[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.