Twin Peaks premiered on American television over twenty years ago now. I missed the actual anniversary by several weeks—should have gotten my fish into the percolator sooner—but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, so why not share?
Twin Peaks used some familiar elements of American television, but the resulting show was something entirely new. Dale Cooper was a handsome, square-jawed detective, the Hornes ran Twin Peaks with a greedy resolve straight from the soaps, Major Briggs added a touch of government conspiracy, Andy and Lucy provided romantic comedy appeal, the Log Lady and the Bookhouse Boys reinforced the show’s mystical underpinnings. And it all might have been a mess if not for creator David Lynch. Lynch was and is a careful, formalistic film director; his artistic decisions become self-indulgent, even incomprehensible at times, but they’re never sloppy or unconsidered.
Twin Peaks caused a sea change in the hour-long television drama. TV wasn’t seen as the bush leagues anymore as real directors like Bryan Singer, James Cameron, and Barry Levinson began to work in television. Episodes didn’t have to be rushed out only to be forgotten in a year; planned story arcs were no longer just a gimmick for the nighttime soaps. The second Golden Age of Television didn’t really kick off for another ten years, but the critical and commercial success of The Sopranos, Lost, The Wire, Arrested Development, Heroes, Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, Deadwood, 24, etc. would have been impossible without Twin Peaks. I just finished watching the entire run of The Sopranos last week, so there’s a spot in my schedule to watch through a classic again. I think it’s time to revisit a question I already know the answer to: who killed Laura Palmer?