Twin Peaks is an American television serial drama created by Mark Frost and David Lynch. It follows an investigation headed by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) into the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). Its pilot episode was first broadcast on April 8, 1990, on ABC. Seven more episodes were produced, and the series was renewed for a second season that aired until June 10, 1991. The show's title came from the small, fictional Washington town in which it was set. Exteriors were primarily filmed in the Washington towns of Snoqualmie and North Bend, though additional exteriors were shot in southern California. Most of the interior scenes were shot on standing sets in a San Fernando Valley warehouse.
Twin Peaks became one of the top-rated shows of 1990 and was a critical success both nationally and internationally. It captured a devoted cult fan base and became a part of popular culture that has been referenced in television shows, commercials, comic books, video games, films and song lyrics. Declining viewer ratings led to ABC's insistence that the identity of Laura's murderer be revealed midway through the second season. The series was followed by a 1992 feature film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, which serves as both a prequel and an epilogue to the television series.
The pilot episode was ranked No. 25 on TV Guide's 1997 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. The series was ranked No. 45 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time in 2002, and it was included in its 2013 list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon." Twin Peaks was listed as one of Time's "Best TV Shows of All-TIME" in 2007, and it placed No. 49 on Entertainment Weekly's "New TV Classics" list and No. 12 in their list of the "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years."
As with much of Lynch's other work, notably Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks explores the gulf between the veneer of small-town respectability and the seedier layers of life lurking beneath it. As the series progresses, the inner darkness of characters who initially appeared innocent is revealed, and they are seen to lead double lives. Twin Peaks is consistent with Lynch's work as a whole in that it is not easily placed within an established genre. Its unsettling tone and supernatural features are consistent with horror films, but its campy, melodramatic portrayal of quirky characters engaged in morally dubious activities reflects a bizarrely comical parody of American soap operas. Like the rest of Lynch's work, the show represents an earnest moral inquiry distinguished by both offbeat humor and a deep vein of surrealism.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast and characters
- 3 Production
- 4 Themes
- 5 Response
- 6 Merchandise
- 7 Theatrical film
- 8 Possible continuation
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Twin Peaks is set in 1989. Each episode, barring occasional exceptions, represents a single day in the chronology.
On the morning of February 24, in the town of Twin Peaks, Washington, logger Pete Martell (Jack Nance) discovers a naked corpse tightly wrapped in a sheet of clear plastic on the bank of a river. When Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), his deputies, and Dr. Will Hayward (Warren Frost) arrive on the scene, the body is discovered to be that of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). The news of her death spreads rapidly among the town's residents, particularly Laura's family and friends. A badly injured second girl, Ronette Pulaski, is found across the state line walking along the railroad tracks in a fugue state. Because Ronette was discovered across the state line, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper is called in to investigate. Cooper's initial examination of Laura's body reveals a tiny typed letter "R" inserted under her fingernail. Cooper informs the community that Laura's death matches the signature of a killer who murdered another girl in southwestern Washington the previous year, and that evidence indicates the killer lives in Twin Peaks.
Laura is quickly revealed to have been living a double life. She was cheating on her boyfriend, football captain Bobby Briggs, with biker James Hurley and was prostituting herself through the help of local truck driver and pimp Leo Johnson and drug dealer Jacques Renault. Laura was also addicted to cocaine, which she obtained by coercing Bobby into doing business with Jacques.
Laura's death sets off a chain reaction of events around town. Her father, the prominent attorney Leland Palmer, suffers a nervous breakdown. Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle), her best friend, begins a relationship with James Hurley and, with the help of Laura's cousin, Maddy Ferguson (also Sheryl Lee), begins to investigate Laura's psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn). Jacoby is discovered to have been obsessed with Laura, and a plan to break into his apartment results in an attack on Jacoby in a park. He is revealed to be innocent, but he suffers a heart attack and is hospitalized with no memory of the event. Ben Horne, the richest man in Twin Peaks, continues his plan to destroy the town's lumber mill and murder its owner, Josie Packard (Joan Chen), and his lover and Josie's sister-in-law, Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie), so that he can purchase the land at a reduced price and complete a long-planned development project. Horne's sultry, troubled daughter, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn), becomes infatuated with Cooper and begins to spy around town in an effort to help him solve Laura's murder and gain his affections.
Cooper, during his second night in town, has a dream in which he is approached by a one-armed man who calls himself Mike. Mike identifies himself as an otherworldly being and tells Cooper that Laura's murderer is a similar entity called Killer BOB. Bob is a feral, denim-clad, gray-haired man who vows to keep killing. Cooper then sees himself as 25 years older, sitting stationary in a room surrounded by red curtains that emit an otherworldly light. Across from him are a dwarf in a red business suit, known as "The Man from Another Place," and Laura Palmer, whom The Man identifies as his cousin. The Man engages in an apparently coded dialogue with Cooper, rises from his chair, and dances around the room while Laura whispers in Cooper's ear. The next morning, Cooper relates the dream to Truman. He tells Truman that the dream was symbolic and that, if he can decipher the symbols, he will know who killed Laura.
