Twin Peaks: the view­ing revo­lu­tion was tele­vised

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Cover Story - Graeme Blun­dell

WE live in a time when tele­vi­sion shows can en­gage our at­ten­tion in such a way that we be­come ob­sessed with them. We even start to stalk them, im­pa­tient with an­tic­i­pa­tion un­til we can see them again. David Lynch’s Twin Peaks was the first such pro­gram.

It was the story of the search by the ec­cen­tri­cally in­tu­itive de­tec­tive Spe­cial Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLach­lan) for the mur­derer of the beau­ti­ful Laura Palmer (Sh­eryl Lee, pic­tured), “day-ud, wrapped in plas­tic”, in the small Wash­ing­ton state town of the ti­tle.

Lynch’s of­fer­ing changed TV with its dis­qui­et­ing, dream­like style; its campy fu­sion of soap opera with 1950s mur­der mys­tery melo­drama; its vi­o­lence and sex­u­al­ity; its fo­cus on set­ting as character; and the way ev­ery­thing seemed con­nected to some deeper, murky, pat­tern of im­pli­ca­tion.

Co-cre­ated by Hill Street Blues writer Mark Frost, it de­buted in 1990 — nine years be­fore The

So­pra­nos marked the be­gin­ning of the so-called golden age of TV sto­ry­telling. It was the first se­ries about which fans be­come evan­gel­i­cal, des­per­ate for oth­ers to share the ex­pe­ri­ence in a way we ex­pect of tele­vi­sion to­day. It dared view­ers to take it se­ri­ously and made us be­lieve

we would be loyal to it for sea­sons to come, in con­trast to the flashy, in­ter­change­able court­room, hos­pi­tal and po­lice pro­ce­du­rals with which com­mer­cial TV was in­fat­u­ated at the time.

It pre­saged an era in which we would es­tab­lish new re­la­tion­ships with our favourite shows, such

as The So­pra­nos, The Wire, Lost,

Mad Men, Break­ing Bad and Broad­church, watch­ing them in dif­fer­ent ways. They would no longer be sim­ply di­vert­ing pas­times but part of our lives, de­serv­ing of our pas­sion in a way TV shows had never been.

We ob­sessed about who killed Laura Palmer; the danc­ing dwarf who spoke back­wards; the on­earmed man; the traf­fic lights that kept turn­ing red; the Log Lady; why the fish was in the per­co­la­tor; and the mean­ing of that damned ceil­ing fan.

A huge crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial hit in its first sea­son, the show was too quickly a vic­tim of its own suc­cess, not en­dur­ing beyond its sec­ond out­ing. “It was like we had a lit­tle goose that kept lay­ing golden eggs and then we were asked to take that lit­tle goose and snip its head off,” Lynch said. Lynch’s reimag­in­ing next year of Twin Peaks will be watched closely, by old and new gen­er­a­tions alike.

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