If you are of a certain age, you will likely remember that classic TV murder mystery, "Who killed Laura Palmer?" in season one of ABC's "Twin Peaks." Created by David Lynch" in 1990, "Twin Peaks" was quite the rage at the time, and more than a little polarizing. Everyone had an opinion, it seemed. But after roaring out of the gate, the show lost audience faster than any other series I can remember in television history. So one has to wonder about the wisdom of bringing it back.
Known for his surrealist style, Lynch created a world in "Twin Peaks" that was nothing like anything we had ever seen before (much like his movies, "Blue Velvet," "Eraserhead" and "Mulholland Drive," to name a few). It was dark and surreal with paranormal undertones, populated with bizarre characters like the Log Lady, the Giant, and that backwards-talking dancing dwarf. At a time when traditional serialized dramas like "Dallas" and "Knots Landing" were winding down, "Twin Peaks" was a refreshing change from the norm—at least initially.
Has they existed at the time, a digital streamer like Netflix might have made a better home for "Twin Peaks." These days, those platforms are at their best when giving Lynch-caliber artists the creative freedom to take risks. But ABC, being a traditional network, wanted the murder mystery solved, and ordered Lynch to comply.
"'Who killed Laura Palmer?' was a question that we did not ever really want to answer," said David Lynch at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour last week. "That Laura Palmer mystery was like the goose that laid these little golden eggs. And then at a certain point, we were told we needed to wrap that up and it never really got going again after that."
If ABC had not interfered, the result for the original "Twin Peaks" might have been very different. So Showtime's decision to tackle this long-awaited revival ("The pure heroin version of David Lynch," according to Showtime CEO and President David Nevins) provides some hope this time around.
But a lack of creative freedom might not have been the only thing that doomed the original show. Though it's not often discussed, the 1992 theatrical prequel, "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me," stalled at the box office. So perhaps there was simply a limit to the show's quirky appeal. Whether one more reboot in an going flood of revivals in recent years is the right vehicle for Showtime, which still, for better or worse, feels secondary to cable outlets like AMC, FX and its chief paid competitor, HBO, remains to be seen. Remember how disappointing TNT's recent revival of "Dallas" was?
And let's not forget those coveted millennials, who may not even be familiar with "Twin Peaks." While fans of the original series will likely tune in for a glimpse of the new one (much like they did with A&E's recent remake of "Roots," which performed respectfully in this world of fractionalization), I would keep the expectations low here.
There are no details at present on this new version of "Twin Peaks." "The actors are sworn to secrecy," explained David Nevins before the start of the Winter Press Tour session. Meanwhile, the truly promising new show showcased at the tour, in my opinion, could be season one of new FX anthology "Feud: Bette and Joan" from Ryan Murphy, starring Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis and Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford. The first two episodes were available for preview, and what I witnessed was a deep characterization of two of the most complicated actresses in the history of cinema. If it works, and I think it will, consider "Feud: Bette and Joan" the latest evidence that the audience prefers to watch characters they feel comfortable with. I am not sure these residents of the fictional town of Twin Peaks, Wash., will have the same impact.
I have yet to see any footage of this new "Twin Peaks," which debuts with the first of 18 episodes on May 21. So I will reserve judgment (well, further judgment) for now. But let's hope, though, there is a character or two we can relate to. And let's assume Showtime is letting David Lynch do his job.