Cooper and the Twin Peaks sheriff's department find the one-armed man from Cooper's dream, who turns out to be a traveling shoe salesman named Philip Gerard. Gerard does indeed know a Bob, who is the veterinarian that treats Jacques Renault's pet bird. Cooper takes this series of events to mean that Renault is the murderer and, with Truman's help, tracks Renault down to One-Eyed Jack's, a brothel owned by Ben Horne across the border in Canada. He lures Renault back onto U.S. soil to arrest him, but Renault tries to escape and is shot and hospitalized. Leland, after learning that Renault has been arrested, sneaks into the hospital and murders him. The same night, Ben Horne orders Leo to burn down the lumber mill with Catherine trapped inside and has Leo gunned down by Hank Jennings to ensure Leo's silence. Cooper returns to his room following Jacques' arrest and is shot by a masked gunman, which ends the season on a cliffhanger.
Cooper lies in his room after having been shot. In an injured and semi-lucid state, he experiences a vision in which a giant appears to him. The giant reveals three clues to Agent Cooper: "There is a man in a smiling bag"; "The owls are not what they seem"; and "Without chemicals, he points." He then takes Cooper's gold ring and explains that when Cooper understands the three premonitions, his ring will be returned.
Leo Johnson survives his shooting but is rendered severely incapacitated. Catherine Martell disappears and is presumed to have been killed in the mill fire. Leland Palmer, whose hair has turned white overnight, is rejuvenated by Renault's murder and returns to work.
Phillip Gerard is revealed as the host to Mike, a demonic "inhabiting spirit" who used to retain the services of Bob, a lesser demonic entity, to help him kill humans. Mike reveals that Bob has been possessing someone in town for decades, but he does not tell Cooper who. Donna takes on Laura's old route from her Meals on Wheels program, in the hopes of finding more clues to Laura's murder. She befriends a young man named Harold Smith who is in possession of a second diary that Laura kept. She and Maddy attempt to steal it from him, but Harold catches them in the act, loses all faith in humanity, and hangs himself in his orchid greenhouse. The officers take possession of Laura's secret diary, in which it is revealed that Bob, a friend of her father's, raped her repeatedly as a child and that she began using drugs to cope. Cooper believes that the killer is Ben Horne, but Leland is revealed to be Bob when he brutally kills Maddy.
Cooper doubts Horne's guilt, so he gathers all of his suspects in the belief that he will receive a sign to help him identify the killer. The Giant appears and confirms that Leland is Bob's host and the killer of Laura and Maddy. Bob assumes total control over Leland's body and confesses to a series of murders, before forcing Leland to commit suicide. Leland, free of Bob's influence, tells Cooper that Bob has possessed him ever since molesting him as a child. He begs for forgiveness, sees a vision of Laura welcoming him into the afterlife, and dies in Cooper's arms. The lawmen question whether Leland was truly possessed or mentally ill, and consider the possibility that Bob might still stalk the community of Twin Peaks in search of a new host.
Cooper is set to leave Twin Peaks when he is framed for drug trafficking by the criminal Jean Renault and is suspended from the FBI. Renault holds Cooper responsible for the death of his brother, Jacques. Jean Renault is killed in a shootout with police, and Cooper is cleared of all charges. Windom Earle, Cooper's former mentor and FBI partner, comes to Twin Peaks seeking revenge against Cooper. Cooper had an affair with Earle's wife, Caroline, while she had been under his protection as a witness to a federal crime. Earle went mad, killed Caroline, stabbed Cooper, and was committed to a mental institution. He escaped, and now hides out in the woods near Twin Peaks. He plays a game of chess in which someone dies each time he captures an opponent's piece.
Cooper tries to reveal origins and whereabouts of Bob, and learns more about the mysteries of the dark woods surrounding Twin Peaks. He learns of the existence of the White Lodge and the Black Lodge, two extra-dimensional realms analogous to Heaven and Hell, whose gateways reside somewhere in the woods. Cooper learns that Bob, the Giant, and the Man From Another Place all come from one of the two lodges. Meanwhile, Bob restlessly seeks another host. Josie Packard is revealed as Cooper's shooter. Truman and Cooper attempt to apprehend her, and she is killed in the process. At the moment of her death, Bob briefly appears, drawn by her fear.
Cooper falls in love with a new girl in town, Annie Blackburn. When Annie wins the Miss Twin Peaks contest, Windom Earle kidnaps her and takes her to the Black Lodge entrance in Glastonbury Grove. Cooper realizes that Earle's real reason for being in Twin Peaks is to gain entrance into the Black Lodge and harness its power for himself, and that his chess game has been an elaborate decoy. With the help of the Log Lady, Cooper follows Annie and Earle into the Lodge, which turns out to be the red-curtained room from his dream. He is greeted by the Man From Another Place, the giant, and the spirit of Laura Palmer, who each give Cooper coded prophecies about his future and demonstrate the properties of the Black Lodge, which defies the laws of time and space. Searching for Annie and Earle, Cooper encounters doppelgängers of various dead people, including Maddy Ferguson and Leland Palmer, who taunt him with strange denials, warnings, and falsehoods. The doppelgängers eventually lead Cooper to Earle, who demands that Cooper give up his soul in exchange for Annie's life. Cooper agrees and Earle kills him. Seconds later, Killer Bob appears and reverses time in the Lodge, bringing Cooper back to life. Bob tells Earle that he cannot take human souls and then kills Earle and takes his soul. Bob then turns on Cooper, who experiences fear for the first time in the Lodge. Cooper flees, pursued by Bob and a doppelgänger of himself.
