David Lynch’s bizarre series ‘Twin Peaks’ is the latest to get the revival treatment, but these experiments rarely work out well
“Twin Peaks” is heading back to television. But can we ever really go back to “Twin Peaks”?
Creators David Lynch and Mark Frost made the announcement earlier this week that their surreal soap opera is heading back to the small screen in 2016. Showtime will air nine new “Twin Peaks” episodes on what will be the 25th anniversary of the show, which ran for two seasons on ABC in 1990-91.
Fans are rightly excited. But we’ve been here before, and these things rarely work out. It’s only a matter of time — probably an episode or two into the series — when the cries of, “They should have left it alone!” will ring out.
Our culture doesn’t allow for happy endings. Just ask “Arrested Development,” which went through this same cycle last year. The sitcom aired for three seasons on Fox between 2003 and 2006 and was largely seen as perfect in the eyes of fans. Then, when after years of clamoring from the show’s fan base, it was finally brought back by Netflix for a fourth season, the new episodes were met with shrugs, the series’ perfection sullied by the desire to go back and recapture its former greatness.
Same thing happened with “Star Wars.” And “The Godfather.” And this summer with OutKast. We want to remember our favorite artists and works as they were, through the amber haze of nostalgia. That is why Jimi Hendrix, the Notorious B.I.G. and Heath Ledger remain immortal, because they’re not around to muck up their own legacy.
Harvey Dent had it right: You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. (Dave Chappelle, with his refusal to bring back “Chappelle’s Show,” is one of the few who have figured this out.)
The case of “Twin Peaks” is interesting, however. The show had (and still has) a feverish cult following, and the roots of our current Golden Age of Television can be traced back to the bizarre drama. But what began as a genuine cultural phenomenon — the pilot episode drew a crazed 34.6 million viewers — ended with a whimper; it was canceled after its maligned second season, with viewership dwindling to around 10 million per episode. Its follow-up movie, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me,” found writer/director Lynch taking a flamethrower to everything that was once pleasurable about the series; it opened to a paltry $1.8 million and was out-grossed its opening weekend by “A League of Their Own,” then in its ninth week in theaters.
So why is “Twin Peaks” back? There are some still-dangling story threads (did Special Agent Dale Cooper ever escape the Black Lodge?), and Lynch — who hasn’t directed a feature film since the insane-even-for-him “Inland Empire” in 2006 — probably relishes a return to his fictional Northwestern town. He’ll direct all nine episodes of the series, which should return some quality control to the series, and allow him to tie a bow around one of his most beloved creations.
But he’s got his work cut out for him. They say you can’t go home again, even if that home is full of cherry pie and damn fine coffee.