Film & TV

The Reboot of Twin Peaks: What it Means for the Show

Title Screen for the TV show Twin Peaks

“Dear Twitter Friends: That gum you like is going to come back in style! #damngoodcoffee.”
– This was the cryptic message tweeted by show creators Mark Frost and David Lynch on October 6th, revealing the cult classic Twin Peaks would be returning to us for a 9-episode season in 2016. Whether this reboot is a good idea or not remains TBC…

A television show that originally ran between 1990 and 1991, Twin Peaks is best described as a soap opera, detective story, and an exploration between curious small-town life and the underbelly of every seemingly normal society – all at once. It garnered immense popularity in an extremely short amount of time, cementing its place in pop culture. Many of us millennials first heard of it through baffling references on The Simpsons, but it was its run on streaming website Netflix in the US and its recent release on Blu-Ray that has served to renew its cult status for a whole new generation.  As such, a reboot may seem expected. However, the fire may prove difficult to rekindle in the upcoming third season.

The show revolves around the murder of Homecoming Queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) with protagonist Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle Maclachlan, now of Portlandia fame) embracing the secrets and mysteries surrounding it; accommodating all supernatural theories, visions and signs to solve the case in the most unorthodox ways – these included, but were not limited to, talking to a log for clues, using a bird as a key witness and heeding omens from a giant’s spectre during a formal FBI investigation. What made Twin Peaks successful was that viewers grew to appreciate the absurdity by embracing it as surrealism. This almost endearing quality can be largely attributed to the personality and highly stylistic choices of writer and director David Lynch. Horror, fear and dramatic performances bordering on humour can all co-exist in a strangely wonderful and functioning discordance in the films of Lynch (Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Eraserhead being the most exemplary), and translating this to the format of a television series created something truly special.

Character poster for Dale Cooper of Twin Peaks

The show was also groundbreaking for its highly stylised cinematography and a hauntingly thematic soundtrack – features attributed to film more so than weekly television serials – however, recent TV shows such as Breaking Bad and True Detective have made this once unique aspect quite standard. Whether or not Twin Peaks‘ third season will hold up in 2016, considering many of its quirks are now all but commonplace, will be interesting to see.

Many are not hopeful. Reboots tend to be, more often than not, disappointing simply for the fact that they’re ‘just not the same‘. A recent example would be the 2005 American cult classic Arrested Development; a series that began the handheld camera trend as seen in other comedies such as The Office, Parks and Recreation and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. After years of campaigning and support from loyal fans, the series returned in 2013 though was not universally well-received. The Rashomon effect of the new fourth season released on Netflix made it difficult to understand and perhaps detracted from some of the best self-referential jokes of the entire show (“hello darkness, my old friend”). That being said, the new series never claimed to be an attempt at revitalising the show, and really couldn’t have been all that bad with a fifth series and movie already planned. With other, significantly less successful reboots in recent years such as 2006’s The Twilight Zone – which lasted only one season – and 2008’s Knightrider – which we do not ever speak of – there remains but one question that must be begged before any show is brought back: is this reboot necessary?

A return to the town of Twin Peaks does seems to be long overdue. Once the killer of Laura Palmer was revealed in season two on the insistence of American TV network ABC, the show’s ratings dropped and it was subsequently cancelled. This led a frustrated writing team to end the series on so many cliff-hangers that it was almost a joke. Almost every character still involved in the main plotline was left in perilous and ambiguous situations – clearly a middle finger to the network that ended the show prematurely with little to no satisfactory conclusion. As such, the decision to reboot this show is not surprising and has always seemed eventual – its necessity is not disputed, however the upcoming season’s quality and content will be.

Photo of the cast of Twin Peaks during a scene.

The reboot is to be set 25 years on from the last events of the final episode where viewers will get to see how some of the most intriguing characters in television history are getting on in present day. Whilst this premise seems difficult to get wrong, there is also the loss of actors that portrayed the integral characters of Killer BOB (Frank Silva) and Pete Martell (Jack Nance) for writers Frost and Lynch deal with. Regardless of the forthcoming reboot’s quality, it is hoped that the third season of Twin Peaks will at least address some of the most burning unanswered questions since the last episode originally aired in 1991: what was the actual deal with the traffic light imagery? Why did the town look like it was still stuck in the 1950’s? And most importantly, how’s Annie?