Monday, October 6, 2014

That gum you like is going to come back in style, thanks to Showtime's Twin Peaks revival

I'm glad David Lynch and Mark Frost's recently confirmed Showtime revival of Twin Peaks--an extremely influential show with many classic Angelo Badalamenti score cues that you can vibe out to during "AFOS Prime" on AFOS--won't be another goddamn prequel or origin story. I was never really a Twin Peaks fan, but as a kid who saw all of the first season and was only interested in the second one when it revealed Laura Palmer's killer, I had crushes on Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne and Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson, and I loved both Badalamenti's score music and the character of Agent Cooper, who, as the A.V. Club's Zack Handlen once tweeted, "is a great example of how to create an idiosyncratic genius without making him a misanthropic ass," in what I assume to be a jab at how tiresome the abrasive and self-destructive lead characters on House and Sherlock became after a few seasons.

Audrey goes undercover and poses as an extra on the set of a low-budget Hammer vampire movie.
(Photo source: Idle Fascination)
Kyle MacLachlan's eccentric and perpetually enthusiastic Cooper ("Damn good coffee") was, like Jeff Goldblum's Zack Nichols on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a great detective character on a show that I wish had been as terrifically written as its lead was (let's face it: Twin Peaks was kind of boring outside of Cooper, the weirdos at the police station, the Palmers and Audrey--I never gave a shit about the Dallas-esque sawmill and hotel stuff, and I don't think Lynch ever did either, kind of like how True Detective season 1's Carcosa cult conspiracy seemed superfluous to Nic Pizzolatto, who, judging from interviews, appeared to be more invested in working on the philosophical and character study sides of his show than its procedural side). Cooper, who, outside of the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me prequel, was last seen being possessed by the evil spirit known as Bob, was such a defining role for MacLachlan that almost every character he's played since Twin Peaks has wound up channeling Cooper's weirdness, whether it's "the Captain" on How I Met Your Mother or the mayor on Portlandia.

You see Cooper everywhere on procedurals these days--on one of my current favorite shows, Sleepy Hollow, Tom Mison's Ichabod Crane is basically Cooper as an easily irritable 18th-century polymath--but back in 1990, MacLachlan's character was a breath of fresh air. He was a heroic detective imbued with several quirks that made him more interesting than the average pre-1990 FBI agent protagonist (I don't think Diane, the supposed secretary he addresses in his tape recordings, even exists), but he wasn't '70s and '80s network TV detective quirky, like Kojak (he loves his lollipops!), Baretta (he has a cockatoo!), Crockett (he has an alligator!) and Jessica Fletcher (she's old!).

Instead of being quirky in the cutesy and gimmicky ways pre-1990 network TV preferred the likes of Kojak, Baretta, Crockett and the serial killer who went by the name of Jessica Fletcher to be, Cooper was David Lynch quirky, which meant he, like Audrey, the Log Lady and a few other characters on Twin Peaks, was from some other fucking planet that speaks in a language only Lynch understands. That's why the world, which had grown bored with the cutesiness and blandness of American network TV at the time, became so taken with Cooper and Twin Peaks, although for only a brief time.

Nadine doesn't care for the drapes at Laura Palmer's funeral.

If ABC hadn't interfered so much in Twin Peaks' much-maligned second season and Lynch and Frost were allowed to handle the show's central mystery their way (Lynch wanted Laura's killer to remain unidentified), like how HBO and FX were more willing to roll the dice with the limited series format and let Pizzolatto and Noah Hawley, respectively, do whatever they wanted to do with the storylines on True Detective and Fargo, maybe Twin Peaks would have been a masterpiece instead of a near-masterpiece with one classic season and one season that was all over the map. It's partly why Lynch's 2001 cult favorite Mulholland Dr.--which was originally supposed to be a Twin Peaks spinoff about Audrey in Hollywood and contains the weirdest and cleverest recycling of footage from an unsold TV pilot outside of the original Star Trek's transformation of a failed pilot into a courtroom story--stands the test of time for me better than Twin Peaks does: because it ended the way Lynch wanted it to end.

Showtime isn't the timid and prudish network that ABC was when Lynch and Frost made Twin Peaks, but its network execs also ruined Dexter (they wouldn't let the show kill off Dexter) and Homeland (they were responsible for Brody outliving his usefulness), so their history of tinkering with their scripted programming is the one thing that makes me skeptical about the nine final Twin Peaks episodes that are being planned for Showtime. They'll probably turn Cooper into a lumberjack or something.

Stephen King's Sometimes My Arms Bend Back

Selections from Twin Peaks' first-season and second-season score albums can currently be heard during "AFOS Prime" on AFOS.

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