Sunday, July 25, 2010

April 8, 2010: “Twin Peaks” A-Z

Twenty years ago this day saw the premier of a television show that was nothing less than a monolith for the medium. Much like those big slabs of black rock in 2001: A Space Odyssey, “Twin Peaks” marked the next leap forward in television’s evolution by revealing that programs could be complex, genre-defying, rule-smashing, surreal, and cinematic. Anything on television that attempts to forge new directions owes some debt to “Twin Peaks”, even though David Lynch and Mark Frost’s series lasted a mere 30 episodes. Despite its brevity, “Twin Peaks” continues to resound with the pie-devouring, coffee-gulping cult it inspired because that handful of episodes was jam-loaded with enough intricate details, plot points, allusions, intoxicating music, touching and terrifying moments, happy accidents, directorial feats, unforgettable lines, and undesirable villains to keep fans caffeinated for two decades. It’s also loaded with enough intriguing elements to warrant an overview I call…

WARNING!: This post has enough spoilers to choke a pine weasel, so if you’re a “Twin Peaks” novice, I recommend you finish up the series before reading on...

David Lynch and Mark Frost shared a love of pop culture that thoroughly informed the show they created together. “Twin Peaks” is rife with post modern allusions to cinema and television to the degree that listing them all would probably double the length of this article, but some of the most prominent ones are:

• Laura Palmer’s forename was nabbed from Otto Preminger’s 1944 noir Laura, in which the memory of a murdered woman haunts those who loved her and the detective investigating her death.

• Laura Palmer’s cousin Madeline Ferguson got her name from the two main characters of one of David Lynch’s favorite films: Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which starred Kim Novak as Madeline Elster and Jimmy Stewart as John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson.

• During the second season, former West Side Story stars Richard Beymer (Tony/Benjamin Horne) and Russ Tamblyn (Riff/Dr. Jacoby) are brought together to sing a song for old time’s sake. Of course, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was not culled from West Side Story.

• In episode 18, Peggy Lipton and Clarence Williams III share an exchange for no other reason than their history as co-stars of “The Mod Squad”.

• The scene in which Cooper has trouble adjusting his stool in Ronette Pulaski’s hospital room is an homage to a similar scene in which Humbert Humbert struggles to open a folding cot in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita, another favorite film of Lynch.

• Dancing fool Leland Palmer was named after the actress and dancer of the same name who appeared in Bob Fosse’s 1979 film All That Jazz.

• Gordon Cole, the hearing-impaired FBI Regional Bureau Chief played by Lynch, was named after an unseen character in yet another of his favorite films: Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.

• Sitcomy couple Lucy and Andy owe their monikers to sitcom pioneers Lucille Ball and Andy Griffith.

• In keeping with “Twin Peaks’” notorious sweet tooth, brothers Ben and Jerry Horne allude to a famous duo of ice cream makers.

• Schizo one-armed man Phillip Gerard/MIKE is a reference to both the police lieutenant of the same name and the murderous one-armed man in the classic TV drama “The Fugitive”.

• In Black Edward’s excellent 1962 chiller Experiment in Terror, Lee Remick is terrorized in the (real) town of Twin Peaks, San Francisco. And the terrorizer’s name? Red Lynch.

 With the arguable exception of “The Twilight Zone”, no series has ever had a score as eerie, as evocative, as beautiful or enduring as the music Angelo Badalamenti composed for “Twin Peaks”. “The Bad Angel” got his start as “Andy Badale”, the pseudonym under which he scored Ossie Davis’s blaxploitation flick Gordon’s War (1973) and a cop movie with Carroll O’Connor and Ernest Borgnine called Law and Disorder (1974). The most fruitful collaboration of his career began in 1986 when David Lynch hired him to coach Isabella Rossellini as she prepared to play a nightclub singer in Blue Velvet. Lynch and Badalamenti forged a quick friendship and wrote “Mysteries of Love” for the film together. Lynch then hired Badalamenti to write the jazzy, noirish Blue Velvet score. That same sensibility infused his work on “Twin Peaks”. The three-note synthesized bass line of “Falling” kicked off the show each week, masterfully setting the tone for all the off-kilter crime, romance, comedy, and dreaminess to follow. Each episode closed with the gorgeously creepy piano-and-synth duet “Laura Palmer’s Theme”. In between was a symphony of chromatic jazz basslines, brushed drums, squealing saxophones, pastoral clarinets, and occasionally, the ethereal voice of Julee Cruise singing under Badalamenti’s direction. Lynch and Badalamenti have since worked together on all of the director’s feature films, creating a cinematic and musical partnership as distinctive as the ones between Hitchcock and Hermann or Fellini and Rota. Their most popular and well-known work can be heard on the “Twin Peaks” soundtrack, the Fire Walk With Me soundtrack, and a second-season “Twin Peaks” CD released in 2007. The pair presented a collaboration of a different sort in 2001 when Badalamenti made an unforgettable on-screen appearance as espresso-connoisseur Luigi Castigliani in Mulholland Dr.

