Twin Peaks (TV series)

While it’s feasible that there’s the odd person over thirty years of age out there that didn’t see the Twin Peaks series when it was first televised in 1990, it’s unlikely that they are unaware of the cultural run-off from the groundbreaking show. Catchphrases like “She’s dead – wrapped in plastic” and “Who killed Laura Palmer?” adorned T-shirts, fans held coffee-and-doughnut parties, and large sections of the world went quiet for an hour every week. There were also several books published, some extremely funny and knowing indeed, like the Twin Peaks Tourist Guide with an ad for the local taxi service with a blind driver who always travels with his psychic brother (in actuality David Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost).

Those who saw Twin Peaks when it was first televised disagreed about its prime-time prospects, but everyone agreed that the grim mystery thriller was one of the most moody and offbeat series to be ordered by a network. The very notion of Lynch – a film director described as bizarre, iconoclastic, provocative, mischievous and lurid – working on a television series was enough to set the speculation machine turning: Could Lynch find a satisfactory outlet for his odd vision in the restrictive world of network television? Would the networks be comfortable with the director’s handiwork? Rumours suggested Peyton Place as seen through the eyes of Franz Kafka or Rod Serling.

Two decades later, Lynch’s freak-fest is as effective as ever. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, and the series is worth buying just for the haunting opening credits. Those who watched the show when it aired all those years ago will be surprised just how familiar some of the scenes are, and for good reason: Television has not been blessed with anything as strange as Twin Peaks since The Prisoner from 1967. Dancing dwarfs talk backwards, seizure-inducing flash edits, strange dream sequences and even stranger real-life characters – it’s the stuff of nightmares. The series eases into the freak show carefully, at first seeming like a high-concept soap opera before descending into the glorious madness of later episodes.

The cast, many of whom are stunning beauties in tight sweaters, include Sheryl Lee, Sherilyn Fenn, Lara Flynn Boyle, Joan Chen, Peggy Lipton and Piper Laurie, all of who have done nothing as inspiring since. Kyle MacLachlan, it can be safely said, will never see another role which is so well suited to his wooden delivery, barring his portrayal of the awkward alien cop in The Hidden (1987). MacLachlan plays an FBI agent sent to Twin Peaks – a Northwestern city with a population of about 50,000 – to investigate the murder of seventeen-year-old high school homecoming queen Laura Palmer. When not commenting about the aroma of Douglas fir trees, this federal agent is sniffing out clues and compulsively feeding the results into his pocket tape recorder.

The amazing collection of character actors in support include Madchen Amick, Michael J. Anderson, Royce D. Applegate, Richard Beymer, Don S. Davis, David Duchovny, Miguel Ferrer, Heather Graham, Michael Horse, David L. Lander, Everett McGill, Dan O’Herlihy, Walter Olkewicz, Ted Raimi, Charlotte Stewart, Carel Struycken, Russ Tamblyn, David Warner, Kenneth Welsh, Clarence Williams III, Ray Wise, Grace Zabriskie, Billy Zane, and David Lynch himself as FBI chief Gordon Cole. He told Empire magazine in December 2001: “Twin Peaks is my best work as an actor. It wasn’t going to be a character at all, but there’s a scene where Kyle – Agent Cooper – talks to his boss, and the character was sort of born because I needed to have him talk to somebody, so I did the voice he talked to, and I talked loud, because I sometimes talk sometimes loud on the phone, so it just happened like that. And then it became a character. It was really fun, and also the mood on the set of Twin Peaks was – at least from my point of view, I wasn’t there when others were working – was so fantastic, so there was a lot of experimenting and a lot of just good will, and just a great working atmosphere.”

