An odd dilemma for Twin Peaks

It was too weird the first time — and now it may not be weird enough

Kingston Whig-Standard - - ENTERTAINMENT - FRA­ZIER MOORE

NEW YORK — In the cur­rent run-up to the Twin Peaks re­vival, view­ers know al­most noth­ing about what to ex­pect. At the same time, they know ev­ery­thing they need to.

There will be no crit­ics’ reviews to tip them off be­fore the se­ries de­buts Sun­day on CraveTV. U.S. net­work Show­time, the show’s of­fi­cial home, has been teas­ing fans with splashes of hype. FBI Spe­cial Agent Dale Cooper was known to cel­e­brate “a damn fine cup of cof­fee,” but what view­ers have been privy to be­fore his reap­pear­ance wouldn’t add up to a demi­tasse. On the other hand, the Twin

Peaks faith­ful have a pretty good idea of what’s ahead in the 18 episodes. Agent Cooper (played by re­turn­ing lead Kyle MacLach­lan), will be back in the weird lit­tle ham­let of Twin Peaks, Wash­ing­ton, a quar­ter-cen­tury af­ter the orig­i­nal ABC se­ries aired. He will pre­sum­ably be in­ves­ti­gat­ing one or more fresh crimes that stir eerie echoes of a mys­tery that, way back when, net­tled the na­tion: Who killed Laura Palmer?

Among 217 listed cast mem­bers, MacLach­lan’s fel­low re­turnees in­clude Mad­chen Amick, Richard Beymer, David Du­chovny, Sher­i­lyn Fenn, David Pa­trick Kelly, Sh­eryl Lee, Peggy Lip­ton, Harry Dean Stan­ton, Russ Tam­blyn, Ray Wise and Grace Zabriskie. They are joined by such new­com­ers as Jim Belushi, Michael Cera, Richard Cham­ber­lain, Laura Dern, Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh, Tim Roth, Amanda Seyfried, Ed­die Ved­der and Naomi Watts.

Orig­i­nal ar­chi­tects Mark Frost and David Lynch co-wrote this new se­ries, with Lynch di­rect­ing, surely guar­an­tee­ing that

Twin Peaks Re­dux will repli­cate its pre­de­ces­sor’s Lynchian mix of the macabre, campi­ness and con­spic­u­ous ob­scu­rity.

The orig­i­nal se­ries even­tu­ally — though not nearly soon enough for its view­ers — re­vealed who had killed homecoming queen Laura Palmer. But that was never the point. The point was to trans­port the au­di­ence to a Twin Peak­sad­dled state of mind, where those view­ers would be con­stantly chal­lenged, pro­voked, amused and con­founded. In­clud­ing TV crit­ics. “I’ve watched ev­ery episode,” de­clared the Los An­ge­les Times’ Howard Rosen­berg a month into its run, “and I’m hope­lessly be­hind and con­fused, but lov­ing it. I think.”

But too many other view­ers weren’t so sure. All too soon, le­gions of them sim­ply gave up. Af­ter its ex­plo­sive launch in April 1990, the se­ries hem­or­rhaged au­di­ence. By June 1991, Twin

Peaks seemed as life­less as Laura Palmer. ABC pro­nounced it dead, leav­ing only a cult of loy­al­ists to grieve over the corpse.

For any­one now who wants to dis­cover or re­fresh them­selves on what the fuss was all about, those 30 episodes are avail­able for binge­ing on Net­flix.

But how to fully grasp their im­pact?

Re­call that Twin Peaks erupted in a TV realm con­fined to four broad­cast net­works and pub­lic tele­vi­sion. The clos­est thing to ground­break­ing drama was Viet­nam Warset China Beach and sleek-and­sexy L.A. Law. Or you could watch

Full House and MacGyver (some things never change).

No won­der Rosen­berg was at least as grate­ful as he was puz­zled: “So much of tele­vi­sion is so rigidly main­stream as well as sim­plis­tic, trans­par­ent and with­out mys­tique that you al­most snap your neck do­ing a dou­ble take when sight­ing a se­ries as gra­tu­itously bizarre and mag­nif­i­cently opaque as Twin

Peaks,” he cheered. No won­der The New York Times’ John J. O’Con­nor mar­velled, “Noth­ing like it has ever been seen on net­work prime time.” No won­der The Wash­ing­ton

Post’s Tom Shales hailed it as “just this side of a god­send.”

No won­der it made such a splash in that shal­low pool of TV same­ness. What’s truly im­pres­sive look­ing back has noth­ing to do with what Twin Peaks was meant to be about, if any­thing, but the waves it made as a TV dis­rupter, waves felt ever since in the swelling ocean of pro­grams.

It’s worth rec­og­niz­ing that the home for Twin Peaks was a main­stream broad­cast net­work, where it was deemed to be fail­ing when its au­di­ence sank below 11.6 mil­lion TV homes. By com­par­i­son, only 9.6 mil­lion house­holds were tuned to a re­cent week’s MOSTwatched show. That show was

NCIS, which is just one among nearly 500 scripted se­ries beck­on­ing view­ers this year on nearly count­less broad­cast, cable and stream­ing chan­nels. That all adds up to an em­bar­rass­ment of riches some ob­servers have, by chance, dubbed Peak TV.

Twin Peaks helped pave the way for the in­ven­tive, bizarre and mind-bend­ing plea­sures Peak TV is now of­fer­ing more and more of — shows like Amer­i­can Gods, Sense8 and Mr. Ro­bot.

The ques­tion be­fore was Who killed Laura Palmer? The big ques­tions fac­ing Twin Peaks this gor­ound: Can it hold its own against the stiff com­pe­ti­tion? Can it clear the ever-higher bar of TV artistry that, a quar­ter-cen­tury ago, it set?

HAND­OUT

David Lynch and Miguel Fer­rer in the new ver­sion of Show­time’s Twin Peaks.

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