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Archive for April 8th, 2020

Twin PeaksThirty years ago today saw the premier of the greatest TV show ever, Twin Peaks.  By the time it reached the UK in October of the same year it was already a phenomenon; 34.6 million people watched the pilot on US TV, people were already quoting “damn fine coffee”, and Cherry Pie.  I watched it because of David Lynch.  I had seen Dune (1985) shortly after release, and loved it (despite popular opinion), and had recently seen Blue Velvet (a little young at 14).  Both directed by Lynch, and like Twin Peaks, both starring Kyle MacLachlan.  Like everybody else, I didn’t know what to expect from the show. The Radio Times described it as an “offbeat murder-mystery drama”.  I seem to remember people having a problem with the long-form  story arc.  One review, possibly also in the Radio Times called it a Soap Noir suggesting it had more in common with soap operas than quality TV, which at the time was episodic.  Little did they know that it was a glimpse of the future.  But it is more than that, this is TV at its most cinematic.  After all, it was television directed by a visionary filmmaker, something that would be almost the norm two, and three decades on.  Lynch may be known for his quirky characters and absurd scenarios, but he is also an elegant filmmaker.  Take a scene early on; Laura Palmer’s parents (Ray Wise & Grace Zabriskie) are talking on the phone, she is missing but they don’t know she is dead, we as an audience do.  As they are talking we see a police car pull up in the background.  As with so much of the show it is subtly brilliant.  That’s not to say Lynch and co creator Mark Frost are afraid to lean into the melodrama of soap!  The “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” advertising campaign was directly influenced by the “Who shot J.R.?” campaign from the show Dallas a decade earlier.  Like a soap, there are over thirty main characters.  There are also the strange encounters and conversations , many which are left hanging and are not connected to the plot, but all add to the colour. laura-palmer

Ultimately the long form nature of the show was its downfall for me, for a while at least.  Early in the second series, I went on Holiday and missed an episodes when the recording failed.  An episode or two later I stopped watching intending to pick it up again when re-run.  Ultimately, this opportunity came a couple of years later when I borrowed the VHS from a friend and watched both season  all the way through.  I have watched it all the way through at least three times since then. dale cooper audrey horne

The title sequence shows both the simple splendour, as well and the mundane of small two life.  There is something strangely beautiful about watching a giant saw-blade being sharpened, or is that Angelo Badalamenti’s theme music doing the heavy lifting?  The theme that is echoed throughout the rest of score perfectly captures the grief and melancholy that hovers over the show.  It doesn’t take a music expert to recognise that Laura’s theme (that is repeated throughout the show), and the theme music are of the same piece.  Other parts of the score reflect the absurdity and obscurity of the show.  The music is bizarrely brilliant, and totally timeless; it sounds like nothing else, but is also reassuringly familiar.    The evil lurking under the surface of a seemingly perfect and idyllic community is not new ground for Lynch having explored it in Blue Velvet (1986).  But lets not forget this is a murder mystery, and that is where Mark Frost’s expertise rests, his credits include around fifty episodes of Hill Street Blues as scriptwriter and/or story editor.  If you strip away all the strange characters and events, it is still a great murder mystery, just not one with the conclusion you would normally expect. Part of the brilliance comes with the setting Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) talks about how murder isn’t a faceless event, not a statistic, and how Laura Palmer’s death affected everybody in town.  Pure evil is more noticeable and more meaningful than if it had been set in a large city. Twin Peaks Black Lodge

Like all the best shows, it hasn’t dated (except possibly the 4:3 aspect ratio), even after thirty years.  Initially cancelled after two seasons, but as a final act, Lynch made the boldest of moves.  Taking a storyline that goes back to early in the first season as a jumping off point, he revisited the show (just over) twenty-five years later.   Twin Peaks The Return, as it is sometimes known dove deeper into the supernatural that always been there, often just below the surface.  The result was a very different experience, that makes you look differently at the original show.  Like a film with a very different sequel, you can take Twin Peaks as the original thirty episodes of seasons one and two, or you can take all forty-eight from all three seasons; either way, it was as groundbreaking as it was brilliant! twin peaks the return

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