Some time after entering the Lodge, Cooper and Annie reappear in the woods. They are discovered by Sheriff Truman, who has been waiting for them since he saw Cooper disappear. Annie is hospitalized, but Cooper's injuries are minor enough that Doctor Hayward is able to treat them in Cooper's room at the Great Northern Hotel. Upon waking, Cooper asks about Annie's condition, and then states he needs to brush his teeth. When Cooper enters the bathroom and looks into the mirror, his reflection is Bob, revealing that he is Cooper's doppelgänger from the Black Lodge. He then rams his face into the mirror and, while laughing maniacally, repeatedly mocks his earlier question about Annie's condition. The series ends with this unresolved cliffhanger.
Cast and characters
Twin Peaks features members of a loose ensemble of Lynch's favorite character actors, including Jack Nance, Kyle MacLachlan, Grace Zabriskie, and Everett McGill. Isabella Rossellini, who had worked with Lynch on Blue Velvet and later became his partner, was originally cast as Giovanna Packard, but she dropped out of the production before shooting began on the pilot episode. The character was then reconceived as Josie Packard, of Chinese ethnicity, and the role given to actress Joan Chen. It casts several veteran actors who had risen to fame in the 1950s and 1960s, including 1950s movie stars Richard Beymer, Piper Laurie, Russ Tamblyn, British actor James Booth (Zulu) and former The Mod Squad star Peggy Lipton. The main character of the series, Agent Dale Cooper, played by Kyle MacLachlan, appeared in all thirty episodes of Twin Peaks, including the pilot.
Due to budget constraints, Lynch intended to cast a local girl from Seattle, reportedly "just to play a dead girl." The local girl ended up being Sheryl Lee; Lynch stated "But no one—not Mark, me, anyone—had any idea that she could act, or that she was going to be so powerful just being dead." Indeed, the image of Lee wrapped in plastic became one of the show's most memorable images. And then, while Lynch shot the home movie that James takes of Donna and Laura, he realized that Lee had something special. "She did do another scene—the video with Donna on the picnic—and it was that scene that did it." As a result, Sheryl Lee became a semi-regular addition to the cast, appearing in flashbacks as Laura, and portraying another, recurring character: Maddy Ferguson, Laura's similar-looking cousin. The character of Philip Gerard's appearance in the pilot episode was only originally intended to be a "kind of homage to The Fugitive. The only thing he was gonna do was be in this elevator and walk out," according to David Lynch. However, when Lynch wrote the "Fire walk with me" speech, he imagined Al Strobel, who played Gerard, reciting it in the basement of the Twin Peaks hospital—a scene that appeared in the European version of the pilot episode, and surfaced later in Agent Cooper's dream sequence. Gerard's full name, Phillip Michael Gerard, is also a reference to Lieutenant Philip Gerard, a character in The Fugitive. Lynch met Michael J. Anderson in 1987. After seeing him in a short film, Lynch wanted to cast the actor in the title role in Ronnie Rocket, but that project failed to get made.
Richard Beymer was cast as Ben Horne because he had known Johanna Ray, Lynch's casting director. Lynch was familiar with Beymer's work in the 1961 film West Side Story and was surprised that Beymer was available for the role. As the series progressed, Lynch relied on the character to act as a red herring, leading fans to believe that Horne was Laura's real killer; he ultimately filmed a scene depicting Ben Horne transforming into Killer Bob and murdering Maddy Ferguson. The filming of the scene was loosely guarded, so that rumors of Ben being revealed as the real killer would spread and fans would be surprised when the real killer was revealed. Lynch was particularly impressed with Beymer's willingness to go along with the ruse, commenting that he filmed his scenes as though Horne were the real killer, despite knowing that he was not.
In the 1980s, Mark Frost worked for three years as a writer for the television police drama Hill Street Blues, which featured a large cast and extended story lines. Following his success with the The Elephant Man (1980) and Blue Velvet in 1986, David Lynch was hired by a Warner Bros. executive to direct a film about the life of Marilyn Monroe, based on the best-selling book Goddess. Lynch recalls being "sort of interested. I loved the idea of this woman in trouble, but I didn't know if I liked it being a real story." Lynch and Frost first worked together on the Goddess screenplay and although the project was dropped by Warner Brothers, they became good friends. They went on to work as writer and director for a project titled One Saliva Bubble, with Steve Martin attached to star, but this film was not made either. Lynch's agent, Tony Krantz, encouraged him to do a television show. He took Lynch to Nibblers restaurant in Los Angeles and said, "You should do a show about real life in America—your vision of America the same way you demonstrated it in Blue Velvet." Lynch got an "idea of a small-town thing," and though he and Frost were not keen on it, they decided to humor Krantz. Frost wanted to tell "a sort of Dickensian story about multiple lives in a contained area that could sort of go perpetually." Frost, Krantz and Lynch rented a screening room in Beverly Hills and screened Peyton Place and from that developed the town before its inhabitants. They drew a map and knew that there would be a lumber mill located in the town. Then, they came up with an image of a body washing up on the shore of a lake. Lynch remembers, "We knew where everything was located and that helped us determine the prevailing atmosphere and what might happen there." Frost remembers that he and Lynch came up with the notion of the girl next door leading a "desperate double life" that would end in murder.
Lynch and Frost pitched the idea to ABC during the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike in a ten-minute meeting with the network's drama head, Chad Hoffman, with nothing more than this image and a concept. According to the director, the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer was initially going to be in the foreground, but would recede gradually as viewers got to know the other townsfolk and the problems they were having. Lynch and Frost wanted to mix a police investigation with a soap opera.
