Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): TV Countdown - Twin Peaks

Thursday, September 28, 2017

TV Countdown - Twin Peaks

Yesterday's essay on all three seasons of Twin Peaks - one of the longest pieces I've ever written - represented several opportunities for me. First of all, it's always a pleasure to take part in Sam Juliano's "genre" countdowns on Wonders in the Dark - the site whose journey has been most intertwined with my own for nearly a decade now. This is, I believe, the tenth such countdown since the exercise began in 2010, with some authored all by one writer but most featuring dozens of different contributors. I've participated in five of these: the Musical Countdown (a visual tribute to The Gay Divorcee featuring Arlene Croce's descriptions, a video essay and written essay for 42nd Street, and a written essay on An American in Paris), the Comedy Countdown (a video essay featuring multiple critical perspectives on Modern Times), the Western Countdown (a written essay on several versions of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid - make sure to read the extensive comment by Paul Seydor, who edited one of those versions), the Romance Countdown (a video essay on different genres featured in Lady and the Tramp, and a written essay on the TV and film versions of Marty), and now the TV countdown - the first to expand its scope beyond just a film genre into an entire medium (the entries included everything from game shows to prestige miniseries - where else could you find the avant-garde, Brechtian seven-hour opus Our Hitler: A Film from Germany literally back-to-back with The Flintstones?!!)

That said, the opportunity also provided a chance to reach a milestone with another long-running companion of this site: Twin Peaks. Back in 2014, when The Missing Pieces (deleted scenes from the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me) looked like they would place the final punctuation (probably a question mark, naturally) on the Twin Peaks cycle, I hoped to write a lengthy, comprehensive essay covering the entire series from pilot to feature film. This project eventually evolved into my Journey Through Twin Peaks series, but putting the show into words remained unrealized until now. I didn't plan to write this much, but the final result clocks in at over 11,000 words (approximately 22 pages) and is about as comprehensive as I could manage - though undoubtedly many (including me) will look back and say "But what about..." The big "missing piece" is the feature film, my favorite part of Twin Peaks but beyond the purview of a "TV countdown" (though inevitably the subject emerges anyway in several paragraphs). However, the Criterion Collection release of that film is imminent and I'll probably write something new and in-depth on Fire Walk With Me for that event; taken together, this essay and that will probably represent my most concentrated yet comprehensive written analysis of Twin Peaks.

And that brings me to the final key opportunity - Twin Peaks' high placement on this poll (it comes it at #2, just below The Twilight Zone) meant that it was delayed until just a few weeks after the third season finale. Hence, aside from scattered thoughts on Twitter and other forums - and very immediate reactions contained within a review focused on Parts 17 and 18 - this gives me my first real opportunity to grapple with the new material as a whole. I hope you enjoy the results - and please feel free to join the conversation on Wonders, which always fosters a lively discussion.

I've placed the introduction here and then you can follow the link to read the rest on Wonders (I'll archive it here eventually too, but not for a while).

Twin Peaks is not a TV show.” You’ve probably heard this refrain before, perhaps moderated to “Twin Peaks is not normal television,” or, more generously to the medium, “Twin Peaks changed TV forever.” However phrased, the essence remains the same: Twin Peaks still stands out boldly from the rest of the televisual landscape, twenty-seven years after its debut on the ABC network immediately following America’s Funniest Home Videos. As if to cement this iconic status, when the series returned for an eighteen-hour limited run this summer (dubbed by Showtime’s marketing department as Twin Peaks: The Return although filmmaker David Lynch, co-creator with author/TV writer Mark Frost, simply calls it the third season) this transgressive reputation persisted. Even against the tighter competition of “Prestige TV,” critics were dazzled by its revolutionary nature, especially the (literal and figurative) atomic blast of Part 8, which could almost have been a program of standalone avant-garde Lynch shorts. Yet the story of Twin Peaks is – like everything else in Twin Peaks – a dual narrative, embedded at once in the world of surrealist cinema (and Lynch’s own private universe) as well as TV conventions it embraced, wrestled with, and frequently overthrew.

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