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Why ‘Twin Peaks’ Would Do Better Today Than 24 Years Ago

Why 'Twin Peaks' Would Do Better Today Than 24 Years Ago

[Editor’s Note: This piece originally ran in April 2014, well before anyone knew David Lync’s dream-like TV show would be returning.]

This past week marked
the 24th anniversary of “Twin Peaks”‘ first air date. Unfortunately,
the surreal ABC drama, created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, was pretty
short-lived. Low ratings from a mid-season two plot reveal and frequent
time slot changes forced its premature finale on June 10th, 1991.

So where do we die-hards
stand now? Sure, Lynch made a prequel/sequel film (the pretty mediocre “Twin
Peaks: Fire Walk With Me”) in 1992, a year after the show ended, but it could
be argued that Laura Palmer never received the ending that she so much
deserved.

Next year, for
the 25th anniversary, David Lynch is supposedly releasing some new
material. It’s a rather in-the-dark effort, but at least it will be something.
Still, all these years later can you help but wonder what could have been
achieved if “Twin Peaks” was made today? What if Dale Cooper and the rest of
the gang had made their way to TV now? HBO, Showtime, Syfy, Sundance, maybe
even a Netflix original? Basically, I’m wondering if “Twin Peaks” would fare better 24 years later. 

It’s been said that
we live in a golden age of television. Even Lynch, who has strayed away from
film in the past couple of years, commented on the rise and importance of TV.

“I like the idea of a continuing
story,” he said in an interview with The Independent last year. “And
television is way more interesting than cinema now. It seems like the art-house
has gone to cable.”

It’s undoubtedly a true statement. Take a look
at the success of niche shows like “Mad Men” and “True Detective,” both highlighted
for their creativity, cinema-like structure and overall departure from what’s
expected for TV. After all, “True Detective”‘s fourth episode has a six-minute
track shot. Where and when else would that have been allowed? To top it all of,
both happen to do well in the ratings department. Is it the lack of pressure
from their studios that allow them to be so innovative and to perform so well?

I’m not saying that “Twin Peaks” was only
cancelled because it aired on ABC. It was a creative decision by David Lynch
and Mark Frost to divulge the major element that made the show’s plot so
captivating. If that’s what killed the show, then so be it. But, the fact that
ABC’s timeslots changed six out of the eight weeks in which “Twin Peaks” aired
surely didn’t help.

The problem really lies with the fact that “Twin
Peaks” was never really unpopular. Over 30 million tuned in to catch the pilot
and people really seemed to embrace the weird. Sure the hype dwindled in the
second season, but even then there was always a pretty huge fan-base. A solid
fan-base and critical acclaim wasn’t enough to save the show though.

Today; however, that might not be so.

Let’s take a look at one of the best shows that
hit TV (and computer screens through Netflix) this past year, “The Returned
(“Les Revenants” in France.) Similar in tone and style to “Twin Peaks,” the
still rather unheard of French supernatural drama was one of the more acclaimed
series to air last year. It was so beloved that the Sundance Channel picked it
up. It was an interesting decision because a show, completely in French, about
a group of people who mysteriously rise from the dead does not exactly scream
“successful” if you consider American audiences. Still, it’s done pretty well
and has followed in the same sort of acclaim that other Sundance dramas like
“Top of the Lake” and “Rectify” have received. No real mention of ratings and
network pressure here.

Renowned
filmmakers such as Steven Soderbergh, Guillermo del Toro and Martin Scorsese
have all shifted much of their attention to TV as of late. They get creative
control, network-backing and are allowed to explore a structure that just seems
more fun. It’s a no-brainer.

There’s no point in dwelling, but “Twin Peaks” could have made it today. I’m sure of it,
Mr. Lynch. I just hope you find your way back to us soon, please.

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