ABC liked the idea and asked Lynch and Frost to write a screenplay for the pilot episode. They had been talking about the project for three months and then wrote the screenplay in 10 days. Frost wrote more verbal characters, like Benjamin Horne, while Lynch was responsible for Agent Cooper. According to the director, "He says a lot of the things I say." Originally, the show was titled Northwest Passage. ABC Entertainment President Brandon Stoddard ordered the two-hour pilot for a possible fall 1989 series. He left the position in March 1989 as Lynch went into production. They filmed the pilot for $4 million with an agreement with ABC that they would shoot an additional "ending" to it so that it could be sold directly to video in Europe as a feature film if the TV show was not picked up. ABC's Robert Iger and his creative team took over, saw the dailies, and met with Frost and Lynch to get the arc of the stories and characters. However, even though Iger liked the pilot, he had a tough time persuading the rest of the network executives. Iger suggested showing it to a more diverse, younger group, who liked it, and the executive subsequently convinced ABC to buy seven episodes at $1.1 million apiece. Some executives figured that the show would never get on the air or that it might run as a seven-hour mini-series. However, Iger planned to schedule it for the spring. The final showdown occurred during a bi-coastal conference call between Iger and a room full of New York executives; Iger won, and Twin Peaks was on the air.
Each episode took a week to shoot and after directing the second episode, Lynch went off to complete Wild at Heart while Frost wrote the remaining segments. Standards and Practices only had a problem with one scene from the first season: an extreme close-up in the pilot of Cooper's hand as he slid tweezers under Laura's fingernail and removed a tiny "R". They wanted the scene to be shorter because it made them uncomfortable, but Frost and Lynch refused and the scene remained.
The episodes of Twin Peaks have a distinct structure: following a recap of events relevant to the upcoming narrative, the series begins with the music piece "Falling." This is accompanied by shots of a varied thrush and the Twin Peaks saw mill. The opening credits generally appear alphabetically. The majority of episodes end with a suspenseful twist or cliffhanger, revealed just seconds before the ending. With rare exception, the credits always rolled over a photograph of Laura Palmer, accompanied by the piano piece "Laura's Theme."
A popular feature of the series was Frost and Lynch's trademark use of repeating the sometimes mysterious motifs—trees (especially fir and pines), coffee, cherry pie, donuts, owls, logs, ducks, water, fire—and numerous embedded references to other films and TV shows.
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In fall 1989, composer Angelo Badalamenti and Lynch created the score for the show. In 20 minutes they produced the signature theme for the series. Badalamenti called it the "Love Theme From Twin Peaks." Lynch told him, "You just wrote 75% of the score. It's the mood of the whole piece. It is Twin Peaks". While creating the score, Lynch often described the moods or emotions he wanted the music to evoke, and Badalamenti began to play the piano. In the scenes dominated by young men, they are accompanied by music that Badalamenti called Cool Jazz. The characters' masculinity was enhanced by finger-snapping, "cocktail-lounge electric piano, pulsing bass, and lightly brushed percussion." A handful of the motifs were borrowed from the Julee Cruise album Floating into the Night, which was written in large part by Badalamenti and Lynch and was released in 1989. This album also serves as the soundtrack to another Lynch project, Industrial Symphony No. 1, a live Cruise performance also featuring Michael J. Anderson ("The Man from Another Place").
The song "Falling" (sans vocals) became the theme to the show, and the songs "Rockin' Back Inside My Heart," "The Nightingale," "The World Spins," and "Into the Night" (found in their full versions on the album) were all, except the latter, used as Cruise's roadhouse performances during the show's run. The lyrics for all five songs were written by Lynch. A second volume of the soundtrack was released on October 30, 2007, to coincide with the Definitive Gold Box DVD set. In March 2011, Lynch began releasing previously unavailable tracks from the series and the film via his website.
Lynch and Frost went on a location scout to Washington, and a friend of Frost's recommended Snoqualmie Falls, just east of Seattle. They drove there and found all of the locations that they had written into the pilot episode. The towns of Snoqualmie and North Bend, Washington—which were the primary filming locations for stock Twin Peaks exterior footage—are about an hour's drive from the town of Roslyn, Washington, the town used for the series Northern Exposure. Many exterior scenes were filmed in wooded areas of Malibu, California.
A scene in the Northern Exposure first-season episode "The Russian Flu" was shot at Snoqualmie Falls, which was also featured in the opening titles sequence of Twin Peaks. The background behind the actors of Invitation to Love is not a studio set, but the interior of the Ennis House, an architectural landmark of Frank Lloyd Wright in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles.
On several occasions during the filming of Twin Peaks, Lynch incorporated improvisations or on-set accidents into the story.
One such incident involved the casting of set dresser Frank Silva as the mysterious "Bob," and his appearance in Laura Palmer's bedroom. Various versions of the story exist. Lynch himself recalls that the idea originated when he overheard Silva moving furniture around in the bedroom set, and then heard a woman warning Silva not to block himself in by moving furniture in front of the door. Lynch was struck with an image of Silva in the room. When he learned that Silva was an actor, he filmed two panning shots, one with Silva at the base of the bed, and one without; he did not yet know how he would use this material. Later that day, during the filming of Sarah Palmer having a vision, the camera operator told Lynch that the shot was ruined because "Frank [Silva] was reflected in the mirror." Lynch comments, "Things like this happen and make you start dreaming. And one thing leads to another, and if you let it, a whole other thing opens up." Lynch used the panning shot of Silva in the bedroom, and the shot featuring Silva's reflection, in the closing scenes of the European version of the pilot episode. Silva's reflection in the mirror can also be glimpsed during the scene of Sarah's vision at the end of the original pilot, but it is less clear. A close-up of Silva in the bedroom later became a significant image in episodes of the TV series.
