–and one okay season, plus a follow-up film and a revival in 2017–Lynch’s horror-crime-drama-comedy-soap-sci-fi show was the greatest thing on television. Grab a cup of coffee and join me on a stroll down memory lane.
‘Twin Peaks’ Changed TV Forever
In 1990, the idea of procedural TV drama was just a twinkle in Dick Wolf’s eye. Law & Order premiered six months after Twin Peaks, and their approach to crime-solving couldn’t be more different. Law & Order promises tidy solutions in a single episode; Twin Peaks offered only more mysteries, each clue leading deeper into the dark heart of the American psyche.
In many ways, Twin Peaks had more in common with Unsolved Mysteries, with its casual mix of shocking true crime and bizarre tales of alien abduction and ghosts, than the modern-day police procedural. It paved the way for the era of prestige TV, which saw big-name directors and movie stars flocking to the small screen.
Fire Walk With Me
As a young, angsty, art-house teenager, I got really into David Lynch’s films in high school. (I also really liked Dune when I was about 10 years old, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.) I was too young to watch Twin Peaks when it was first broadcast, but I ended watching the movie prequel/sequel Fire Walk With Me during my Lynchian phase.
And, well, it spoils the TV show. I won’t say that’s bad; BOB is still the scariest thing I’ve ever seen on film. And the unsettling Americana that David Lynch loves is on full display, including his memorable cameo shouting “Or-ee-gone!” Oh, and David Bowie makes an appearance, which automatically earns it an extra star. But the mystery of what happened to Laura Palmer isn’t exactly mysterious if you watch the film first.
That Gum You Like Is Going to Come Back in Style
In 2014, David Lynch announced that he and co-creator Mark Frost were working on a third season of Twin Peaks. They promised that it would pick up, in real-time, from where we left Agent Dale Cooper at the end of the second season. Kyle MacLachlan returned, of course. So did Mädchen Amick, the same year she began appearing on the bonkers teen soap Riverdale (which is basically Lynch Lite). Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer) and Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne) reprised their roles, joined by Lynch’s other muse Laura Dern.
By the time the revival finally aired in 2017, the TV landscape had changed dramatically–thanks, in part, to Twin Peaks itself. In a post-True Detective landscape of prestige television, Lynch’s creation was no longer quite as much as an outlier as it was in 1990. Still great, given the heaps of praise from critics, but missing the quicksand-like feeling of the first season.
Will there ever be more Twin Peaks? The answer is: maybe. Lynch told reporters, “I don’t know, I have a box of ideas, and I’m working with producer Sabrina Sutherland, kind of trying to go through and see if there’s any gold in those boxes.” MacLachlan, meanwhile, has said that he’ll jump at the chance to play Dale Cooper again without needing to see a script first.
In the meantime, you can check out David Lynch’s delightfully straightforward weather report, which he shares on YouTube: