I guess I lived a pretty sheltered life as a kid. I wasn’t really allowed to watch MTV (though sometimes I did), and there were many shows that my mother would say were garbage that I wasn’t allowed to watch. I spent my after-school afternoons with the casts of Happy Days, The Brady Bunch, M*A*S*H, and Gilligan’s Island. MacGuyver was kosher, and of course Columbo and Matlock were staples. It’s not that I wasn’t allowed to watch a great lot of television — I spent most Saturday mornings of my childhood in front of the television from 6 or 7 in the morning until lunchtime — but the television I could watch without getting into trouble or having to sneak around was pretty vanilla. Twin Peaks was not on the list of approved shows.
I sort of like David Lynch’s movies. I’m a fan of weird, up to a point, and his movies bump right up against and sometimes go just a hair past that point, so his movies tend to appeal to me. Some time back, I decided to give Twin Peaks a try, and I don’t think I made it all the way through the first episode; if I did, I didn’t make it very far into the second. It seemed so very overwrought, so melodramatic, so 90s.
Having gotten wind in the past year or so that the show was coming back with Lynch still at the helm, I thought I’d try the show again. Laura Palmer’s screaming mother in that first episode very nearly turned me off again. The distraught principal did too. But then there was Kyle MacLachlan’s delightul character and the beginnings of a few hints of the sort of weirdness I find appealing. I was lukewarm through the first half of the first season, and at some point I told my wife that I’d like it more if it were about 40% more weird.
Then it crescendoed into super duper weirdness over the next 15 or so episodes, to the point that during an 8 – 10 minute part of the final episode that I watched while very very tired that was visually arresting and really pretty interesting, I wound up wishing Lynch would sort of get on with it. As the episodes kept coming, I commented to my wife a time or two that I could hardly believe that they had played the show on prime time television and found an audience for it, so far from my notion of the mainstream taste it seemed. Still, it was neat, and I liked a lot of the weirdness.
My main problem with the show was that watching it 25 years after its creation, I had difficulty understanding whether the things that seemed overwrought and bad about it were in fact overwrought and bad or whether that’s just what television was like in 1990. Or, if they were overwrought and bad and sometimes sentimental and saccharine, were they that way in earnest (for the period) or was Lynch doing something meta with the conventions of television?At the distance of 25 years, I’m really just not at all sure.
As is pretty normal for me, I expended just about as much energy thinking about my thinking about watching the show as I expended watching the show, which is generally pretty satisfying to me but was perhaps less so than usual in this case because I partially suspect that some of the badness was just period badness and not cleverness.
At any rate, I now have Twin Peaks under my belt, and if the redux does materialize, I’ll likely watch it with interest.