Twin Peaks (1990–1991)
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Ben Horne is well developed; the Civil War stuff fails to amuse quite as it should, yet once he is rehabilitated, the change in his character is refreshing and nicely handled. Twin Peaks is a beautiful series aesthetically, from the wonderful titles sequence, Angelo Badalamenti's stunningly evocative music scores to some wonderfully innovative photography and direction - usually in those episodes helmed by Lynch. Got to say the female quota of Twin Peaks is ample, with the beauty of Madchen Amick, Sheryl Lee, Lara Flynn Boyle and especially Sherilyn Fenn, adding poignancy. General negative comments seem irrelevant considering the overall quality of the series, but it's true tricks were missed. With the characters they had, some more imaginative situations and wit wouldn't have gone amiss. The comic possibilities of having Jerry Horne and, say, Gordon Cole interacting were unfulfilled. Some of the characters were bland - the spotless Norma Jennings, James Hurley, Audrey's boyfriend in the later episodes - and some failed to really work - Nadine I feel added little to the series.
The very final episode is, I would say, as good a series ending as they could have come up with; tantalisingly placed, as the battle between the good and evil forces in Twin Peaks is hotting up. I declare that there are some brilliant images and directorial touches in that final one. There were however loose ends untied; what happened to Leo, Audrey and especially Ben Horne and Doc Hayward? A moot point is the absurdity of its ill-availabilty on video; I wouldn't have caught it if it weren't for the Sci-Fi Channel UK. Got to say though, that while harbouring some fantastical elements, Twin Peaks is assuredly far from the realm of Sci-Fi. It is, to be pointless categorical, like a surreal soap opera with a strong flavour of its own. There are so many great scenes, moments, lines and nuances, coupled with a magnificently dreamy, tenderly moving atmosphere when at its best, that I must say Twin Peaks ranks pretty much up there with the finest TV dramas of all - Edge of Darkness & The Singing Detective. Majestic it is. Rating:- ***** (out of *****)
Daring and provocative, it shattered the boundaries of most standard soap operas/TV dramas.
Terrified of it by a child (and in particular by BOB) I have since returned to it on DVD, only to find myself just as terrified and intrigued by it as I was when I was twelve years old and crouching behind my late grandmother's couch.
A piece of groundbreaking television history... WATCH IT
For starters, Agent Cooper is the single greatest character ever captured on film (go ahead, try and think of a better one). He's brilliant, genuinely caring, incredibly funny, exuberant to the nth degree, unbelievably likable, but also with a sordid past which haunts him. Nobody, but nobody, could have delivered the pie and coffee compliments with so much gusto.
However, he is just the brightest star in the sky. There are so many crazy, yet somehow believable characters that grace Lynch's universe. The swift descent of Ben Horn into madness is sad, pathetic, surreal and hilarious. No other series would have dared contain a man believing that he was General Lee commanding the south at Gettysburg (it also provides the funniest line from the show, when Audrey Horn is talking to his psychiatrist and he remarks that "What he (Ben Horn) needs now is our sympathy, understanding and a confederate victory."). All of the characters create a amazing tapestry where one is genuinely anticipating which character is going to lose it somehow (but one never anticipates correctly). In this reviewers opinion, the plot takes a backseat to the characters which are too strange, or too ordinary but never dull, to exist in any other show anywhere (minus James, who gets irritating right when he starts singing and never stops). Fantastic actors all around with more career launching cameos than any show or movie ever.
Sadly, the second season is not as good as the first, plot-wise, but still is as quirky and entertaining with an unbelievable ending to the series. Many have criticized the show for being excessively intellectual, but I never found the show pedantic or hopelessly cryptic. Rather, it seemed as though David Lynch just decided to employ every weird idea that popped into his febrile mind for the sheer joy of it.
To finish, one needs to watch this show. It's not uniformly brilliant and sometimes just plain weird, but always rewarding and truly one of the landmarks of American television. Go get a nice piece of cherry pie, a cup of coffee, take four days off work and start watching it.
Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, the series takes its name from a small American town where a grisly murder has been committed. The victim is local beauty Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), a girl who seemed to have a perfectly normal life, only it turns out that's not the case: she had a lot of secrets, and in one of them lies the key to finding her killer. That assignment is given to Special FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Lynch regular Kyle MacLachlan), who quickly earns the trust and friendship of Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) and the rest of Twin Peaks'inhabitants thanks to his extraordinary deductive methods and fascination for the calm and peace around him. And he is going to need all the help he can get, as Laura's murder is just one of the many odd things causing trouble in the heavenly surroundings: there's Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer) and his dangerous connection with a casino/brothel known as One-Eyed Jack's; there's his daughter Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn), whose interest in Agent Cooper might put her in a worse situation than she thinks; there's the dispute over the Packard sawmill between Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) and Josie Packard (Joan Chen); and there are the bizarre creatures who populate Cooper's dreams, people like The Man From Another Place (a backwards-talking dwarf, played by Michael J. Anderson) or the terrifying Bob (Frank Silva), suggesting that most of the events in Twin Peaks may not have a rational explanation.
Back in 1990, a series like this had never been done before, so its success was a little unexpected (sadly, ratings dropped during the second season, leading to the show's premature cancellation). Now it can be seen as an anticipation of that great TV creation that is HBO: the dead interacting with the living (Six Feet Under), ambiguous characters and even more ambiguous relationships between them (Deadwood), a consistent balance between moving and funny, beautiful and shocking (The Sopranos), the seeds of all those elements can be found in Twin Peaks, a show that didn't hesitate when it came to playing with the format or crossing the line in terms of mature content (death, drug abuse, rape) or on-screen violence (the ending of Episode 8, where one of the villains is shown at the peak of his abilities, is still one of the most audacious scenes ever shown on mainstream television). More than any other series, it represents the seamless merger of big and small screen, a fact that is underlined by Lynch's decision to further explore the story in a feature film after the last episode had aired. Fans of the visionary filmmaker will find plenty of his recurring themes, some a direct reference to his previous works (the ugliness lying underneath the apparent perfection, as seen in Blue Velvet), others a hint of things to come (the duality of Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, here embodied by Lee, who plays both the deceased Laura and her cousin).
As always with the Eraserhead director, the acting is exceptional: MacLachlan and Lee are the standouts, the former playing his best role to date, a cunning combination of palpable vulnerability and impeccable wit, the latter shining with a double performance that should have been the beginning of a great career (alas, apart from a minor role in John Carpenter's Vampires, she hasn't done much since). The supporting cast (Ontkean, Laurie, Lara Flynn Boyle and Ray Wise in particular) adds depth and emotion, making some episodes the most affecting ever seen on a TV screen. As for the guest stars, not all of them are well known, but every single one brings something special to the series: the most notable cameos include a then unknown Heather Graham, a pre-X-Files David Duchovny (a quite funny and ironic contrast to Fox Mulder) and Lynch himself as a half-deaf FBI Regional Chief (one of the show's best characters).
Those interested in American TV simply have to give Twin Peaks a look: it might be too weird or unsettling for some (but then again, that's always the case with Lynch's work), but it remains a landmark in contemporary television, and played a vital role in making the US small screen what it is today.
The first season of Twin Peaks is generally regarded as splendid, a magical, disturbing and moving recreation of a small community of us flawed and beautiful humans. The second season starts well but then chugs and splutters, the tires go flat in the middle episodes only to be pumped up and set back on the road going full-tilt only to crash into the wall of oblivion, not to be renewed for a third season.
It is amazing to me how obviously Lynch and his team dropped the ball after Laura Palmer's murderer was revealed. Once that was done the writers launch into the most sophomoric and tedious bilge about Ben Horne going cuckoo and reliving the Civil War in his office at The Great Northern Hotel, high school pep-rally stuff, and it killed the show dead. This sorry sub-plot was coupled with another one about the most uninteresting character in the series, pouty James Hurley and his Harley. I was tired of his James Dean imitation after episode one, but to be pummeled by two episodes about him and some rich bitch trying to frame him for murder is too much. The poor guy is too stupid for words, as Laura Palmer noted early on in her diary. These 4 middle episodes are pointless and hideously boring and were, I have no doubt, responsible for the loss of a substantial number of the loyal audience at the time. To add insult to injury we are also subjected to a new guest star in the form of the worst actor known to man, Billy Zane. This over-exposed, fatuous vanity-victim is brought in to relieve Audrey Horne of her virginity, then flies off in his private jet, piloted by his perfect self, to fight the ecology war in Brazil or something (burning tons of jet fuel in the process no doubt.) I was bored stiff by these three interminable, adolescent and totally non-Lynch-like sub-plots.
