Last week, the television world received a fairly earth-shattering piece of news, with the announcement that Twin Peaks would return to television in 2016 with a nine-episode limited series run on Showtime. Long hoped for and speculated about by fans, the news is about as promising as could be hoped for: All nine episodes will be written by show creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, and directed by Lynch in his first time directing for television in over two decades. In multiple interviews since the reveal, Frost has been coy about any specifics, but the general tone of the conversation is that the two feel the time is right and that they genuinely want to tell a story in this world again.
That attitude of excitement and speculation is fully in keeping with the history of Twin Peaks. Ostensibly a small-town murder mystery when it premiered in 1990, it became the most talked-about show of that year. Marrying the surrealist tendencies of Lynch with the procedural experience of Frost, Twin Peaks built a universe that had never been seen before on television, a community full of strange characters where events regularly slid into dreamlike and hallucinatory tones. It captured the popular imagination to a remarkable extent, as fans recorded and rewatched episodes obsessively for clues as to who killed Laura Palmer and constantly debated theories with each other. Its weirdness was ultimately unsustainable for ABC and it went into a ratings and creative spiral in its second season before ultimately being canceled, with Lynch crafting a cliffhanger finale that remains one of the most hotly contested endings ever seen.
While other series have gone on to be more successful than Twin Peaks, few can claim to be as influential to the medium as a whole. With its degree of surrealism and absurdism, the serialized structure that begged for analysis and discussion, and its simultaneous embracing and inversion of television’s tropes, Twin Peaks is a vital cornerstone for two decades worth of serialized dramas. Even a cursory list of those in its debt is a murderers’ row of television’s best shows: The Sopranos. LOST. The X-Files. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. Northern Exposure. Awake. Hannibal. Fringe. Carnivale. Wonderfalls. None of these shows would exist—or at the very least, exist in the form they do—if it hadn’t been for Twin Peaks shattering the conception of what could be done on television and how the medium could be used to tell a story no one had ever heard before.
In celebration of the news that this inimitable show is returning to the airwaves, Sound On Sight is pleased to announce a series of articles looking back at Twin Peaks. We will begin our coverage by revisiting the series episode by episode, with weekly reviews starting next Friday, October 20: Les Chappell will review season one and Jake Pitre will review season two. In addition to these reviews, we’ll feature articles looking at the series’ most iconic moments, most memorable characters, and contributions to TV over the last few decades.
Put the coffee on and pull the cherry pie out of the oven. It’s going to be a damn good time.