During the filming of the scene in which Cooper first examines Laura's body, a malfunctioning fluorescent lamp above the table flickered constantly, but Lynch decided not to replace it, since he liked the disconcerting effect that it created. Also, during the take, one of the minor actors misheard a line and, thinking he was being asked his name, told Cooper his real name instead of saying his line, briefly throwing everyone off balance. Lynch was reportedly pleased with the lifelike, unscripted moment and kept the mistake in the final cut.
Another example is during the rock throwing in season one. When Kyle MacLachlan was directed to break the bottle, and then did so on the first take, Kimmy Robertson was unable to hide her glee and then cheered in joy.
Cooper's dream at the end of the third episode, which became a driving plot point in the series first season and ultimately held the key to the identity of Laura's murderer, was never scripted. The idea came to Lynch one afternoon after touching the side of a hot car left out in the sun: "I was leaning against a car—the front of me was leaning against this very warm car. My hands were on the roof and the metal was very hot. The Red Room scene leapt into my mind. 'Little Mike' was there, and he was speaking backwards... For the rest of the night I thought only about The Red Room." The footage was originally shot along with the pilot, to be used as the conclusion were it to be released as a feature film. When the series was picked up, Lynch decided to incorporate some of the footage; in the third episode, Cooper, narrating the dream, outlines the shot footage which Lynch did not incorporate, such as Mike shooting Bob and the fact that he is 25 years older when he meets Laura Palmer's spirit.
Invitation to Love
Invitation to Love is a fictional soap opera in Twin Peaks. It is seen briefly on TV screens in all seven episodes of the first season and was shot in the Ennis House. The show sometimes acts as a commentary on events unfolding in Twin Peaks itself, highlighting some of the more outlandish or melodramatic elements of the show. The most obvious example of this show-within-a-show commentary can be found when Maddy Ferguson, the near-identical cousin of Laura Palmer, first arrives in Twin Peaks. Just before Maddy first appears on the show, an episode of Invitation to Love is shown in which it is revealed that there are identical twin characters in Invitation to Love who are played by the same actress, much as Maddy and Laura Palmer are almost identical, and are both played by Sheryl Lee. It is also implied in the brief snippet of the show that is shown that Jade and Emerald, the two characters in Invitation to Love, are characters with very different personalities, much as sweet and innocent Maddy contrasts with the dark and secretive Laura in Twin Peaks. Series co-creator Frost directed all scenes for Invitation to Love.
Another example can be found in the final episode of the first season, when Leo Johnson is shot in a dramatic fashion, and a similar event is shown happening to the character of Montana in Invitation to Love. Lynch later reused the motif of a show-within-a-show in his film Inland Empire (2006), which incorporated a secondary series, Rabbits.
Before the two-hour pilot premiered on TV, a screening was held at the Museum of Broadcasting in Hollywood. Media analyst and advertising executive Paul Schulman said, "I don't think it has a chance of succeeding. It is not commercial, it is radically different from what we as viewers are accustomed to seeing, there's no one in the show to root for." Initially, the show's Thursday night time slot was not a good one for soap operas as both Dynasty and its short-lived spin-off The Colbys did poorly. Twin Peaks was also up against the hugely successful sitcom, Cheers.
Initially, the show received a positive response from TV critics. Tom Shales, in The Washington Post, wrote, "Twin Peaks disorients you in ways that small-screen productions seldom attempt. It's a pleasurable sensation, the floor dropping out and leaving one dangling." In The New York Times, John J. O'Connor wrote, "Twin Peaks is not a send-up of the form. Mr. Lynch clearly savors the standard ingredients...but then the director adds his own peculiar touches, small passing details that suddenly, and often hilariously, thrust the commonplace out of kilter." Entertainment Weekly gave the show an "A+" rating and Ken Tucker wrote, "Plot is irrelevant; moments are everything. Lynch and Frost have mastered a way to make a weekly series endlessly interesting." Time magazine said that it, "may be the most hauntingly original work ever done for American TV."
The two-hour pilot was the highest-rated movie for the 1989–90 season with a 22 rating and was viewed by 33% of the audience. In its first broadcast as a regular one-hour drama series, Twin Peaks scored ABC's highest ratings in four years in its 9:00 pm Thursday time period. The show also reduced NBC's Cheers's ratings. Twin Peaks had a 16.2 rating with each point equaling 921,000 homes with TVs. The episode also added new viewers because of what ABC's senior vice-president of research, Alan Wurtzel, called "the water cooler syndrome," in which people talk about the series the next day at work.
However, the third episode of the show that aired on the Thursday night time period lost 14% of the audience that had tuned in a week before. That audience had dropped 30% from the show's first appearance on Thursday night. This was as a result of competing against Cheers which appealed to the same demographic that watched Twin Peaks. A production executive from the show spoke of being frustrated with the network's scheduling of the show. "The show is being banged around on Thursday night. If ABC had put it on Wednesday night it could have built on its initial success. ABC has put the show at risk."
