Twin Peaks

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.

2 thoughts on “Twin Peaks

  1. My barometer for a good show is that I spend more time thinking about watching the show than I spend watching, and at least double the amount of time thinking about thinking about watching. House of mirrors self-reflection somehow makes entertainment more important or useful? Or entertaining? I don’t know. But it always sounds good to me to analyze the analysis I do during and after seeing a show.

    So your experience might make me want to rematch the series.

    Except that I remember being both compelled by and horrified by the two or three episodes of Twin Peaks I saw back in the day. I know I’ve been interested in and impressed by Lynch, but that I neither enjoy nor understand his work.

    And I can’t look at fingernails the same ever again. Much like what Wallace did with hotel water glasses. R.u.i.n.e.d.

  2. Late to the post, but like you I watched Twin Peaks well after it had aired – 3 years ago or so I think.

    David lost interest in the project or got distracted with other projects, and has less and less input at time went on. That, plus there was heavy pressure by the studio to reveal Laura’s killer in the season one finally – something I think David wasn’t planning on doing for some time.

    I recommend binge watching the show (it’s not that long) so that the low parts don’t linger as long – the second season has some real weak spots. If you want company, there is a podcast called “Twin Peaks Rewatch” that followings along the episodes in sync – this greatly ups the enjoyment as they have tons of context to add that is missing when you watch something this far out of date.

    From the podcast it seems like David was riffing off of the big dramas of the era, like Dallas and Dynasty, and then adding his special “all small towns are corrupt” spin. These shows were on in my house, and I had no TV restrictions, but seemed boring to my teenage mind so I never watched them. I put Twin Peaks in the same bucket but later after learning David did more than mess up Dune I went back to check out his other work.

    Overall I enjoyed the show and movie Fire Walk With Me. Recently the wife and I did a Let’s Play of Firewatch, and since the developers were some of the same people on the Rewatch podcast, I decided to name all the episodes after Twin Peaks titles and even used the same weird green text. The first episode was titled “Firewatch with Me” of course.

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