Twin Peaks 1.0 premiered on ABC on April 8, 1990. It’s fair to say it peaked early.
The two-hour debut that Sunday night, directed by series co-creator David Lynch, played like a PG-13 Lynch movie, which is to say it was weird.
But the opening chapter of the off-kilter logging town murder mystery holds up to this day and can be enjoyed as a self-contained piece from the auteur who was then still basking in acclaim for 1986’s Blue Velvet.
Twin Peaks didn’t really have to do much to stand out from the mainstream American television programming of the time. Popular network shows included Roseanne and Murder, She Wrote.
If people subscribed to HBO back then, it was more of a speculative indulgence; the term premium cable didn’t really apply. The Sopranos was nine years from inviting you to the Bada Bing. The Wire didn’t start till 2002, a year after Six Feet Under. At least The Larry Sanders Show arrived in 1992.
So the concept of quality TV, as far as the current generation of streamers knows it, may have been hatched with Twin Peaks and VHS tapes. Yes, the inventiveness didn’t stay fresh for long, mostly because of network pressure to solve the murder of Laura Palmer, the hook that initially lured millions of fans. But tying up the plot with a conventional bow ended up tying the hands of the creators, who had been cheekily assembling many of the well-worn parts of mainstream dramas without looking at the instructions, and the unsatisfactory second season limped to ever-lower ratings.
It’s taken some time, but lately we’ve been wallowing in the era of peak weird TV. For instance, the anthology series Fargo on FX ups the ante almost weekly, while the terrific first season of HBO’s True Detective in 2014 was the very definition of a Lynch-like mystery.
Notably, the notion of the seemingly bucolic community with the seamy underbelly has become such a television trope that the teen drama Riverdale, which recently rebooted the sugary Archie comics characters into the 21st century, used it to good effect.
In case you didn’t get it, the cast of the “shocking” high school whodunit included Madchen Amick. She played diner waitress Shelly Johnson in the original Twin Peaks and is among the cast for an unlikely third season of the series — this time, predictably, on premium cable.
The first two parts of Twin Peaks: The Return will be unveiled Sunday, May 21, on the Movie Network in Canada. The Showtime production will also be available to stream on CraveTV.
The first parts of the epic project are also set to screen at the Cannes Film Festival on May 25 — 25 years after the poorly received feature Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me premiered in France.
The biggest deal for fans anticipating the new batch of shows has to be the involvement of Lynch himself. There was a period when it looked as though he wouldn't be involved because of disputes over the budget, but he reportedly has directed all the episodes, representing a major investment for someone who hasn’t helmed a film in more than a decade.
“This is a feature. An 18-hour feature, broken up into 18 parts,” Lynch told the New York Times last month.
Relatively little is known about the new Twin Peaks, which is as the director wishes but still difficult to believe in this day and age.
“It is happening again,” warns one Internet banner ad. Aside from that, there have been fleeting media mentions of new characters played by the likes of Naomi Watts.
Reassuringly, Kyle MacLachlan is back as Special Agent Dale Cooper, the diner enthusiast. If nothing else, Twin Peaks 3.0 will have to serve some damn fine coffee.