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Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Eric Eidelstein
April 9, 2014 3:09 PM
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Why 'Twin Peaks' Would Do Better Today Than 24 Years Ago

"Twin Peaks"

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.

"Twin Peaks"

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.


  • Miles | June 13, 2014 2:38 AMReply

    Twin Peaks didn't fail because the creators "divulged the major element" (Who Killed LP). Twin Peaks failed because AFTER they revealed Laura's killer, they had no idea where to go with the show. They COULD/SHOULD have kept chasing "Bob"-style demons, but it turned into a lazy soap opera.

    It could TOTALLY be a show today. And the great thing you could bring back EVERYbody as regulars, even the characters who "died" (who may not be really dead, but trapped in "another place".) It would as good as "Lost" was, even better. (And the final season/episode of "Lost" was a f*****g joke, don't even get me started on that bucket of vomit.)

  • Gladys | April 10, 2014 10:30 AMReply

    It had to happen: comparing Twin Peaks to what's going on today in TV. Not sure Twin Peaks was violent or psychologically disturbing and morally questionable enough to warrant interest these days (and that's why we still love it).

  • N | April 10, 2014 4:09 PM

    Not violent or disturbing or morally questionable enough? That's precisely why I love it! (and I watch such violent fare as Game of Thrones...) I'm still blown away that the scene where "Bob" attacks Maddie was shown on network tv in the early 90s, I think it's incredibly raw and disturbing and terrifying. I think it's one of the most twisted shows ever, the whole idea of the Black Lodge is disturbing, poor Leland and what's happened to him, and how it made him do things to his own daughter - the strange "dream" sequences and how it really seems to be coming from the subconscious - the series is brilliant and loved by many who were too young to see it on TV the first time around, make no mistake.

  • Chris | April 9, 2014 11:56 PMReply

    It simply wasn't structured well enough to last. Instead of finding a way to transition into a model that could sustain a longer series, Lynch and Frost just spun their wheels after the carefully constructed first handful of episodes and it went nowhere. At a certain point people today would throw their hands up just like people did 24 years ago.

  • Randy | April 11, 2014 3:34 PM

    I think your comments go along with an inaccuracy in the article. The resolution of the murder mystery was essentially forced on the creative team behind the show by the network. The network was refusing to renew the show for its second season unless the killer was revealed and they became impatient when it took six weeks to do so. After all of that, Frost and Lynch became disenchanted and faded away from the show before returning to try to save it in the last six episodes. This articles central tenet, that the show would have fared better in today's TV environment, is a point well taken. Audiences are more patient with longer story arcs and don't "thow up their hands" so easily anymore. However, the article (and your comment) incorrectly attribute the demise of the show to Frost/Lynch. I think the creative element was forced out of what they really wanted to do by network meddling. For what its worth, I think the second season of the show still resonates and is much better television than most people give it credit for being....or would you rather watch the re-boot of "Dallas"?

  • # | April 9, 2014 9:19 PMReply

    In the extras on the Twin Peaks box set David Lynch says that they were forced to reveal who killed Laura Palmer at the end of the first season. He always felt it should never of been revealed. He lost interest in the second season and Aaron Spelling and co always hated the show as it was out of their comfort zone. Let's hope Lynch doesn't get asked to do a remake and creates something fresh for TV as Twin Peaks was a masterpiece. The first season anyhow.

  • Ben | April 9, 2014 5:37 PMReply

    This is a really good article and I think it's true, that "Twin Peaks" would stay longer if it Lynch would release it today, cause we live in the so-called Golden Age of TV.
    But... without "Twin Peaks" maybe there wouldn't be a Golden Age, cause everything started with it.
    All later shows like "The Sopranos", "Lost", "Breaking Bad", "Dexter" were inspired by it.
    It helped to open the door for all the other great shows we see today.
    So, if it wasn't made 24 years ago, but today, maybe nobody would want to see it, cause there wouldn't be a Golden Age and no change for such a "new concept". ;)

  • Film Market Access | April 9, 2014 7:14 PM

    Well said Ben. But perhaps the revolutionary Mr Lynch will bring us something new. We can only hope.