In response, the network aired the first season finale on a Wednesday night at 10:00 pm instead of its usual 9:00 pm Thursday slot. The show achieved its best ratings since its third week on the air with a 12.6 and a 22 share of the audience. (Each rating point in the A. C. Nielsen television survey represents 921,000 homes.) On May 22, 1990, it was announced that Twin Peaks would be renewed for a second season.
During the first and second season, the search for Laura Palmer's killer served as the engine for the plot, and caught the public's imagination, although the creators admitted this was largely a MacGuffin; each episode was really about the interactions between the townsfolk. The unique (and often bizarre) personalities of each citizen formed a web of minutiae which ran contrary to the quaint appearance of the town. Adding to the surreal atmosphere was the recurrence of Dale Cooper's dreams, in which the FBI agent is given clues to Laura's murder in a supernatural realm that may or may not be of his imagination. The first season contained only eight episodes (including the two-hour pilot episode), and was considered technically and artistically revolutionary for television at the time, and geared toward reaching the standards of film.
Critics have noted that Twin Peaks began the trend of accomplished cinematography now commonplace in today's television dramas. Lynch and Frost maintained tight control over the first season, handpicking all of the directors, with some that Lynch had known from his days at the American Film Institute (e.g., Caleb Deschanel and Tim Hunter) or referrals from those he knew personally. Lynch and Frost's control lessened in the second season, corresponding with what is generally regarded as a lessening of quality once the identity of Laura Palmer's murderer was revealed.
The above-mentioned 'water cooler effect' put pressure on the show's creators to solve the mystery. Although they claimed to have known from the series' inception the identity of Laura's murderer, Lynch never wanted to solve the murder, while Frost felt that they had an obligation to the audience to solve it and this created tension between the two men. However, viewers felt dissatisfied at the dénouement, feeling the solution was contrived.
Its ambitious style, paranormal undertones, and engaging murder mystery made Twin Peaks an unexpected hit. Its characters, particularly MacLachlan's Dale Cooper, were unorthodox for a supposed crime drama, as was Cooper's method of interpreting his dreams to solve the crime. During the run of its first season, the show's popularity reached its zenith, and elements of the program seeped into mainstream popular culture prompting parodies, including one in the 16th season premiere of Saturday Night Live, hosted by MacLachlan.
For its first season, Twin Peaks received fourteen nominations at the 42nd Primetime Emmy Awards, for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Kyle MacLachlan), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Piper Laurie), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Sherilyn Fenn), Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series (David Lynch), Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series (David Lynch and Mark Frost), Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series (Harley Peyton), Outstanding Art Direction for a Series, Outstanding Achievement in Main Title Theme Music, Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore), Outstanding Achievement in Music and Lyrics, and Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series. Out of its fourteen nominations, it won for Outstanding Costume Design for a Series and Outstanding Editing for a Series – Single Camera Production.
For its second season, it received four nominations at the 43rd Primetime Emmy Awards, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Kyle MacLachlan), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Piper Laurie), Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series, and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series.
At the 48th Golden Globe Awards, it won for Best TV Series – Drama, Kyle MacLachlan won for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series – Drama, Piper Laurie won for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV; while Sherilyn Fenn was nominated in the same category as Laurie.
In 2004 and 2007, Twin Peaks was ranked No. 20 and No. 24 on TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever, and in 2002, it was ranked as one of the "Top 50 Television Programs of All Time" by the same guide at No. 45. In 2007, UK broadcaster Channel 4 ranked Twin Peaks No. 9 on their list of the "50 Greatest TV Dramas". Also that year, Time included the show on their list of the "100 Best TV Shows of All-Time". Empire listed Twin Peaks as the 24th best TV show in their list of "The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time".
In 2012, Entertainment Weekly listed the show at No. 12 in the "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years", saying, "The show itself was only fitfully brilliant and ultimately unfulfilling, but the cult lives, fueled by nostalgia for the extraordinary pop phenomenon it inspired, for its significance to the medium (behold the big bang of auteur TV!), and for a sensuous strangeness that possesses you and never lets you go." In 2014, the series was honored with the TCA Heritage Award.
With the resolution of Twin Peaks' main drawing point (Laura Palmer's murder) in the middle of the second season, and with subsequent story lines becoming more obscure and drawn out, public interest began to wane, and interest in the program seemed over. This discontent, coupled with ABC changing its timeslot on a number of occasions, led to a huge drop in ratings after being one of the most-watched television programs in the United States in 1990. A week after the season's 15th episode placed 85th in the ratings out of 89 shows, ABC put Twin Peaks on indefinite hiatus, a move which usually leads to cancellation.
An organized letter-writing campaign, dubbed COOP (Citizens Opposed to the Offing of Peaks), started in an attempt to save the show from cancellation. The campaign was successful, and ABC agreed to air the remaining six episodes to finish the season. However, due to the Gulf War, Twin Peaks was taken off its usual time slot "for six weeks out of eight" in early 1991, according to Frost, preventing the show from maintaining audience interest. In the final episodes, Agent Cooper was given a love interest, Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham), to replace the intended story arc with Audrey Horne. According to Frost, a female cast member (Lara Flynn Boyle) who was romantically involved with Kyle MacLachlan at the time had effectively vetoed the Audrey-Cooper relationship, forcing the writers to come up with an alternative. Sherilyn Fenn supported this claim in 2014 interview, stating, "[Boyle] was mad that my character was getting more attention, so then Kyle started saying that his character shouldn’t be with my character because it doesn’t look good, ’cause I’m too young. ... I was not happy about it. It was stupid." The series finale did not sufficiently boost interest, despite being written to end on a deliberate audience-baiting cliffhanger, and the show was not renewed for a third season, leaving the new cliffhanger unresolved.