These days Julee Cruise is best known as the ethereal voice behind local “Twin Peaks” hits like “Into the Night”, “The Nightingale”, “Rockin’ Back Inside Your Heart”, and “The World Spins”. Her delicate whisper entertained the bikers who frequented the Road House, and she even managed to get the Log Lady’s fingers tapping. Julee Cruise did not start off as a dreamy chanteuse, though. She was a belter who played Janis Joplin in a stage show called “Beehive” (I have vague recollections of her doing her Janis act on a nighttime talk show in the mid ‘80s, but my memory could be faulty). When Angelo Badalamenti approached Cruise about a song called “Mysteries of Love” he was recording for the Blue Velvet soundtrack, he was not doing so because he wanted her to sing it, but because he wanted to know if she knew anyone who could sing something so delicate. Although “Mysteries of Love” was not her usual fare, Cruise asked if she could give it a shot. When she brought her voice down from the hysteria range, she turned out to be a perfect match to the material. Thus began a fruitful, if brief, collaboration between Julee Cruise, Angelo Badalamenti, and David Lynch. Badalamenti and Lynch co-wrote and co-produced an album of similarly wistful songs for Cruise called Floating Into the Night. That material became the basis of a performance piece starring Cruise called Industrial Symphony No. 1, as well as her work as the nightclub singer on “Twin Peaks” and in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. After a second Badalamenti/Lynch record called The Voice of Love, Julee Cruise started growing restless with her role as the duo’s mouthpiece. She wanted to write and record her own material, but when Lynch balked, they had a falling out. Fortunately, they eventually made up, and Cruise has continued to have a prolific career that includes a 2002 album called The Art of Being a Girl, a stint as Cindy Wilson’s replacement in the B-52s, and a role as Andy Warhol in a 2004 stage show about artist Keith Haring called Radiant Baby!

Laura Palmer’s diary is a key prop in the very first episode of “Twin Peaks”, but fans did not realize at this point that the prom queen was harboring a second diary... a secret one. The secret diary of Laura Palmer would not factor into the program until the second season when Donna Hayward finds it lying around recluse Harold Smith’s home/green house/tomb. By the time Donna got around to perusing the secret diary, many fans had already read it cover to cover. That’s because a few weeks before that episode aired, David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer published The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, a superb account of Laura’s life and descent rendered in heartbreaking detail. That Jennifer Lynch was a mere 22-year old when she wrote the book may account for its startling authenticity; the book reads like the actual diary of an actual young woman, albeit a young woman with a certain literary flair. Anyone hoping to learn who killed Laura Palmer may have been frustrated by the book, but those who ever wondered about what happened to her horse or whether or not she and Josie Packard got it on will find it most enlightening. Ultimately, the book will probably most appeal to less nitpicky fans since it veers from the series in a few notable instances (the book describes a slumber party attended by Laura, Donna, and Maddy Ferguson, although Maddy and Donna apparently meet for the first time in the series; diary entries in the series do not appear in Jennifer Lynch’s book). Still The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer makes for a harrowing, impossible-to-put-down, and genuinely sad read. All tie-in merchandise should be so damn fine.

No non-cooking show has ever fetishized food the way “Twin Peaks” did. With its swoony music, décours of red curtains and dancing foliage, and gorgeous people, “Twin Peaks” conjured a decidedly sensual world, and food factored into it as integrally as any other element. At the Sheriff’s station, Secretary Lucy Moran lays out a “policeman’s dream” banquet of donuts and coffee every night. Patrons flock to the RR Diner to imbibe cup after cup of rich, black coffee (yet, they all seem more dreamy than wired for some reason). And not even Audrey Horne draws as many orgasmic “oohs” and “aahs” as the diner’s cherry pie. While he has taken to a healthier path since creating “Twin Peaks”, David Lynch was a notorious sugar addict at the time. His obsessive daily trips to Bob’s Big Boy for lunches of chocolate malts and black coffee are legendary, and this obsession with ultra-sweet eats deeply informed his show. The particular fixation on cherry pie also betrays another of Lynch’s obsessions: Stanley Kubrick’s wonderful 1962 adaptation of Vladamir Nabokov’s Lolita. When Humbert Humbert first sees young Lolita in the film, he draws some not-so-subtle correlations between the budding beauty and cherry pie. Such euphemisms are at the heart of the obsessions with sex and cherry pie abounding in Twin Peaks, but unlike Humbert, Cooper is able to resist the allure of school-age sex kitten Audrey (who created a pop-culture stir after tying a cherry stem in a knot with her tongue). Audrey’s dad Ben and her Uncle Jerry express their sexual gluttony by taking monstrous mouthfuls of baguettes with brie and butter, which reminds them of youthful petting with “Jeanne and Jenny down by the river.” Elsewhere in Peaks, food plays a less sexualized role. The repulsive, phlegm-like meals at Calhoun Memorial Hospital set up the usual hospital food jokes, while Pierre Tremond’s handful of creamed corn suggests more mystical and inscrutable purposes: the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, explains creamed corn is synonymous with garmonbozia or “pain and suffering”—the sustenance of demon BOB. Writer Bob Engels recently suggested that had “Twin Peaks” been picked up for a third season, we might have learned that BOB and MIKE actually come from a planet made of creamed corn!

Because his name does not have the marquee recognition of David Lynch, Mark Frost often does not get the credit he deserves for co-creating “Twin Peaks”. He was the half of Lynch/Frost Productions with previous TV experience, having served as one of the main writers on “Hill Street Blues”. Their mutual agent, Tony Krantz, introduced Frost and Lynch in 1986 while Frost was working on John Schlesinger’s film The Believers. Frost and Lynch channeled their shared love of pop-culture and Hollywood history into a script based on Anthony Summers’s biography Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. The project, which the writers titled Venus Descending, ended up being nixed by skittish United Artists studio, which didn’t appreciate the writers’ insinuation that Bobby Kennedy murdered Monroe. When that project faltered, their agent suggested they try collaborating on a TV series. Lynch was initially reluctant about the medium, but soon became enchanted by the idea of creating the kind of ongoing story a TV series allows. Frost and Lynch went to work on a show first titled “Northwest Passage”, but after discovering a film of that name already existed, they changed the title to “Twin Peaks”. Frost’s father Warren would soon join the cast as town physician Doc Hayward, and Mark, himself, would make a cameo in the first episode of season two as a TV Newscaster.

