It won’t be the same. It can’t be the same. When Twin Peaks premiered on ABC in April 1990, there had never been anything like it on TV: a soap opera; a murder mystery; a surreal fantasy with dashes of frightening horror, all wrapped up in the confines of a long-form narrative.
But when it returns in 2016 via Showtime, it will be part of a radically different television landscape. In this current golden era of television, where challenging shows such as Game of Thrones, Mad Men and Breaking Bad have broken through to the mainstream in numbers Twin Peaks never enjoyed, and other programs such as American Horror Story bear a strong Twin Peaks influence (and far surpass its craziness), it’s hard to imagine Peaks having the same cultural impact that it did in 1990.
Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, Twin Peaks was a combination of teary melodrama and over-the-top histrionics. In some scenes, the menace and danger were unmistakable. In others, you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Lynch and Frost loved toying with the audience: There were more subplots and characters than usual for a series, and the public embraced the strangeness. Twin Peaks became appointment television.
Early ratings were spectacular. The show made the covers of Time and Rolling Stone magazines. TV talk host Phil Donahue dedicated a show to finding out who killed Laura Palmer. A fanzine named Wrapped in Plastic, created by fans, began publishing monthly (and kept going long after the show left the air).
But halfway through the second season, ratings started to drop as the show got weirder and weirder and Palmer’s murder remained annoyingly unsolved. Under pressure from the network, Lynch and Frost revealed the murderer, creating one of the most frightening hours of network TV ever but also essentially killing the show. The introduction of a new villain did nothing to boost ratings. By the time Joan Chen’s screaming face emerged from the knob of a drawer, only the hardcore were still watching.
Twin Peaks ended with multiple cliffhangers, although the last episode, directed by Lynch, also had a feeling of finality to it. Evil triumphed. When rumors of a movie surfaced, hopes rose that the film would pick up where the show left off and tie up all the loose ends. Instead, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me turned out to be a sexually and violently graphic prequel in which Lynch gave in to his bizarre impulses. The film had its share of admirers, but not many, grossing a measly $4.1 million.
That should have been the end of Twin Peaks. But its fans wouldn’t let it rest in peace. They loved the atmosphere and humor and characters so much, the show lived on via an annual Twin Peaks festival in Washington state (the 2015 edition is already sold out). Websites tracked down deleted scenes and bits of footage that had never been seen.
In interviews, Lynch and Frost playfully teased they would like to revisit the town some day, but no one took them seriously. So the announcement that they will be writing a nine-episode Twin Peaks miniseries, with all episodes directed by Lynch, caused an uproar of excitement online.
No one knows what form, exactly, the show will take. There’s no way it can pick up exactly where it left off — members of the original cast, filled with beautiful young faces, won’t be mistaken for comely teenagers 25 years later, if you know what I mean. Frost told Variety that the new series will be “the next chapter of the story,” and that the passage of 25 years will be an important element in the plot.
“Those followers of the show who felt bereft when the show ended where it did all those years ago are going to like where it goes from here,” Frost assured. “And we hope that a lot of people who haven’t been to Twin Peaks yet are going to be equally interested in where the story goes from where we left off.”
New characters will undoubtedly be introduced, but it’s the original gang — oddball FBI agent Dale Cooper, the straight-arrow Sheriff Harry S. Truman, the sultry Audrey Horne, the troublemaker Bobby Briggs, the brooding James Hurley, the Double R diner owner Norma Jennings — who gave the show its spirit and personality.
Still, I’ll be reading Frost’s just-announced novel, to be published in late 2015, that will tie up some of the loose ends left by the show’s abrupt ending and recount what the characters have been up to over the past 25 years.
And I’ll be sitting in front of my TV with high hopes when Angelo Badalamenti’s now-classic score opens the show and the image of that bird — a Bewick’s Wren — leads us into the opening credits. At the same time, part of me is dreading what Lynch has in store. There are too many fond memories that risk being spoiled by a bad, out-of-control sequel that amps up the weirdness to try to be relevant to today’s culture.
But to paraphrase a famous line from the show, that gum you like is coming back in style — whether you want it or not.