Lynch expressed his regret at having resolved the Laura Palmer murder, stating he and Frost had never intended for the series to answer the question and that doing so "killed the goose that laid the golden eggs". Lynch blames network pressure for the decision to resolve the Palmer storyline prematurely. Frost agreed, noting that people at the network had in fact wanted the killer to be revealed by the end of season one.
In 1993, cable channel Bravo acquired the license to rerun the entire series, which began airing in June 1993. These reruns included Lynch's addition of introductions to each episode by the Log Lady and her cryptic musings.
Looking back, Frost has admitted that he wished he and Lynch had "worked out a smoother transition" between storylines and that the Laura Palmer story was a "tough act to follow". Regarding the second season, Frost felt that "perhaps the storytelling wasn't quite as taut or as fraught with emotion".
2010 Psych reunion
In 2010, the television series Psych paid tribute to the series by reuniting some of the cast in the fifth-season episode, "Dual Spires". The episode's plot is an homage to the Twin Peaks pilot, where the characters of Psych investigate the death of a young girl in a small town called "Dual Spires". The episode also contains several references to the original show, including a special version of the theme song and similar music. Twin Peaks actors that guest star in the episode are Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, Robyn Lively, Lenny Von Dohlen, Catherine E. Coulson and Ray Wise. Prior to the airing of the episode, a special event at the Paley Center for Media was held where the actors from both shows discussed the episode.
Reviewers and fans of three seasons of Veena Sud's U.S. TV series, The Killing, have noted similarities and borrowed elements from Lynch's Fire Walk with Me and Twin Peaks, and compared and contrasted Sud and Lynch's works.
In 2014, Catherine E. Coulson reprised her role as the Log Lady in the Twin Peaks-themed music video for "Unknown Species" by garage rock duo Pretty Little Demons. The video was directed by Morgan Higby Night, and also featured Alison Mosshart. David Lynch's granddaughter Syd Lynch served as the make-up artist.
The popularity of Twin Peaks led to a merchandising industry; ranging from books and audio tapes of the series. In addition, there have been DVD and VHS releases of the series.
Home media releases
- Video releases
The pilot episode, first shown on TV in the U.S., was released on home video in Europe in 1989. The European version is 20 minutes longer than the TV pilot, with a different ending added to bring closure to the story. The Red Room dream sequence that ends episode two, where Cooper encounters the Man from Another Place and Laura Palmer, was originally shot for this film. Lynch was so happy with the material that he incorporated part of it into the second episode of the regular series (that is, the third episode shown in the U.S., including the pilot) as a dream Cooper has about the case (at the start of episode three, Cooper gives a scene-by-scene account of the European ending, including references to events seen only in the international pilot and not the dream-sequence version, such as MIKE shooting BOB). This version of the pilot was also offered by Warner Home Video in the United States, resulting in a rights-entanglement which prevented the broadcast version of the pilot being released for a number of years.
Additionally, a VHS box set of the entire series was released in April 1995 by World Vision home entertainment. All 29 episodes were contained on a six tape set.
- DVD releases
On December 18, 2001, the first season (episodes 1–7, minus the pilot) of Twin Peaks was released on DVD in Region 1 by Republic Pictures, which had an output deal through Artisan Entertainment, now part of Lions Gate Entertainment. The box set was noted for being the first TV show to have its audio track redone in DTS. The Region 1 release was heavily criticized for not including the key pilot episode, which could not be included due to the fact Lynch sold the rights to it to Warner Home Video in order to facilitate its video release in Europe. When the series was released on video in the U.S. (twice by Spelling Entertainment's Worldvision Home Video), the pilot episode was excluded both times. In turn, Warner Home Video released the pilot on video; however, it was actually the European version, and was labeled as having "bonus footage". The televised pilot episode is included in the UK (Region 2) DVD release from Universal Home Entertainment. A DVD collection of Season One was released in Australia (Region 4) by Paramount Pictures, in February 2003; like the Region 2 edition, this set includes the televised pilot episode. In 2006, Season Two was released by the same distributor in two parts (Collections 1 and 2). In addition, the entire series was released in Australia in a box set collector's edition.
The first season DVD box set is known to have production errors, which cause many DVD players to freeze. One known track glitch occurs during the opening credits of episode 2. Another glitch occurs fifteen minutes into episode 4, during Donna and Audrey's scene in the girls' high school restroom. The European DVD box set of season two has an audio flaw where in episode 12, the center and right channels have been flip-flopped. The release of Season Two was complicated by the sale of Spelling Entertainment (which included both Republic Pictures, and the predecessor company, Worldvision Enterprises, the series' former distributor)—and later the transition of video rights—to Paramount Pictures|Paramount/Viacom in 1998; and the 2006 split of Viacom into two separate companies; this saw the rights go to CBS Corporation/CBS Studios. Also, Lynch oversaw the transfer from video to DVD personally, but was delayed by the production of his new film, Inland Empire.