Things revive markedly as the writers got their heads together and made the wicked genius Windom Earl the centerpiece of the end of the season. We get to The Dark Lodge in the end. But this was truly The End as the show was canceled. I wanted to see The White Lodge where love triumphs over evil, as it is we are left with evil rampaging through Twin Peaks for eternity. I find that sad.
We'll never know how Agent Cooper deals with Bob residing in his head, or if Norma and Big Ed get married or if Ben was conked dead or just cuckoo (again) by Dr Hayward, or whether Audrey and Pete Martell were blown to jell-o in the bank vault or whether Leo's teeth hold out keeping the tarantulas at bay until Sheriff Truman and Andy come to his rescue and take him to the Home.
Why did David Lynch allow his 3/4 brilliant creation to dribble away like it did? Where was his commitment? I love his work but I will not forget how he left me in the lurch with the unfinished Twin Peaks, the short-lived prodigy of television, gone down in undeserved television ignominy.
What might have been if the commitment had been as strong as the initial vision. You're better'n that Dave. Dammit.
However, as I got more into the series, I found myself obsessively hooked. The series, in it's own ominous way, was extremely funny and there were so many great one liners ("that's a damn good cup of coffee") and the characters kept you second guessing. Though some characters were obviously villains, others had intentions that were often indistinguishable.
As I relentlessly watched the show over a three week period, I found myself laughing out loud and being disturbed at the same time. Ben Horne's meltdown is one of the funniest things I have ever seen in any TV series, I chuckle just thinking about it. Only David Lynch could think of something that was so eccentric and funny at the same time.
So in the end, I must say I found this show endlessly amusing. Almost every person on the show has their own idiosyncrasy, appearances by future stars like Heather Graham and David Duchovny injected humor and depth into the show, and heck, there was a sheriff named Harry S Truman, what else do you need?
I am glad to see the first season is on DVD, I can't wait until the rest is released. I wish this show had been on much longer but it is such a bizarre show that I can understand why mainstream America did not understand it. I wouldn't recommend this show to anyone that likes TV shows which are light-hearted or straightforward. Be warned, the final episode is completely bizarre, and not necessarily funny.
As a whole, the show has a very alien feel to it and may chase many people away, but if you understand David Lynch's warped sense of humor and can see the sheer lunacy of the show, you will find it endlessly entertaining.
This is a show that you know, as you are watching it, that it is special and destined to become a classic. What a wonderful memory. One of my favorite moments in the first episode is Andy crying, and later telling the girl not to tell the sheriff. It really brought humanity to Laura's death.
Can't wait to one day own the whole series on DVD, and one summer night, start watching the episodes one by one.
Another amazing aspect of the opening episode is the many types of characters and settings involved, just within the town of Twin Peaks. The school, the lodge, the sheriff office, the lake, the railroad tracks. It was almost as if several shows and genres were evident in one episode. Something for everyone. But it still tied together so amazingly.
And the highly praised end of the series, the final episode, is actually not as good as many say. It is so obvious that they ran out of ideas that the only option possible was to give a shocking and dark end just to make you think and leave the viewer with a sour feeling. However, it is not good enough, and it is not up to the high standards of the first part of the series. I also must say that I was quite disappointed at the sci-fi and paranormal stuff. The character of Bob, that evil spirit that takes over their hosts and commits murders is quite ridiculous. I find pitiful the constant use of a mirror in which we see the "diabolic face" of Bob laughing like a madman. That is not scary. That is just grotesque. Even Low budget horror movies have far more acceptable approaches and far more interesting characters. To know that Laura Palmer was actually killed by an evil spirit who is always behaving like a jester, buffoon or joker and laughing in mirrors (maybe scary for children, because it makes me laugh) is really very bad. We deserved another killer. We deserved a really scary killer, and not just a grotesque and playful demon who lacks ability to scare and convey fear. Bob is ridiculous. Bob lacks a convincing evil background, a personality, and a history. Bob is a very weak stunt, and a very poor attempt at trying to convey "something too scary to be fully explained". Bad. This being said, I would daresay that the series are too overrated. It is good television, it is a good show, and some parts of the first season have an outstanding quality. Indeed very good television and art in its purest form. However, they did not manage to develop properly the wonderful ideas they had, and the show lost quality at full speed.