It happens every TV season now like clockwork: some cryptic new drama bills itself as being like Twin Peaks. This year, according to its writer Robert Aguirre-Sacasa, it was Riverdale, The CW’s dark Archie reboot. Last year, it was FX comedy Atlanta, which creator Donald Glover touted as “Twin Peaks with rappers.” The list goes on: Wayward Pines, Bates Motel, The Killing, Stranger Things — all marketed, in varying ways, as being Twin Peak-y. The show was cancelled in 1991, but “like Twin Peaks” remains industry shorthand for “strange, boundary-pushing TV.”( Read more... )
But Twin Peaks’ greatest legacy? It gave TV permission to be weird. The standard narrative arc was eschewed for an auteur’s singular vision: one full of idiosyncratic character studies, a labyrinthine plot, and dialogue juxtaposing the humdrum with the haunting. Never before — and really, never since — had a TV show challenged this many people to such a WTF-worthy extent. Twin Peaks was more about steeping viewers in a Lynchian underworld than solving a murder. Of course, once it became clear closure wasn’t coming, audiences began losing patience. Nervous ABC execs insisted Laura’s murderer be revealed midway through the second season. By then, a disenchanted Lynch and Frost were focusing on other projects, only peripherally involved with Twin Peaks. The show was canned (with a chilling finale directed by Lynch). Soon after, however, other dramas would ape the “supernatural mystery” formula (see: Wild Palms, Eerie, Indiana, The X-Files). We’ve seen countless more shows since centred on uncanny, out-there visions, from Lost to The OA. All have either pilfered from Twin Peaks directly, or were encouraged by what it proved: that TV could be peculiar, ambitious, and radically unique. Well, to an extent — audiences still expect loose ends to be tied. (Stranger Things’ writers promised there’d be “justice for Barb” in Season 2 due to Internet rage over the matter.)
Which is why now, given a carte blanche to realize their vision, Lynch and Frost are about to reintroduce us to a world still unlike anything out there. Sure, we’ve got weird shows today, but they’ll never be this unhinged, this disturbing, this blasé about viewers’ desires. That all makes for damn fine TV. Drink it up.