The first season was released on DVD by Artisan Entertainment, the video licensee for Republic, but Artisan/Lions Gate's rights expired in September 2005, and thus were transferred to Paramount. As a result of the 2006 corporate split of CBS and Viacom, CBS Studios (which ended up with Republic Pictures' and Spelling Entertainment's TV holdings) now owns the rights to the Twin Peaks series, with CBS Television Distribution handling syndication, and CBS Home Entertainment owning the DVD rights (although CBSHE releases are distributed by Paramount). The second season release was postponed several times, from September 2004, to early 2005, and then to September 2005, to early 2006. Season Two was finally released in the United States and Canada on April 3, 2007, via Paramount Home Entertainment/CBS DVD, which now acts as home video distributor. In Germany, Season Two was released in two parts on separate dates in April 2007. Part 1 went on general release on January 4, 2007, including the "broadcast" version of the pilot episode. North American rights to the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me film are owned by New Line Cinema, a division of Time Warner (which also owns Warner Bros.), and is available on video and DVD through New Line. In Canada, the DVD was distributed through Alliance Atlantis, which holds all Canadian rights to the New Line library.
On October 30, 2007, the broadcast version of the pilot finally received a legitimate U.S. release as part of the Twin Peaks "Definitive Gold Box Edition". This set includes both versions of the pilot. The Gold Box set also includes all episodes from both seasons, deleted scenes for both seasons, and a feature-length retrospective documentary. Entertainment Weekly gave the box set a "B+" rating and wrote, "There are numerous fascinatingly frank mini-docs here, including interviews with many Peaks participants; together, they offer one of the best available portraits of how a TV hit can go off the rails". The set was also released in most of Europe Region 2 (not including UK). The Definitive Gold Box Set was released in Australia on December 4, 2007. On March 22, 2010, both the second season DVD and the Definitive Gold Box Edition DVD were released in the UK. This is the only Spelling TV series to still be distributed on UK DVD by Playback/Universal after other series began to be released by Paramount in 2006.
In July 2013, it was revealed that a Blu-ray version of the complete series would be released. In January 2014, Lynch confirmed the Blu-ray release and that it would contain the pilot, season 1, season 2, and new special features, and possibly the film. It was announced on May 15, 2014, that the Blu-ray of the complete series of Twin Peaks and the film containing over 90 minutes of deleted scenes would be released on July 29, 2014.
Books and audio
During the show's second season, Pocket Books released three official tie-in books, each authored by the show's creators (or their family), which offer a wealth of backstory.
The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, written by Lynch's daughter Jennifer Lynch, is the diary as seen in the series and written by Laura, chronicling her thoughts from her twelfth birthday to the days leading up to her death. Frost's brother Scott wrote The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes. Kyle MacLachlan also recorded Diane: The Secret Tapes of Agent Dale Cooper, which combined audio tracks from various episodes of the series with newly recorded monologues. Twin Peaks: An Access Guide to the Town offers information about local history, flora, fauna, and culture of the fictitious town.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me can be viewed as both prologue and epilogue to the series. It tells of the investigation into the murder of Teresa Banks and the last seven days in the life of Laura Palmer. Most of the television cast returned for the film, with the notable exceptions of Lara Flynn Boyle, who declined to return as Laura's best friend Donna Hayward and was replaced by Moira Kelly, and Sherilyn Fenn due to scheduling conflicts. Also, Kyle MacLachlan returned reluctantly as he wanted to avoid typecasting, so his presence in the film is smaller than originally planned. Lynch originally shot about five hours of footage that was subsequently cut down to two hours and fourteen minutes. Most of the deleted scenes feature additional characters from the television series who ultimately did not appear in the finished film. Around ninety minutes of these scenes are included in the complete series Blu-ray that was released on July 29, 2014.
Fire Walk With Me was received poorly, especially in comparison to the series. It was greeted at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival with booing from the audience and has received mixed reviews by American critics. It grossed a total of USD $1.8 million in 691 theaters in its opening weekend and went on to gross a total of $4.1 million in North America.
In 2007, artist Matt Haley and Twin Peaks producer Bob Engels began work on a graphic novel continuation of the series, to be included in the "Complete Mystery" DVD box set. Haley stated: "Bob and I had a number of discussions about what the story would be, I was keen to use whatever notes they had for the proposed third season. I really wanted this to be a literal 'third season' of the show. Bob told me they really wanted to get away from the high school setting, so after the resolution of the Cooper-BOB-possession plot point, they would have cut to something like 'Ten Years Later', and then shown us a Twin Peaks where Cooper had quit the FBI and had become the town pharmacist, Sheriff Truman had become a recluse, etc. He also mentioned they were going to have Sheryl Lee come back yet again, this time as a redhead, and probably have her character killed by BOB again. There were also some vague ideas about BOB and Mike being from a planet made of creamed corn, something about Truman driving Mike backwards through the portal into the Black Lodge (which I think would have been a really nice cinematic scene)." Lynch vetoed the project, stating that he respected the effort but did not want to continue the story of Twin Peaks in any way.
In a 1995 Fangoria interview, Billy Zane confirmed that his character, John Justice Wheeler, figured in the third-season outline. "They were thinking that Audrey and I would have a baby at one point, which could have been fun".
In May 2013, cast member Ray Wise stated what Lynch had said to him regarding a possible reboot: "Well, Ray, you know, the town is still there. And I suppose it's possible that we could revisit it. Of course, you're already dead...but we could maybe work around that." It has also been reported that Netflix is interested in rebooting the show.
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