David Lynch was deeply involved in the initial creation of “Twin Peaks”, but his attention drifted during season two. While Lynch went to work on his feature film Wild at Heart, Mark Frost was left to helm “Peaks”. This was no easy task, especially when Lynch occasionally reemerged to raise his eyebrows at the program’s trajectory and rewrite episodes with little regard for what came before them and what was to follow. Consequently, Frost received little of the credit for the series’ spectacular first season and much of the blame for its uneven (but still pretty great) second. Although Frost’s relationship with Lynch became a bit more strained in the wake of “Twin Peaks’” wavering popularity, the fellows continued to collaborate on other projects, including a short-lived and little-seen documentary series called “American Chronicles” and a nutso sitcom set in a 1950s TV studio called “On the Air”. Mark Frost and David Lynch have not worked together since, and Frost’s output has been rather sparse, his most notable projects being the 1992 courtroom drama Storyville and the 2005 comic book flick The Fantastic Four. However, recent discussions of a “Twin Peaks” revival could find Lynch and Frost reunited in the writing room. Not likely, but we can dream.

Yes, Twin Peaks is a sinister town in which a prom queen is raped and murdered by her own father; the captain of the high school football team is a drug dealer and murderer; one of the community pillars is a statutory rapist, pimp, and arsonist; and demons run wild. But there is also a far sweeter element in the town, and I’m not talking about the cherry pie. The friendship between Agent Dale Cooper and Sheriff Harry S. Truman provides a welcome beam of light in an otherwise shady community. Their period of adjustment from strangers to friends is brief: Coop expresses a little concern that Harry may be uncomfortable with the FBI horning in on a local crime. Harry gripes that he feels like Dr. Watson to Coop’s Sherlock. But neither of these are real issues for the budding pals. There are few more touching moments in the series than Truman getting Coop’s back when the FBI investigates him on charges of misfeasance, or Coop comforting Truman after his girlfriend’s demise, or Truman offering Coop gifts of an official Bookhouse Boys patch and a Green Butt Skunk fishing lure before he is to leave town. Those of you who wish to express your own undying friendship by presenting that special someone with a Green Butt Skunk need only follow this simple instructional video. Well, simple if you understand Japanese:

David Lynch is a willing slave to his endlessly emerging ideas. He does not allow anything as dogmatic as a script to dictate the direction of his art, and by remaining open to happenstance he has created some of his most intriguing work. In “Twin Peaks”, the most famous instance of such happy accidents is an incident involving set-decorator Frank Silva, which led to the creation of Twin Peaks’ resident demon, Killer BOB. Lynch has told this tale often and amusingly, so I’ll allow him to do so once more:

The invention of BOB is not the only time David Lynch allowed accident and happenstance to sway “Twin Peaks”. There was the morgue scene in the pilot episode that found him exaggerating an already faulty fluorescent light and encouraging an extra named Jim to repeat a mistake he made during rehearsal after Agent Cooper asked him to leave the room. There was the scene in episode 2 in which Ray Wise smashed a framed portrait of Laura, accidentally cut his hand on the glass, and instinctively smeared his blood on the photo. More significant is the famed Red Room dream sequence from that same episode, which was not intended to be included in the series. Lynch shot it merely to tie-up the pilot when it was released as a stand-alone, straight-to-video movie in Europe. However, the director was so delighted by all of the backwards gabbing and cryptic comments and unsettling imagery that he decided to incorporate it into the series proper, altering the show’s direction substantially.

During a decade that has seen high-quality shows like “Deadwood”, “The Sopranos” “The Wire”, “Six Feet Under”, “Mad Men”, and “Breaking Bad” dominate cable, and relatively complex and intelligent shows like “Lost” are allowed several-season runs on network TV, it’s easy to forget what an anomaly “Twin Peaks” was way back in 1990. A series co-created and often written and directed by a filmmaker as daring and artful as David Lynch was a major breakthrough in the medium that gave us “Full House” and “The Facts of Life”. The seismic influence of “Twin Peaks” struck immediately. Its critically and culturally vital first season had barely ended when CBS went to work on its own quirky North-Western fantasy. Joshua Brand and John Falsey’s “Northern Exposure” may have dropped the strong sinister undercurrent of “Twin Peaks”, but the series retained the dreamy atmosphere, supernatural elements, off-kilter humor, and little-town appeal. “Northern Exposure” owed such a deep debt to “Twin Peaks” that its creators were moved to acknowledge this via a weirdly tacked-on parody-sequence during the first-season episode, “Russian Flu”:

“Northern Exposure” was just the first of the early-‘90s parade of “Peaks”-inspired series. There were “strange things happening in suburbia” exercises like “Picket Fences” and the kid-oriented “Eerie, Indiana”. There was the creepy, rural “American Gothic”, and there was “Wild Palms”, a self-consciously odd miniseries also created by a well-known cinematic auteur: Oliver Stone. Without question, the most successful of these series was “The X-Files”, which picked up on the “FBI Agents investigating weird phenomena” theme of “Twin Peaks”. The X-Files, themselves, are suspiciously similar to Major Briggs’s “Project Blue Book”. The show even starred “Peaks”-alumnus David Duchovny (minus the lipstick and high heels) and featured guest spots by other former TP residents, including Don Davis, Michael Anderson, Michael Horse, Frances Bay, Kenneth Welsh, and Richard Beymer. Still, “X-Files” creator Chris Carter, claimed he was not particularly influenced by “Twin Peaks”. More recent show-creators have been more forthcoming about the influence of “Twin Peaks” on their work. David Chase has often cited the use of dream sequences in “Twin Peaks” as a major inspiration for “The Sopranos”. The British sci-fi series “Torchwood” paid direct tribute to “Peaks” during the “Combat” episode, which featured a real estate agency called “Lynch/Frost”! Other recent shows that most certainly would not exist if it hadn’t been for “Twin Peaks” include sci-fi mystery “Lost”, soap opera-parody “Desperate Housewives” (costarring Kyle MacLachlan; Sheryl Lee was originally cast to play the dead woman who narrates the series, but was replaced by fellow "Peaks" alumnus Brenda Strong), and the upcoming “Happy Town”.

