Twin Peaks returns: But will Laura Palmer be back too?

The seminal, surreal Nineties hit series 'Twin Peaks' is being rebooted by David Lynch. Gerard Gilbert wonders whether today's audiences will still find it a damn fine blend

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The Independent Culture

At first, second and third glance, the decision by David Lynch and Mark Frost to make a new series of Twin Peaks, nearly 25 years after the last one, makes brilliant sense. It will be a sequel and not a remake; it will involve many of the original characters played by the same actors (Kyle MacLachlan reprising Special Agent Dale Cooper seems sine qua non, and almost a certainty to judge from the actor’s tweet: “Better fire up that percolator and find my black suit”), and, lastly and most importantly, all the proposed new nine episodes will be written and directed by Lynch himself.

This is very different to the second, hugely disappointing (think the denouement of Lost, and then some) 1991 series of Twin Peaks, which was interfered with by the network, ABC, who insisted on the identity of Laura Palmer’s murderer being revealed halfway through the run, thus “killing the goose that laid the golden eggs” according to Lynch, whose attention had by this time turned to the movie Wild at Heart.

Lynch himself, who hasn’t made a feature film of any significance since Mulholland Drive in 2001, last year told The Independent that “television is way more interesting than cinema now… it seems art house has gone to cable”. But, of course, if any single filmmaker was responsible for this state of affairs it was Lynch himself, with Twin Peaks.

A decade before The Sopranos ushered in the new golden age of “prestige” cable television dramas such as The Wire, Breaking Bad and Mad Men, Lynch was gatecrashing the famously conservative fortress of US network TV with his kinkily surreal whodunit – the murder-mystery genre being the Trojan horse that allowed the director of Eraserhead and Blue Velvet into the nation’s living rooms. And we were smitten by its utter originality – from the darkness-tinged Americana of the fictional Twin Peaks (population 51,201) to the oddball characters with their catchphrases, especially Special Agent Dale Cooper’s “Damn fine cup of coffee”. And to judge by the media storm generated by the news of the show’s return, Twin Peaks is embedded deep in our collective cultural consciousness. Try and name another TV show whose resurrection would cause such a stir.

Kyle MacLachlan was one of the breakout stars, but the 55-year-old actor has seen the expected movie career elude him and a return to the limelight would suit him well, as it presumably would Lara Flynn Boyle (who played Donna Hayward) and Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne). If Sheryl Lee, who played the murdered Laura Palmer, is hoping for a call from her agent, then the bookies are giving short odds on her character appearing in the new series – presumably in flashback, although Lynch being Lynch, something more outrageous cannot be discounted.

So will this be a win-win reboot? Perhaps not. The original 1990 show arrived in a barren, under-explored television landscape, while now we’ve been spoilt by dramas influenced by Twin Peaks – either by dint of them using a murder mystery in order to investigate wider themes (Broadchurch, Fargo and The Killing), or stylistically: think of the post-Peaks eeriness of The X-Files, or The Sopranos, with its dream sequences, wandering spirits and talking fish. And don’t get me started on its influence on Lost, Northern Exposure, Desperate Housewives, Sherlock and the new Doctor Who.

Essentially, like Dennis Potter in this country, Lynch showed the potential of the medium for all those who have followed. In fact, if the new Twin Peaks does fail to live up to current expectations, it may, perversely, be a tribute to the old Twin Peaks’ success.

'Twin Peaks' virgin Simon Usborne watches the first episode

Ohmigod, you’ve never seen Twin Peaks?! Nooo, I have not, so sorry. I was eight when it was first broadcast and more of a Pingu and Heartbeat kind of guy. And until yesterday, when I sat down to watch the 90-minute pilot episode (nice work if you can get it), I knew nothing about the groundbreaking, landmark, epic, “amaaaazing” show, other than it was spooky in some way and made by David Lynch.

And now that I’ve added Twin Peaks to my hitherto flat cultural landscape? Yeah, it’s good. I like it. I like the portentous saw-sharpening opening scene. I like the music, and the way that innocuous things such as traffic lights can be creepy. I like the eccentric FBI agent (will we find out who the hell Diane is, or whether she’ll have time to listen to all those tapes?)

I like the way it feels like a relatively conventional serial killer mystery, but with the hint of weirder stuff to come. I look forward to watching more, and maybe finding out who killed Laura, and what the nice policeman is really up to, and what the fingernail letters mean. And, and, and... Diane, clear my diary will you? (Come on, who is Diane? Does it matter?) And please, no spoilers.

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