About Twin Peaks, David Lynch has his own memories of what happened in 1991, most of which he's keeping to himself, in his inimitable way. I have mine.
Around the time I started writing about television, along came Twin Peaks.
It was twaddle, some people said. They being used to Knight Rider and Full House. It was a work of genius, said others, utterly intrigued and bewildered. I remember some readers suggesting I write about it every week. This was before the Internet when, well, that seemed a little indulgent, if not impossible.
It stuck with everyone, though, that portrait of a fictional small town in the Pacific Northwest – somewhere near the Canadian border – from David Lynch and Mark Frost, with its mannered absurdism and fraught tone of menace, all of it intensely erotic. The body of Laura Palmer, homecoming queen, was found wrapped in plastic and FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) came to investigate. Earnest, blind to sarcasm and yet mystical, Cooper gripped the audience like no other character on TV.
And then it unfolded, the surreal fandango of the stock characters of American fiction (the high-school queens, the school teachers, waitresses and small-business owners) revealed as engaged in perverse sexual practices and up to no good on every possible level. There was the Log Lady who answered Cooper's questions with, "Ask the log."
Dreamlike and achingly slow, the series was beautiful and maddening. Eventually, release of its two seasons on videotape, then DVD and the mad chatter of the Internet, made it universally acknowledged as mind-blowingly original, the definition of landmark TV, and the precise point where the the current era of commandingly original, compellingly serious TV drama was anchored.
The news, announced in late 2014, that Lynch and Frost would return to the Twin Peaks universe and a make a new season of it, and for a premium-cable channel, Showtime, was stunning. Never mind the old American adage that you can't go home again. A new Twin Peaks made the mouth water.
A presentation about Twin Peaks, which will arrive in May of this year, was a hot ticket here at the TV critics media tour, and was being monitored around the world for clues about Lynch's revival of one of the most famous shows in TV history. We were told some actors from the show would speak but not give away plot specifics or character storylines. And then, to everyone's surprise, Lynch arrived to talk about it. In a very, very David Lynch manner.
Gnomic, vague, funny and as maddening as his creation, Lynch gave it a shot as only he can.
Asked first how he and Mark Frost divide the creative duties on Twin Peaks, Lynch spoke slowly and took us on a very Lynchian ramble.
"Well, in the beginning, many years ago, we were, Mark and I, as if lost in the wilderness, as it always is in the beginning, and then we seemed to find some mountain, and we begin to climb, and when we rounded the mountain, we entered a deep forest, and going through the forest for a time, the trees began to thin. And when we came out of the woods, we discovered this small town called Twin Peaks. And we got to know many of the people in Twin Peaks, and the people who visited Twin Peaks, and we discovered a mystery, and within this mystery were many other mysteries. And we discovered a world, and within this world, there were other worlds, and that's how it started, and that's what brought us here today. This story continues."
Righto. Earlier, Showtime boss David Nevins had said that the series – 18 hours, all directed by Lynch – would be about "the odyssey of FBI agent Dale Cooper's return to the mountainous town." Lynch was not giving away even that much.
He acknowledged that Mark Frost "contacted me many years ago and asked if I wanted to go back in that world. We met at Musso & Frank [an old-school grill in Hollywood] and talked, that's what got us going again for this one."
Asked why Twin Peaks had gone awry when it aired on ABC all those years ago, he said, "Who killed Laura Palmer was a question we really never wanted to answer. That Laura Palmer mystery was the goose that laid these little golden eggs. We were told to wrap that up, and it didn't get going on again after that."
Now, that's information. Stuck on network TV, obliged to turn out 22 episodes a season in the early nineties, Lynch was obviously frustrated by the demands of conventional TV and the audience. About the strange and much-analyzed prequel movie he made, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and how it connects to the new series, Lynch said simply, "It's very important."
On it went, this frustrating but hypnotic chat. Asked to reveal whom actress Laura Dern (who also appeared in his classic movie Blue Velvet) would play, Lynch thought for a minute and announced, "I like Laura Dern." Asked about the earlier remark by Nevins that the new Twin Peaks is "the pure heroin version of David Lynch," Lynch smiled slightly and said, "I hear heroin is a very popular drug these days."
Asked if he had any trepidation or doubts about returning to this Twin Peaks world, he replied, "Always we're filled with doubts." But, but, has his town of Twin Peaks evolved and changed? He thought long and said: "It's both the same and different. You go back 25 years in any town, it's that way."
And, you know, is he conscious of the huge interest and expectations for this revival? Lynch was sublimely calm but this was going too far. He smiled again and said, "I'm too in the middle of it. And I don't go out much. Um, thank you all very much and I hope you enjoy Twin Peaks. Thanks a million." And he left.
When Kyle MacLachlan arrived a minute later he said, ruefully, "You guys got a lot. You did really, really well. He must like you."
Well, we did like him. It was a vexatious chat for some reporters, but most of us understood – it was a trance-inducing encounter. Like Twin Peaks itself. Unusual, brilliant and spellbinding. The mouth waters even more.