Twin Peaks. You may think of it as a euphemism for boobs, but it’s actually a cult TV series. It’s also the forefather of today’s biggest (and most addictive) TV hits. Premiering in April 1990 to over 34.6 million viewers in the US, Twin Peaks follows the mystery of a washed-up high school prom queen… and by washed up, I mean that her body turns up on the side of a river wrapped in plastic in the very first scene. Her murder both unites and divides a small American town, who are not only coming to terms with the death, but also the arrival of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, who jets in to try all the coffee and investigate Laura Palmer’s death.
It goes without saying that this mystery is compelling because the team behind it was led by the formidable and strange duo of David Lynch and Mark Frost. Known for his previous work on Eraserhead and Blue Velvet, Lynch marked his entry into television with the most compelling pilot episode anyone was ever likely to see. It broke the mould of programming from that era – so much so that the cast and crew who worked on the pilot doubted that it would ever go beyond a solitary episode. Yet, audiences latched onto Twin Peaks, and the only thing people could talk about was ‘Who killed Laura Palmer?’
This sounds like a wonderful success story of television innovation and cult status, but alas, Twin Peaks was plagued with insurmountable obstacles. ABC network (the American version) insisted that they resolve the murder plot 15 episodes before the show ended. Consequently, viewers lost interest, as did Frost and Lynch who moved onto other projects during the second season, leaving the show to self-destruct. Luckily, the co-creators salvaged the series a few episodes before the end to create some of the best moments of Twin Peaks’ run, but it ended in June 1991 with little fanfare.
The phenomenon that is Twin Peaks seems to pop up increasingly in modern-day culture, and a lot of people must be wondering why. From bizarrely placed references in The Simpsons, Clueless and Titanic, to a rise in popularity of the murder-mystery genre that can be found in more recent shows such as Pretty Little Liars and True Detective, the world of Twin Peaks has never quite disappeared, despite having spent 25 years off air.
Such is the continuing relevance of Twin Peaks that, in October 2014, an announcement was made by Showtime Network, Lynch and Frost, that Twin Peaks would be returning for a limited third season in 2016. Cue fandom and internet explosions, as the announcement also fulfilled Laura Palmer’s beyond the grave prophecy from the show’s final episode in 1991: “I’ll see you in 25 years”.
So far, lead actor Kyle MacLachlan (Dale Cooper) has signed back on to reprise his character, and other cast members have flagged their interest in returning to the world of Twin Peaks. Official announcements, however, have been few and far between, leaving both the cast and fans in the dark about the show’s developments.
Even to this day, Twin Peaks is still being mysterious and alluring, and as downloads of the show have spiked in the last 6 months, so too has the controversy. Despite being announced as writer and director of all nine episodes of the brand new Twin Peaks run, David Lynch recently pulled out of directing responsibilities, citing budget constraints from Showtime for his interpretation of the show. Public outcry and outrage ensued and even the original cast has rallied Showtime to negotiate further with Lynch and get him back onboard.
“Twin Peaks without David Lynch is like a girl without a secret,” says actress Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer), and an online petition to ‘Save Twin Peaks’ has over 20,000 signatures. Even Showtime have said they are trying to get negotiations back on track, well aware that many fans will spurn Twin Peaks if David Lynch is not directing.
Keep your eyes peeled though, because Showtime remains positive that the show will go on. So, for long-time fans and new recruits to Twin Peaks, “That gum you like is going to come back in style”.
Update: David Lynch reunited with Showtime Networks in May to confirm that he will direct all episodes, with preproduction starting imminently in 2015.