Tragic, lovable, conflicted, iconic. Jack Nance’s troubled career could have gone in a very different direction. He was a frontrunner for the role in The Graduate that made Dustin Hoffman a star. Instead, he became David Lynch’s signature performer. Nance’s landmark role was the title misfit in Lynch’s debut cult classic Eraserhead, which also showcased the work of future “Twin Peaks” stars Charlotte Stewart (Betty Briggs) and Nance’s then-wife, Catherine Coulson (The Log Lady). During his lifetime, the only Lynch picture Nance did not work on was The Elephant Man (his scenes were cut from Fire Walk With Me, though), and Lynch was both Nance’s close friend and the greatest proponent of his “expert” acting skills. Sadly, Nance’s unpredictable demeanor, exacerbated by severe alcoholism, made him a nightmare to work with. Aside from his memorable, though incrementally smaller, roles in Lynch’s films, he’s best remembered for minor parts in Wim Wenders’s Hammett and Charles Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical Barfly.

Nance apparently sobered up when called on to play teetotaler Pete Martell in “Twin Peaks”, by far his meatiest and most memorable latter-career role. There is little of his innate darkness in Pete, the grandfatherly lumberjack and long-suffering husband of Catherine Martell. Although Martell is a comparably minor character in the “Peaks” universe, he got off many of the shows most quotable lines, no doubt due as much to his distinctive drawl as to the quality of writing. Nance’s sobriety did not last long, though. As detailed in the scrappy and fascinating documentary I Don’t Know Jack, he’d become involved with a volatile on-and-off-again porno actress. As the two argued over the phone during an electrical storm, she told Nance she would kill herself if he hung up on her. By the most tragic coincidence, the storm immediately knocked out the power. The phone line went dead, and Nance’s girlfriend fulfilled her promise. Ravaged by guilt, he relapsed into alcoholism. In late 1996, he claimed to have been beaten up by a pair of guys at a donut shop, then went home and died of a subdural hematoma. That there were no witnesses, and no men matching his descriptions were spotted in the vicinity of the donut shop, brings his account of events into question. His blood alcohol level suggests that he could have simply slipped, fallen, and hit his head. Either way, cinema lost one of its most underused talents the day Jack Nance died. His final role was a posthumous cameo in Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway.

David Lynch is rightfully remembered as the chief directorial force behind “Twin Peaks”. The episodes he crafted are considered the series’ best. But “Twin Peaks” was ground zero for several other impressive efforts from a succession of fine guest directors. Tina Rathborne, who directed the film Zelly and Me starring David Lynch and Isabella Rossellini, delivered episode 3, a series highlight focusing on Laura Palmer’s disastrous funeral. The following episode, in which Audrey Horne joins in on the investigation and Coop gets on the trail of the one-armed man, was handled by Tim Hunter, who’d made the excellent and very “Twin Peaks”-like film River’s Edge in 1986. Hunter would direct two more shows before the series ended its brief run. Episode 6 put Leslie Linka Glatter in the director’s chair for the first of four times. Glatter soon went on to become one of TVs most prolific directors, handling episodes of great shows such as “Freaks and Geeks” and “Mad Men”, as well as two installments of the Lynch/Frost sitcom “On the Air”. TP’s most famous guest director was Diane Keaton, although many have questioned her full-on plunge into weirdness for the sake of weirdness in episode 22 (the blurry close-ups of chess pieces, the goofy policemen, the slow-mo shots of Evelyn Marsh clawing the air, Ben Horne’s ultra-farcical Civil War psychodrama). Other guests included Caleb Deschanel, husband of Mary Jo “Eileen Hayward” Deschanel and father of Zooey and Emily, Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal’s dad Stephen, Glengarry Glen Ross-director James Foley, Last Exit to Brooklyn-director Uli Edel, and Frances-director Graeme Clifford.

Eagle Scout.

These days if a network airs two episodes of a cultish show Entertainment Earth has already devote an entire line of action figures and bobbleheads to it. This was not the case in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s when the extent of the merchandise most shows spawned was, maybe, some sort of souvenir picture book. The instant-cult that “Twin Peaks” inspired also inspired a nearly unprecedented level of products for an adult TV series. Almost as soon as the show appeared, a company called Publications International issued a wafer-thin unauthorized book called Welcome to Twin Peaks: A Complete Guide to Who’s Who & What’s What. The official merch was not far behind. The first and best was Jennifer Lynch’s essential Secret Diary of Laura Palmer (see “Diary” above). Nearly as enjoyable is The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes by Mark Frost’s nephew Scott. Less harrowing and more humorous than Lynch’s Secret Diary, My Life, My Tapes tells the tale of Coop’s early years in the form of tape transcripts, and is considerably more fulfilling than the audio cassette Diane – Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper, which recycles much material from the TV series. The slight but enjoyable Welcome to Twin Peaks: The Access Guide by David Lynch, Mark Frost, and Richard Saul Wuman was published late in the series’ life and may be most notable for the inclusion of Norma Jennings’s personal cherry pie recipe and a complete list of the songs in the RR jukebox! Around that time, Mark A. Altman’s over-sized, color book Twin Peaks: Behind the Scenes was published without the involvement of the creators, who were busy preparing a delightful set of “Twin Peaks” trading cards. Other “Peaks” merch includes three official soundtrack albums, various video tape and DVD releases, a “Twin Peaks Murder Mystery” board game, all sorts of official and unofficial T-shirts, and most bizarre of all, a 2009 line of “Twin Peaks”-inspired Nike sneakers with small illustrations of owls on the sides and soles designed to look like the floor of the Red Room!

