Fans are so geeked about Showtime's coming revival of Twin Peaks that they turned a bare-bones promotional video into a viral hit. Co-creator David Lynch appears in a black suit and tie (seemingly reprising his role as FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole) wordlessly consuming a glazed doughnut while the show's distinctive, mournful theme plays in the background. The video has drawn more than 500,000 views.
That blend of mystery and weirdness helped make Twin Peaks a hit back in 1990, and it's made Showtime's revival one of the most anticipated new TV shows of 2017 — mostly because fans have no idea what the guy who made Eraserhead and Blue Velvet might do with the resources and creative freedom offered by a premium cable channel.
Lynch was already an Oscar-nominated director known for surreal, sometimes violent films when he and co-creator Mark Frost developed Twin Peaks. (Frost was a writer on NBC's pioneering cop drama Hill Street Blues, and had worked with Lynch on a movie about Marilyn Monroe that was never made.) Together, they cooked up a story about the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer in the fictional town of Twin Peaks, Wash. The FBI agent sent to investigate the case was Kyle MacLachlan's Dale Cooper, a clean cut guy with an odd enthusiasm for trees, cherry pie and good coffee. Cooper constantly recorded detailed notes on just about everything for an unseen assistant named Diane.
What followed was a series that redefined the boundaries of television. It mashed up genres, moving from a noir-ish murder mystery to a surreal, dreamlike supernatural story. It revealed the seedy, sometimes absurd underbelly of a placid, rural town long before Fargo would take that story to another level. And it sparked legions of fans obsessed with the show's weird details, like the Log Lady, a woman who seemed to communicate with supernatural forces through a log she carried around.
And now Lynch and Frost want to try it again.
Showtime's revival features MacLachlan and much of the series' original cast, including Sherilyn Fenn, Ray Wise and David Duchovny. And yes, the Log Lady, aka Catherine E. Coulson, also appears on the cast list, though the actress died late last year. They're joined by new names like Michael Cera, Amanda Seyfried, Trent Reznor and Naomi Watts. Lara Flynn Boyle, who played Laura Palmer's best friend in the original series, isn't on Showtime's new cast list and neither is Heather Graham, who played Cooper's love interest. In a press release, Showtime says Lynch will direct every episode of the new Twin Peaks, which picks up 25 years after Palmer was killed.
One clue about the revival's plot may come from Mark Frost's new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks. The book depicts documents contained in a dossier with loads of information connected to Cooper's investigation. Readers leafing through the pages see FBI memos, old photographs, newspaper clippings, fictional lost letters from legendary explorers Lewis and Clark, and much more, annotated with observations by a new agent attempting to determine who compiled all this stuff. Like Twin Peaks itself, the book creates an oddball world fans are encouraged to immerse themselves in. The mystery is mostly an excuse the savor the strange environment and its exquisitely crafted details.
A look back at the old series (Amazon offers the program via streaming to Prime members and Showtime gave subscribers access on Dec. 26) reveals a lot that doesn't hold up well. Twin Peaks is very clearly the bridge between the more workmanlike television shows of the 1970s and '80s and the more filmic small screen work done today. Its nods to soap opera sometimes led to clunky scenes with awkward acting, and the show's look wasn't always as grand as its ambitions.
Still, Twin Peaks is filled with iconic moments that continue to resonate with fans today, and it influenced shows as different as AMC's The Killing and A&E's Bates Motel. The question now is: How will Lynch and Frost surprise fans with a new story at a time when so much of today's high quality television already feels like a distant homage to Twin Peaks?
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
All right, one of the most anticipated television shows of 2017 is Showtime's revival of "Twin Peaks." NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says the new show's biggest challenge may be surpassing its own groundbreaking history.
(SOUNDBITE OF JULEE CRUISE SONG, "FALLING")
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: There is so little information available about the plot of Showtime's "Twin Peaks" revival that one promo just features co-creator David Lynch eating a donut. He's dressed like a character he played from the show, FBI Bureau Chief Gordon Cole, while the series' mournful theme music plays in the background.
(SOUNDBITE OF JULEE CRUISE SONG, "FALLING")
DEGGANS: Fans would expect no less from Lynch, an eccentric Oscar-nominated director known for staying tight-lipped about his projects. He created "Twin Peaks" for ABC back in 1990 with Mark Frost, a writer for NBC's pioneering cop drama "Hill Street Blues." The story began with the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer in the fictional town of Twin Peaks, Wash. The FBI agent sent to investigate the case was Kyle MacLachlan's Dale Cooper, a guy who liked to read detailed notes on just about everything into a tape recorder for an assistant named Diane.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWIN PEAKS")
KYLE MACLACHLAN: (As Special Agent Dale Cooper) Diane, 11:30 a.m., February 24. Entering the town of Twin Peaks. It's 5 miles south of the Canadian border, 12 miles west of the state line. Never seen so many trees in my life.
DEGGANS: What followed was a series that redefined the boundaries of television. It mashed up genres, moving from an noirish (ph) murder mystery to a surreal dream-like supernatural story. And it sparked legions of fans obsessed with the show's weird details, like the Log Lady, a woman who seemed to communicate with supernatural forces through a log she carried around. And now they want to try doing it again. Showtime's revival features MacLachlan, along with much of the series' original cast.
Clues about the revival's plot may be found in a new book by Frost called "The Secret History of Twin Peaks." It features a dossier filled with documents connected to Cooper's investigation that another FBI agent must sort through to figure out who assembled them.
In the original "Twin Peaks," Lynch and Frost created an odd, surprising universe fans can immerse themselves in, a bold move for 1990s television. Later TV shows and films like "Fargo" and "The X-Files" took that approach to new levels. The question now is how will Lynch and Frost keep surprising fans at a time when so much of today's quality TV already feels like a distant homage to "Twin Peaks"? I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.