The mystery begins with Laura’s body, wrapped in plastic, washing up on shore. Trying to solve the case, FBI Agent Cooper runs into a typically oddball assortment of Lynch characters: A handsome young sheriff named Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), a slightly senile resident (Jack Nance), a beautiful Chinese woman (Joan Chen) who owns the local sawmill, and a deputy sheriff (Harry Goaz) who breaks into tears when confronted by an emotional situation. By the end of the pilot episode, Laura Palmer’s murder remains unsolved, which leads us into the series.

Indeed, Lynch seems to be taking dead aim at Peyton Place, Falcon Crest and every other prime-time soap opera in between, and there’s no shortage of eerie scenes: A deer’s head on a bank’s conference table, jailed juveniles howling like wolves, creepy mists rising from the forests. Melodrama is too tame a word to describe the emotional tone – every aspect of the story and style has been heightened. Twin Peaks probes a quiet town and finds layer upon layer of ghastly undercurrents, even the overcurrents have a spooky perversity. It is one of the most intoxicating combinations of grimness and giggles ever made for television, or for anything else for that matter.

The DVD set I recently viewed also adds to the experience, enabling a lot of Lynch’s subtle sound editing and subliminal weirdness to become obvious for the first time. Back-to-back episodes may lessen the impact of the series for some viewers, and those wishing to avoid brain-fry should avoid the tempting marathon. However you choose to watch it, this is essential and frightening viewing indeed. This comprehensive DVD collection boasts director commentaries for every episode – with so many different versions of the Twin Peaks story on offer, it’s impossible not to get a rounded overview of the series and, as you can imagine, some very odd anecdotes. There is also An Introduction To David Lynch, interviews with Mark Frost and many of the writers, directors, critics, script notes, guides and rare archival material from the Twin Peaks fan magazine Wrapped In Plastic, plus optional Log Lady introductions to each episode.

While Lynch’s films have won cult followings worldwide, the networks were after many more viewers than just the director’s fans. Twin Peaks was lucky to get as far as it did due to the patience of the networks with what was obviously a ‘sleeper’ with a slow build. Lynch’s task was formidable: In a prime-time atmosphere that demanded quick success, he had to find a mainstream audience for a project that is anything but mainstream. It’s with this thought in mind I’ll ask you to please join me next week when I have the opportunity to scoop out your brain and drop it in a bucket with another spine-tingling journey to the dark side of…Horror News! Toodles!

Twin Peaks (TV series)

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About Nigel Honeybone

Wee Willie"Nigel Honeybone's debut was as Hamlet's dead father, portraying him as a tall posh skeleton. This triumph was followed in Richard III, as the remains of a young prince which he interpreted as a tall posh skeleton. He began attracting starring roles. Henry VIII was scaled down to suit Honeybone's very personalised view of this famous king. Honeybone suggested that perhaps he really was quite skeletal, quite tall, and quite posh. MacBeth, Shylock and Othello followed, all played as tall, skeletal and posh, respectively. Considering his reputation for playing tall English skeletons, many believed that the real Honeybone inside to be something very different, like a squat hunchback perhaps. Interestingly enough, Honeybone did once play a squat hunchback, but it was as a tall posh skeleton. But he was propelled into the film world when, in Psycho (1960), he wore women's clothing for the very first time. The seed of an idea was planted and, after working with director Ed Wood for five years, he realised the unlimited possibilities of tall posh skeletons who dressed in women's clothing. He went on to wear women's clothing in thirteen major motion pictures, including the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Star Wars (1977), heartbreaking as the remains of Aunt Beru. With the onslaught of special effects came the demise of real actors in these sorts of roles. After modeling for CGI skeletons in Total Recall (1990) and Toys (1992), the only possible step forward for a tall posh skeleton was television, imparting his knowledge and expertise of the arts. As well as writing for the world's best genre news website HORROR NEWS, Nigel Honeybone is currently signed to star in a new series for television presenting the finest examples of B-grade horror. THE SCHLOCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is seen on Friday nights at 10.30pm on TVS Television Sydney, and where ever good Youtube downloads are available." (Fantales candy wrapper circa 2007)

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