ABC TV: Cooper-esque hero or BOB-esque villain? A case can be made for the former considering that ABC took a huge chance with “Twin Peaks”. Network TV had not been known to indulge the whims of surreal artists like David Lynch, but when he and Mark Frost presented their strange pilot to ABC’s Robert Iger, Iger became a firm champion of the program. After he convinced his executive cronies to pick the show up for a seven-episode season, ABC had a major sensation on their schedule, a show that almost single-handedly opened the doors for television more daring than was the medium’s norm (see “Influence” above).

But ABC and Iger were not all benevolent risk-taking. Spurred by the “Who killed Laura Palmer?” craze, the network started pressuring Lynch and Frost to solve the mystery, which they intended to stretch on indefinitely. The co-creators knew that revealing Laura’s killer would kill their show, but ABC was insistent. Solving the mystery shortly into the second season, Lynch and Frost discovered their worst assumptions had come true. Keeping the series vibrant after resolving its main hook was a difficult chore, and they handled it in a somewhat awkward manner. Rather than diving straight into their next big mystery involving Cooper’s crazed former-partner, Windom Earle, the show meandered a bit, and viewers who’d been frustrated ever since the season one finale failed to reveal Laura’s killer, tuned out in droves. ABC didn’t help matters by scheduling it on Thursdays against mega-hit “Cheers” before bouncing it around from timeslot to timeslot and preempting it to such a degree that many viewers didn’t even know when—or if—the show was on the air. Moving it to the Saturday night death spot, ABC finally shoved “Twin Peaks” over the waterfall. Peaks fanatics who remained loyal through the show’s awkward transitional phase and all of ABC’s scheduling games began referring to former-hero Bob Iger as “Killer Bob”. When the series went on “indefinite hiatus” following an intriguing episode in which Josie Packard’s soul was consigned to a nightstand pull knob, Peaks Freaks responded adamantly. Letters pleading for the show’s continuation and truckloads of creamed corn poured into Iger’s office. Amazingly, ABC agreed to extend “Twin Peaks”, if only long enough to complete the season and set up a mass of unanswered cliff hangers.

The shabby treatment ABC lumped on “Twin Peaks” did not murder Lynch and Frost’s enthusiasm for TV. They were back in 1992 with “On the Air”, although the series never drew an audience comparable to that of “Twin Peaks” and ABC only aired three of its seven episodes before pushing the plug. Mark Frost went his own way to write novels and screenplays, never returning to the small screen. Surprisingly, Lynch persisted. In 1993, he and Wild at Heart-scribe Barry Gifford co-created “Hotel Room”, an unsuccessful HBO anthology series. By this point he seemed to be finished with TV, so when he announced he’d be returning to ABC with a new series called “Mulholland Dr.” in 1999, fans rejoiced. ABC was less celebratory. Lynch has spoken of its disastrous screening by a scatter-brained exec who spent more time making phone calls than paying attention to the brilliance taking place on screen. ABC passed on “Mulholland Dr.”, Lynch spent a year or two in mourning, reclaimed the pilot he shot, filmed a new ending, and released the greatest feature film of the ‘00s. But David Lynch made one thing clear after all of his harrowing experiences with ABC, HBO, and the lot: he was done with television.

Quirky as they are, the first couple of episodes of “Twin Peaks” do not hint at the plunge it would soon take into the occult, adding fantasy and horror and even science-fiction to its laundry list of generic influences (mystery, soap opera, romance, police procedural, comedy, etc.). But when Cooper dreams of himself as an aged man listening to strange double (and backwards) speak recited by a dancing little person and a beautiful woman who “looks almost exactly like Laura Palmer,” “Twin Peaks” takes its first tentative peek through the red curtains separating the natural world from the supernatural. While Cooper uses information gleaned in his surreal dream to help solve the mystery of Laura’s killer, he is not fully enveloped in the spirit world until he has a similarly cryptic conversation with a soft-spoken Giant in the second season opener. Cooper’s dream was weird, but dreams are often weird and none of them are supernatural. Even though Cooper’s vision of the Giant can be explained as a hallucination caused by his near-death by shooting, the Giant’s taking of his ring completes “Twin Peaks’” journey into the occult.

From here on out, anything goes. Killer BOB is soon revealed to be an actual demon who travels from human host to human host using a giant owl as his vehicle. On the verge of figuring out Laura’s killer, Cooper completely embraces “magic”, which involves gathering all the suspects together in the Road House and waiting for unseen forces to point out the culprit. Cooper has waking visions of the Little Man from his dream and BOB in a hotel room following the death of Josie Packard, which leaves her body weighing an unnatural 65 pounds, most likely because her spirit has been trapped in the pull knob of a nightstand. By the end of the series, we learn that the woods surrounding Twin Peaks house a portal (not unlike the “Hellmouth” in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or the “Rift” in “Torchwood”, two other supernatural series) leading into a spirit world of benevolence (the White Lodge) and one of pure evil (“the Black Lodge”) and that the Red Room in Cooper’s dream may be a waiting room leading into both worlds. There is an attempt to link the Lodges to Native American culture via one of Deputy Hawk’s somewhat stereotypical “My people believe” speeches. There’s a tidbit of back story involving sorcerers called Dugpas (which were actually Tibetan monks condemned for hedonism in the fourteenth century) bent on cultivating “evil for the sake of evil” in the Black Lodge. The Dugpas also serve as inspiration for Black Lodge-accessing maniac Windom Earle. The occult undercurrent of “Twin Peaks” is muddied up a bit by teasing indications that the two Lodges may have some connection to aliens from outer space when we discover that they have something to do with “Project Blue Book”, the FBI’s investigation into UFOs. Would all of these demons and aliens and evil sorcerers and dancing dwarves and occult other-worlds have come together into a single comprehensible package had “Twin Peaks” continued a third season? Or were the writers just making it all up as they went along? I guess we’ll never know.

