Get ready to get weird: The ’90s cult TV series returns to Showtime on Sunday
That was the question posed at the very end of the 1991 series finale of “Twin Peaks,” the hit cult TV series that ushered in a new era of weirdness on television and helped pave the way for the landscape of Very Good Television we live in today.
“Twin Peaks,” the brainchild of demented visionary David Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost, rewrote the rules for TV and brought a filmmaker’s ambitions to the small screen. Its central mystery, “who killed Laura Palmer?” became pop culture shorthand to identify a certain brand of smart, cool TV viewer. “Twin Peaks” was a club, and everyone was invited. Business was booming.
Until it wasn’t. After its acclaimed first season, which debuted on ABC in April 1990, fatigue quickly set in. The quirks that were once the series’ hallmark — backwards talking little people, ominous giants — became tiresome. The show’s second season suffered from bloat, and the narrative took a plunge after the Laura Palmer mystery was solved. Viewers bailed, and the show was unceremoniously canceled and aired its final episode in June 1991.
But a dedicated core of followers kept “Twin Peaks” alive — through fanzines, websites, and re-releases on VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray — and on Sunday, “Twin Peaks” returns for an 18-episode revival on Showtime. Most of the principal cast is back, as are Lynch and Frost. And those who have been carrying a torch for the series will finally get an answer to the question that has bugged them for years: Just how is Annie?
“How’s Annie?” was a question asked by Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan), the FBI agent who was sent to the small Northwestern logging town of Twin Peaks to help solve the mystery of local prom queen Laura Palmer’s brutal murder. Coop was lured in by the town’s majestic trees (they were Douglas Firs), its sumptuous cherry pie and its damn fine coffee (both served at the Double R diner) and he decided to stay awhile.
But then he got trapped inside the mysterious Black Lodge, a nightmare nether realm, and his doppelganger — lets call him evil Dale Cooper — took over his body. It was that Cooper that was seen inquiring about the well being of Annie, Coop’s girlfriend (played by a young Heather Graham), through an evil cackle after bashing his head in a bathroom mirror as blood spilled down the front of his head.
Yes, it’s all quite confusing, but in the bizarro dream logic of “Twin Peaks,” it made sense. Besides, “Twin Peaks” wasn’t necessarily about narrative, it was about mood: Plot took a backseat to quirky characters, Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score, and the crazy, crazy world Lynch and Frost dreamed up for their homage to soap operas, small town secrets and American abnormality.
Its impact was felt through scores of imitators, some successful (“The Killing,” “Bates Motel” and “Fargo” all have a little “Twin Peaks” in their DNA), some not (“Wild Palms”). Lynch himself followed “Twin Peaks” with a film prequel, 1992’s “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me,” the angriest, loudest, most polarizing film in his oeuvre, which seemed to take perverse pride in answering none of the questions left over from the series.
Over the years, fans clamored for those answers, seeking out deleted scenes from “Fire Walk With Me” as if they were the holy grail. (When those deleted scenes finally arrived, as part of “Twin Peaks” Blue-Ray release in 2014, there were no answers, only more questions.) The world of “Twin Peaks” and its many mysteries seemed dead forever.
Then, as streaming culture made it possible to resurrect shows from the dead (see the “Full House” and “Gilmore Girls” revivals), hope was renewed for a return to “Twin Peaks.” When the relaunch was announced in 2014, it sent fans into a frenzy. Filming started a year later.
Sunday’s premiere on Showtime consists of two back-to-back episodes, which were not made available in advance for screening purposes. The buildup has been big, with the “Twin Peaks” cast filling magazine covers and the revival sparking renewed interest in the original series. How the new episodes will be received remains to be seen, especially since our rapturous, unforgiving culture has a tendency to chew things up, spit them out and move on to a new thing in record time.
But “Twin Peaks” is back, and for fans carrying a torch for the series for 25-plus years, that is enough. If Annie is anything like us, she is doing just fine.
9 p.m. Sunday