Sunday, April 5, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The TV That Shaped Me (Part 3)

Twin Peaks (1990-1991, 2017)

Number 3 (chronologically) in my "Ten 10 Shows That Shaped Me" is probably my favourite TV series of all time. One that has had a massive impact on me, and continues to be an inspiration and influence on me to this day.

Twin Peaks.

After I'd left school and had started work at the archaeology unit, I spent my weekends watching a lot of movies. The local video stores had very cheap rentals, and I remember most weekends were spent with seven or eight movies out for a weekend of intense movie watching. I'd watch everything, from action, to horror, to detective movies, to arthouse. When something new came in, I'd give it a go.

I'd already experienced the wonders of David Lynch, having watched Eraserhead, Dune, and the amazing Blue Velvet, so when a fairly non-descript video surfaced at the video store for a weird little movie called Twin Peaks, and the back cover said it was "from the director of Blue Velvet" I thought I'd give it a go.

It was cool, and very strange. Like a soap opera with a murder mystery, but the camera seemed to linger too long on some scenes - especially the scenes of emotional grief - that it started to make you feel strangely uncomfortable.

Just when you're feeling confused at this town of characters, along comes FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, the Kyle MacLachlan that I'd recognised from Dune and Blue Velvet. This weirdly perky FBI agent, with an interest in the trees and coffee, with his almost Dudley Do-Right naiveté, really appealed to me.

And the weird just kept coming. The killer Bob, Mike the one-armed man, and weird goings on in the basement. I was kinda entranced and confused. But it came to a logical conclusion with this weird killer meeting his end. And then, there was an extra bit. A strange red room - the dead girl, Laura Palmer, was there. A small dancing man. All filmed backwards.

What the hell?

Months went by, and the Radio Times features Twin Peaks on the cover announcing that the cult US TV series was coming to the UK. Wait. There's a TV series? Of that weird movie I watched ages ago?

Well, that makes a lot more sense. Or does it?

Tuesday, 23rd October 1990, and BBC2 airs the 90min first episode of Twin Peaks. I'd seen it before with that movie, but the weirdness at the end, and the resolution to Bob was gone. I recorded it on my VHS machine, and eagerly awaited the next episode.

The following week, the story unfolded. But it wouldn't be until the week after that the strange scene in the red room appeared. By this time I was absolutely hooked.

I love movies and TV series where I don't know what's going to happen. While I can enjoy most things, if I can't see what's coming and it really takes me by surprise, I enjoy it so much more. And that's how it was with Twin Peaks. Every week I had no idea where it was going to go. My desire to be the cocky-charmer that David Addison was in Moonlighting had long been forgotten. Now, all I wanted to be was Dale Cooper. He was smart, inquisitive, and had an upstanding set of morals. What a legend.

I really was obsessed at this point. I bought the book (The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer) for clues to what was going on. I bought the awesome soundtrack. And by the time season two was airing, with its mind-blowing feature length opening episode, with the arrival of the Giant (or should that be, "The Fireman"?)... I was loving every second.

By the time I was back in education and on my BTEC, and one of the major projects was to create something graphically to explain something. Most people went for something normal like, how to fold a paper aeroplane. Me? Hell, no. I went for a massive graphic to try to explain who's who in Twin Peaks.

My BTEC project trying to map the relationships in Twin Peaks
Anyway, season 2 faltered a little when the studios insisted that Laura Palmer's killer should be revealed. David Lynch and Mark Frost's vision was more looking at the effect a young girl's death would have on a small town, and the revelations of her secret life - the moment they revealed and resolved the murder the series lost its way a little.

It quickly tried to bring in a new villain in the shape of Windom Earle, who has come to enact revenge upon Dale Cooper, while building up the weird mythology of the Black and White Lodges. I still loved it, and was gripped to the very last, agonising cliffhanger - "How's Annie?"

Oh my god. So good...

But that was it. It was over. I remained obsessed. I still wanted more, but there was little besides reading issues of Wrapped in Plastic and analysing (and over-analysing) the episodes over and over again.

There was the movie - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) which offered little resolution short of a weird dream sequence line - "The good Dale is in the Lodge and cannot leave". However, it introduced some new excellent characters - FBI Special Agents Chester Desmond and Sam Stanley - who I'd love to see more of. Instead of a sequel we were given the FBI's investigation into the Teresa Banks murder, in Deer Meadow, Washington, prior to the Twin Peaks series, and the events that lead up to Laura Palmer's murder. It was dark, horrific, and even more unsettling than the series. But it didn't do brilliantly in the box office, and Twin Peaks was, as Lynch said, "dead as a doornail."

I still loved the series, rewatched it a couple of times, and always wanted more.

Then, on the 3rd October 2014... over twenty years after Twin Peaks ended... David Lynch and Mark Frost simultaneously tweeted: "Dear Twitter Friends: That gum you like is going to come back in style! #damngoodcoffee"

Twin Peaks was back. Eighteen hours of what would become known as Twin Peaks: The Return. A direct continuation, set in the present day, looking at what has happened to the characters in the years that have passed and hopefully answering the questions that had bugged fans like me for years.

What we actually got was one 18-hour movie split into sections, punctuated by cool musical performances at the Roadhouse bar (including Nine Inch Nails, how could it go wrong). The agent Cooper we loved was gone, split into two - Dougie Jones, a child-like and confused replica inhabiting the life and body of a gambling and philandering insurance agent, and Mr C, the evil doppelgänger of agent Cooper.

There were strange moments that even the hardened Peaks fans would find weird, and then there was Episode 8. David Lynch does arthouse cinema on TV. After progressing the story a little, with Mr C almost meeting his end, we have the aforementioned performance by Nine Inch Nails, and then a flashback to the first atomic bomb test, unleashing the seed of Bob onto the world - ten minutes of weird flashing images, experimental film, and madness. After that, we have a weird black and white sequence of dirty people attacking a radio station, and the inhabitants of the White Lodge seeding Laura Palmer's existence with a strange frog-bug-thing.

The whole thing is beautiful, horrific, mesmerising, and above all, free. Every time I doubt what I'm doing. Every time I think "No one will like this, why should I bother" I think of Episode 8 of The Return. Did David Lynch think "Maybe this is too weird, I should make this more commercial"? No. He went with what he wanted to make.

By the end of The Return we'd had a sort-of reset of the Twin Peaks story, with a potential for going off and doing something new, with slightly different / alternate versions of the characters.

It's genius, but ends with another cliff hanger that has you wonder not only "What Year is this?" but also if we'll ever get a resolution/continuation.

I just hope I don't have to wait another 25 years to find out.

Stay Safe, have pie.

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