When ABC dropped “Twin Peaks” after its second season, the story seemed deader than the fish in Pete’s percolator. David Lynch was not done with the dreamily alluring world he’d created, though, and revealed that his next feature would be a return to that creepy community in the Pacific Northwest. Fans passionately anticipated Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, believing all of the unfinished business from the season two finale would finally find resolution. But when a number of the series’ central actors either refused to appear in the film or only agreed to a limited schedule, Lynch was forced to rethink his film. Consequently, FWWM ended up as a prequel, essentially recovering plot points discussed, but not shown, in the TV series. The film was a cataclysmic bomb. Critics found it baffling and pretentious. Vincent Canby of the New York Times famously wrote “It’s not the worst movie ever made; it just seems to be.” Many fans felt let down by the film’s failure to resolve the fates of Cooper, Audrey and Ben Horne, Pete Martell, and the rest. Those who’d loved “Twin Peaks” but hadn’t dipped their toes into Lynch’s feature films, were turned off by the excessive level of violence, sex, and bizarreness. A screening at the Cannes Film Festival elicited rabid booing from the crowd.

Time has been most kind to Fire Walk With Me, though, and Lynch’s more open-minded followers rate it as one of his most beautifully executed and frightening films. Sheryl Lee, who was finally allowed to embody Laura Palmer outside of the series’ brief flashbacks, turns in a tremendous, complex performance. The anti-Twin Peaks opening sequence in Deer Meadow is a brilliantly corrosive parody of the series. BOB has never been more terrifying than he is in the film, and Angelo Badalamenti’s score may be the greatest ever written. Taken as a piece independent of the series, FWWM is a superb David Lynch film, and it has enjoyed a degree of positive reevaluation by fans and critics in recent years. The campaign to reissue the film on DVD with hours of footage cut from it has been fervent for nearly a decade. These clipped scenes feature many series regulars who did not make the final edit, including Sheriff Truman, Ben and Jerry Horne, Josie Packard, Lucy, Andy, Hawk, and Pete Martell. Negotiations have been difficult, though, because Lynch will only release the deleted scenes if he is allowed to score and master them properly, which is expensive business. Fortunately, the negotiations are ongoing and hope remains that we’ll finally get to see them in the near future.

“Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see / One chants out between two worlds: ‘FIRE walk with me’.” – MIKE

“She’s dead, Harry; wrapped in plastic.” – Pete Martell

“This is…excuse me…a damn fine cup of coffee.” – Agent Cooper

“Fella’s don’t drink that coffee. You’d never guess… there was a fish in the percolator!” – Pete Martell

“Let’s meet back in three minutes… Harry, I really have to urinate.” – Agent Cooper

“Catch you with my death bag, you may think I’ve gone insane / but I promise I will kill again.” – Killer BOB

“The owls are not what they seem.” – The Giant

“Every day, once a day, give yourself a present.” – Agent Cooper

“She’s filled with secrets.” – The Man From Another Place

“Shut your eyes and you'll burst into flames.” – The Log Lady

“J'ai une ame solitaire.” – Pierre Tremond, Harold Smith, and Deputy Andy

“Harry, I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.” – Agent Cooper

“New shoes.” – Leo Johnson

“Garland? Odd name… Judy Garland?” – Major Garland Briggs 

“I've got a lot of cutting and pasting to do, gentlemen, so please return to your porch rockers and resume whittling.” – Agent Rosenfield

“Look, it’s trying to think.” – Agent Rosenfield

“Normally, if a stranger walked into my station talking this kind of crap, he’d be looking for his teeth two blocks up on Queer Street.” – Sheriff Truman

“While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchetman in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch, and I'll gladly take another, because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method... is love. I love you, Sheriff Truman.” – Agent Rosenfield

“Hot damn, that pie is good!” – RR Patron

“How’s Annie?” – Agent Cooper?

Sheriff Truman’s duplicitous girlfriend Josie Packard was memorably played by Japanese actress Joan Chen on “Twin Peaks”, but Lynch and Frost originally imagined the character a bit differently. Josie was an Italian woman named Giovanna Pasqualini Packard, and Lynch’s live-in lady friend Isabella Rossellini was to play the part. The daughter of great filmmaker Roberto Rossellini and great actress Ingrid Bergman, Isabella first worked with Lynch on Blue Velvet (1986), his kinky noir masterwork. The director and actress fell in love on set and soon moved in together. They also played a couple on-screen in future-“Twin Peaks”-director Tina Rathborne’s Zelly and Me (1988). Why exactly Rossellini decided to drop out of the Packard role at the last minute is just another mystery in the “Twin Peaks” universe. Lynch and Rossellini remained an item until 1991, so their personal relationship probably wasn’t a factor. Perhaps Rossellini ditched the Packard part to play Perdita Durango in Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), although the film featured many “Twin Peaks” stars (Sheryl Lee, Sherilyn Fenn, Grace Zabriskie, Frances Bay, David Patrick Kelly, etc.) who didn’t seem to have a problem double-tasking on the series and the film (incidentally, Wild at Heart starred another “TP” drop-out: Laura Dern was originally slotted to play Donna Hayward).

