Peaks Performance

Believe it or not, it is happening again. The quarter-century-delayed third season of TWIN PEAKS makes its debut on Showtime on 21 May, something I never thought I’d ever see. In the pervasive remake-obsessed movie climate of the last several years, I figured it was inevitable that someone would come along at some point and do a new version of it. Few properties of such standing have managed to long evade the indignity of a high-profile, low-quality rehash. But a genuine, new season featuring the original cast and creators? My coffee-cup runneth over.

I was a huge fan of the show during its original run. It’s a pretty gusty move for creators David Lynch and Mark Frost to come back and do it again. This thing they created back in 1990 has become a great deal more than just a popular tv show. TWIN PEAKS, in fact, didn’t draw big ratings in its day. It was a cult show, the sort of something-very-different-and-wonderful that attracts the most devoted sort of fan. Those fans have, in turn, kept it alive in the decades since, many of them acting as its apostles and spreading its gospel to new generations. It’s a legend, a thing that takes up residence in the hearts of those who love it and stays warm, growing in the memory of those delighted impressions from all those years ago. TWIN PEAKS, for some of us, may be a lot bigger than TWIN PEAKS itself. At the same time, the show really raised the bar for tv. It’s cinema-quality work and one of the direct ancestors of the great age of television with which we’re presently blessed. I’ve been revisiting it lately for the first time in a long time as I’ve introduced my young rat cousin to it, and in most respects, it looks and feels a lot more like a modern top-shelf series than anything that was on the air back in the early ’90s when it debuted.[1] Its influence is nearly incalculable. I have no doubt that Lynch and Frost are going to have something special for us but they aren’t just competing with the array of superior television they helped birth, they’re competing with their own legend. Maybe the toughest competition there is.

Lynch can be a hard sell to an American mass audience anyway. It can be tough to be an original, baby, and he’s much more like a European genre director than anything spawned in the good ol’ U.S. of A. He spins the sort of throw-out-the-rulebook, jazzy, genre-warping, Expressionistic, impressionistic, symbol-laden, surrealistic dreamlike narratives that tend to drive those weaned on more conventional mainstream material to hair-pulling and expletives. His Twin Peaks feature prequel, FIRE WALK WITH ME, was a masterpiece but his indulgence in the freer reign it allowed his personal quirks meant it was very poorly received in some quarters. He’s reportedly directing every episode of the new run, his first substantial directing work since (the excellent) INLAND EMPIRE eleven years ago. I’m a bigger Lynch fan than I am a PEAKS fan; for me, this is all gravy.

Less groovy is how stingy Showtime has been with their footage. We’re only a few weeks from launch and the most substantial thing we’ve seen, a promo released Thursday, is more like the sort of bare teaser we’d get from anything else six months out. Perhaps the marketing department has decided to just depend on the legend to sell it. And it can certainly do so but hey, we’ve waited a long time for this guys — would it hurt to throw us a bone?[2] Of course, it may just be that Lynch and Frost are fucking with us on this. Lynch certainly loves a good mystery.

I still have some Peaks-related items from the days of the original run and I’m going to be putting them up on my movie/tv blog in the next few weeks. Nothing major-league but some of it will, it seems, be making its internet debut. Here’s a new scan of one that has made the rounds before, the two-page ad in TV Guide for the debut of the pilot movie:

— j.

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[1] The one exception to this is the pace, which was quite measured in its time and seems even more so today. I hope the new run carries over this element; I don’t care for the play-to-the-least-attention-span approach in vogue these days.

[2] Ok, in this one respect, forget what I said about pace in the note above.

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