ëTwin Peaksí at 20
Even without the bene fit of hindsight, it’s safe to say that, 20 years later, “Twin Peaks” still stands as the most bizarro show in TV history.
“The Log Lady.” A murderous demon named “BOB.” A dancing dwarf spewing gibberish — in a dream, no less.
A philosophical FBI agent obsessed with both nailing a killer and with “damn good coffee!” and cherry pie.
“Twin Peaks” premiered on ABC on April 8, 1990, and it was immediately clear that quirky movie director David Lynch (“Blue Velvet”) and co-creator Mark Frost had unleashed a surreal prime-time series unlike anything seen before — or since.
At its core, “Twin Peaks” was, essentially, a whodunit murder mystery set in a gloomy Washington State logging town populated by oddball characters and riddled with infidelity, corruption and deep, dark, evil secrets.
FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan in his breakout role) is dispatched to Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), found “wrapped in plastic” along the riverbank.
Cooper, working closely with laconic town sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), eventually unravels a web of circuitous intrigue which kept viewers riveted (and scratching their heads) for two seasons.
“David [Lynch] took pains to make sure we didn’t understand it — if we understood it, that was a problem,” says Michael J. Anderson, who played the dancing dwarf in Agent Cooper’s dreams.
“He never did describe my role to me,” Anderson says of Lynch. “I’ve gone back and revisited ‘Peaks’ every five or six years, and I see something completely different each time.”
Propelled by Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting, finger-snapping score, “Twin Peaks” set the template for likeminded shows that followed.
“We changed the perception of what a TV show could handle in terms of subject matter, tone and style,” says series co-creator Mark Frost.
“‘The X-Files’ benefitted from the fact that there was an appetite for a show like this. That show was clearly helped by our earlier presence.
“The only thing we were thinking about at the time was trying to make something . . . really more like a movie than a TV show,” says Frost.
“We felt we were under no real constraints here, and we just decided that, if we were going to break one rule, then we’d break every rule . . . and really go into what it feels like in a small town where there are truly strange and eccentric human beings. We peeled back the cover on that.”
“There was no way to be prepared for what happened once that show went on the air,” says Sheryl Lee, who played both murder victim Laura Palmer and Laura’s cousin, Maddy.
“I’m sure you’ve heard all the stories of people sitting around and having doughnut and coffee parties and talking about the show.
“In that sense, this really was groundbreaking in what TV was doing at the time.
“We went outside the box . . . it was incredible to work that way.”
ëTwin Peaksí at 20