Despite the distressing end of her relationship with the “big love” of her life when Lynch took up with editor Mary Sweeney, Isabella Rossellini has bounced back nicely, recently creating the eccentric, informative, and hilarious series “Green Porno” for the Sundance Channel:

Nestled in King County, Washington, is a bucolic little berg called Snoqualmie. Home to the Salish Lodge, with its idyllic view of Snoqualmie Falls; the Colonial Inn, where locals might drop in for a beer; the Weyerhauser sawmill and its accompanying office building; and the Mar-T café, which serves up plenty of damn fine coffee and cherry pie. “Twin Peaks” freaks might know these locations better as The Great Northern Hotel, The Roadhouse, the Packard Sawmill, the sheriff’s station, and the RR Diner. The “Twin Peaks” pilot was filmed in and around the Snoqualmie area (Great Northern interiors and the site where Pete found Laura’s body were shot in nearby Poulsbo, Washington). Even the casual viewer will note the distinctive aesthetic differences between the pilot and the subsequent episodes shot on sound stages in Hollywood. Moody, rainy Snoqualmie lends an unmatchable atmosphere to the Lynch-directed pilot, which writer Greg Olson described as looking as though it had been “printed on a base of saturated blackness” in his book Beautiful Dark. With a population just around 6,300, little Snoqualmie has since become a Mecca to “Twin Peaks” fans, who visit every summer while hobnobbing with former “Peaks” stars at the annual Twin Peaks Fest in North Bend, Washington.

In the ‘80s David Lynch had an encounter with the Dalai Lama of Tibet that would eventually resonate amongst the Douglas firs of “Twin Peaks”. Moved by the plight of the Tibetan Bonpas sect and their Buddhist leader, who’d been deposed following an invasion by Communist China in 1950 and was forced to flee the country nine years later, Lynch told Mark Frost, “We’ve go to do something!” So their Agent Cooper became a vocal supporter of the Lama and the people of Tibet. In episode 2, Agent Cooper explains that a dream about the country and its troubles somehow made him aware of a deductive technique involving stones, a glass bottle, and a pair of oven mitts.

As tenuous as the connection between Tibetan unrest and Coop’s bizarro detective work may be, it opened the gates for further references throughout the series. When Agent Rosenfield makes his first appearance at the Sheriff’s station, Lucy is shown reading a book about Tibet. Cooper expresses regret over never having visited the country and restates his wish for the Dalai Lama’s return after being shot in the second season opener. In the following episode, Cooper tells Agent Rosenfield about Happy-Generation Tibetan King Hathatha Rignamputsan as a preamble to the mystery of his missing ring. After Cooper expresses doubt that Ben Horne is Laura’s killer, Sheriff Truman finally tells him he’s sick of Coop’s “hocus pocus”, which includes his Tibet obsession. Late in the series, archive footage of Windom Earle ranting and raving at the FBI reveals that the priests presiding over the fabled Black Lodge were Tibetan monks called Dugpas (see “Occult” above). More significantly, and more important to Lynch, all of this may have made a few more people aware of the Dalai Lama’s plight. On a personal level, the rock-toss scene was the first I’d seen of “Twin Peaks”, and it made me aware that this was a show like no other. From the moment Cooper spun the chalk board over to reveal that map of Tibet, I was hooked.

“Twin Peaks” ends with what may be the most disturbing and gallingly incomplete series of cliff-hangers ever aired on TV. Several major characters—Ben Horne, Audrey Horne, Pete Martell, Andrew Packard—may be dead. Coop has been possessed by Killer BOB (or, as Lynch prefers to say, BOB is “with” Cooper). Somehow, Sarah Palmer seems to have been inhaled by the Black Lodge, too. Heading into production of the final episode of a show that had basically been abandoned by the network, David Lynch and Mark Frost had to have known that “Twin Peaks” had as much chance of surviving a third season as Windom Earle after having his brain sucked out by BOB. Perhaps they felt that by loading the final episode of season two with so much unfinished business ABC would have no choice but to renew the series. After all, this method worked back in season one. Well, it didn’t in season two, and “Twin Peaks” met its demise before any of these unanswered questions received resolution. Fans prayed that the Fire Walk With Me feature film might do the job, but when several cast members said they were unavailable for the film, Lynch was forced to approach it as a prequel instead (see “Prequel” above).

Even though a third season was not to be, Frost and Lynch had apparently worked up several ideas they might have developed had the show been renewed. In 2007, illustrator Matt Haley related a conversation he had with “Twin Peaks” writer/producer Bob Engels during an interview with Twin Peaks Engels told Haley that the third season may have shifted the focus “away from the high school setting, so after the resolution of the Cooper-BOB-possession plot point, they would have cut to something like ‘Ten Years Later’, and then shown us a Twin Peaks where Cooper had quit the FBI and had become the town pharmacist, Sheriff Truman had become a recluse, etc.” [Engels] also mentioned the possibility of bringing “Sheryl Lee back yet again, this time as a redhead, and having her character killed by BOB again.”

But of course, we’ll never know any of this for sure, right? We’ll never know the fates of Coop and Ben and Audrey and Truman and the rest of the gang. Maybe yes, maybe no. Mark Frost recently told that there was some talk of reviving “Twin Peaks” following the successful Gold Box DVD release. In 2009, Kyle MacLachlan told about his plans to bring back Coop in a series of self-produced webisodes. Two years earlier saw talk of a graphic novel continuation written by Engels and illustrated by Haley. But perhaps we’ll have to wait until 2015 to find out if any of this comes to fruition. After all, Laura Palmer did say, “See you in 25 years”…

With Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman, “Twin Peaks” introduced two of the most unwaveringly good heroes in recent TV history. Its villains were often less clear-cut. Killer BOB and Windom Earle may be evil personified, but Catherine Martell, who is initially introduced as a scheming hellion bent on lining her coffers by burning down the Packard sawmill and razing Ghost Wood Forest, is capable of bursts of goodness, like when she saves Shelley Johnson’s life as the mill burns. Monstrous Leo Johnson may not blink an eye when it comes to beating or attempting to murder wife Shelley, but he displays a rare (and ineffective) flash of heroism when Windom Earle expresses his desire to do the same. Ben Horne is a rotten, whore-house-operating bastard, but he experiences a radical reversal in season two and makes goodness his mission. Of course, Good Ben ends up being just as destructive as Bad Ben, his actions disrupting the happy Haywards and possibly causing the deaths of his daughter and himself. As the murderer and rapist of his own daughter, Leland Palmer commits the most heinous acts in “Twin Peaks”, yet his apparent evil is seemingly neutralized because he was possessed by Killer BOB at the time. Taken literally, this would make Leland one of the series’ most tragic victims. But BOB may be a more metaphorical representation of Leland’s inherent evil and duplicity (seemingly loving father on one hand; despicable rapist and murder on the other), which would not clear him from the blame he deserves for his crimes. Not quite a villain, but certainly not the most pleasant traveler in “Twin Peaks”, Agent Rosenfield drops insults with enough regularity to inspire the usually unflappable Truman to give him a face full of fist, but Rosenfield’s explanation about his cynicism provides the series’ most oddly tender and hilarious moment.

“Twin Peaks” was a great show because of its fine cast of characters played by a fine crew of actors. It was great because of David Lynch’s artistry and Mark Frost’s command of narrative. It was great because of its sensuality and its scariness and its humor and its atmosphere and all of the other things discussed throughout this article. But what really made it special, what really imbued it with personality and endeared it to a cult still obsessed twenty years down the road, are all the weird little details strewn throughout its intricately-fashioned world. Each fan has her or his personal favorites. There’s the way Agent Cooper toots his little whittled whistle upon entering his room at the Great Northern, the way he practices fishing with a length of yarn on his bed, the look on his face upon confronting a dismissive llama, the way he tweaks Sheriff Truman’s nose and spits out a mouthful of pleasingly hot coffee in episode 2.  There’s also Dr. Jacoby’s hideous fish tie, and Nadine Hurley’s collection of porcelain figurines, and the student who dances through the halls of Twin Peaks High School in the pilot, and Bobby Briggs’s crucifix calisthenics before Laura’s funeral, and the people playing tennis while wearing fencing masks outside of Jacques Renaut’s apartment, and the hunched seamstress at One Eyed Jacks (played by director Leslie Linka Glatter!), and Deputy Hawk’s oven mitts, and Louise Dombrowski’s hook rug dance. These small but unforgettable elements make Twin Peaks a town worth returning to over and over and over again.

There are a few “Twin Peaks” off-shoots that come close to overshadowing the show’s innate weirdness. There was the series of Georgia Coffee (some sort of canned coffee-flavored beverage) commercials, featuring members of the original “Twin Peaks” cast, that Lynch directed for Japanese TV:

…and the “Twin Beaks” sketch that appeared on “Sesame Street”’s “Monsterpiece Theater”:

…but the weirdest TP product may be a nutty “Twin Peaks”-centric version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” that Jack Nance (Pete Martell), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Frank DeSilva (Killer BOB), Kyle MacLachlan (Agent Cooper), and Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran) recorded for radio KROQ in Los Angeles for X-Mas 1990:

Try to find a recipe for it and you’re likely to go more stark-raving than Nadine Hurley, but no one will fault you for trying because that Black Yukon Sucker Punch is one tasty looking drink. Judge Clinton Sternwood has his assistant Sid serve up a trio of these creamy black beverages with the lavender froth during the trials of Leo Johnson and Leland Palmer. Is the base Guinness? Blackberry Liqueur? Scorched engine oil? Well, according to a poster on the Twin Peaks Gazette messageboard, the Sucker Punch recipe was revealed during a “Twin Peaks” marathon that once aired on Japanese TV. During the program, a film crew stepped into a bar in North Bend, Washington, and ordered the drink (also known as the Black Yukon Super Punch), which is prepared as follows:

“Pour 1 shot Yukon Jack
Pour 1 shot Blackberry Brandy
Dash of Bitters
Put in blender with ice
Blend about 5 seconds”

Sounds stiff, but the appeal of this cocktail with a tendency to “sneak up on you” is strong enough to get Sheriff Truman sucking one back while on duty. Of course, the ever stalwart Agent Cooper abstains, forever limiting his liquid intake to the deep black joe variety.

Like all good cult shows, “Twin Peaks” spawned its share of fanzines, including titles like Fish in the Percolator and The Great Northern. But there is no question that the essential ‘zine was Craig Miller and John Thorne’s Wrapped in Plastic. Each bi-monthly issue burst with scholarly analyses of the show; interviews with major “Peaks” players like Lynch, Frost, Sheryl Lee, and Kyle MacLachlan; and an exhaustive chronicle of all the recent activities of the program’s sundry cast and crew members. Considering that “Twin Peaks” lasted a mere season and a half, it is very impressive that Miller and Thorne were able to keep their ‘zine rolling for 13 years without ever failing to pack it with fascinating, insightful material. They published their final issue in September 2005, a chock-full-of-wonderfulness extravaganza that included interviews with Frost and Lynch and a simply fascinating essay by a certain Mike Segretto. Today Thorne maintains a blog on the old Wrapped in Plastic site and Miller maintains one with the Peaksy title Above the Convenience Store. Segretto, of course, has not been heard from since. Probably got sucked into the Black Lodge or something.

Guess I’ll see you in 25 years...
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