TWIN PEAKS and The Changing State Of Television

David Lynch’s sublime soap opera TWIN PEAKS returns tonight. Giving all of us original fans hope that we’ll finally get an answer to the question we’ve been wondering about for 25 years now.

I was a Twin Peaks fan since the beginning, I remember watching the premier and being entranced. That first season was incredible (and it was my introduction to the works of David Lynch). I bought a lot of the promotional material. The Laura Palmer diary, the Agent Dale Cooper tapes and his autobiography, and the Twin Peaks travel guide. I came back for season two, and stuck around until the end, despite all the delays and constant re-scheduling. I’d agree that the show lost track once the original mystery of Who Killed Laura Palmer? was solved, and it started to become weird for the sake of being weird (at least that’s how it felt to me). Nevertheless, when the theatrical prequel, TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME came out a year later, I dragged my non-fan girlfriend at the time to the movies to see it with me that opening weekend (the poor girl was bored out of her mind).

As I type this, the opening episodes (the first two, of 18 episodes, airing back to back tonight) of the new season are still a few hours away, I’ll be scheduling this to post right before it begins, so I can’t judge it now. But I have high hopes for it.

But what I really find interesting is seeing how dramatically television has changed since the original series ended, and how those changes have made this possible. Twin Peaks is just the latest in what feels like a long line of TV series from the 80’s and 90’s that have resurfaced, as continuations or reboots, in the 2000’s (with varying degrees of success). From Full House, to X-Files, to Gilmore Girls, Dallas, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Boy Meets World, MacGyver, and many others I’m just not thinking of at the moment. Even a mid-level sitcom like COACH was close to returning, and there were talks of continuations of Married With Children and A Different World (the later likely being kiboshed due to the Bill Cosby scandal). And we still have shows like Will & Grace, Roseanne, and Dynasty due for comebacks soon. It’s a incredible.

Yes, I know a lot of folks will probably just dismiss this trend as further examples of Hollywood’s increasing lack of originality, such as motion pictures’ reliance on sequels, remakes and franchises. And that’s undoubtedly part of that. But I also think it’s similar to what I’ve said about the so-called comic-book movie boom. You have a lot of these kids who used to read comic-books 40 years ago, now all grown up and having become filmmakers, and they’re inspired to make the movies about their favorite superheroes that they always wanted to see.

Seriously, you can check it. Bryan Singer, Joss Whedon, Jon Favreau, Zack Synder, they’re all early 50’s. Sam Raimi’s 57. The Russo Brothers are early 40’s. Patty Jenkins is 45. I believe most of the other superhero movie directors fall in the same age-range. They’re all the same generation. So you can imagine them all reading comics back in the early 80’s. And now they get to make those movies.

It looks like the same thing is happening with TV. 80’s and 90’s kids have grown up and are working in Television, and now try to bring back their favorite shows from their childhoods. Although in some cases, some of these shows that come back aren’t even that old. Heroes, Prison Break, 24…you don’t have to wait a decade or two to propose bringing back a canceled TV show.

But, like I said, TV has changed. The explosion of cable TV and rise of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have created multiple new platforms that just didn’t exist back in the 90’s and earlier. These channels and services need content. So now even if the original network of a show isn’t interested in bringing it back, you can take that show to somewhere else, as we’re seeing with TWIN PEAKS, originally on ABC, returning on Showtime.

But even broadcast networks are more flexible in their schedules. Everything does not have to be that standard 22-24 episode season, running from fall to spring anymore. Now, like with cable channels, they often break up their seasons in two, having a “fall finale”, with a cliffhanger, which goes off the air for a few months until it returns to finish out the season. So they need some other show to air in that slot in the meantime. Even summers are no longer just for reruns of all their shows, they air new shows just for the summer, such as ABC did with Mistresses. So now if they want to bring back a show, they don’t have to commit right away to a full regular season, they can bring back X-Files for a 6-episode 10th season, or Prison Break for a 9-episode “mini-series.” And if they’re received well-enough then they can bring it back again (we are getting an 11th X-Files season, no word another return of Prison Break as of today).

Plus, I think it’s notable that Television itself, as a medium, seems to have regained a bit of the prestige that it lost in past decades. Both in terms of broadcast networks and cable. It’s no longer just seen as a stepchild of movies. Big name actors and actresses are now more open to doing TV projects, because of greater opportunities and, in many cases, better material. As I said, movie studios are all about the big budget franchises and superhero films, but TV can do projects like The People Vs. OJ Simpson that are huge hits commercially and creatively. It’s especially been good for older actresses, whom the movie studios are not rushing to cast anymore. But women like Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates can do American Horror Story, and show how good they still are.

This is why I objected to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy last year. Folks were mad that there were no Black nominees, and were calling for a boycott of the show. But I was like, that’s not going to change anything. The Oscars are a symptom of a problem, not the cause. The problem is the relatively low quality opportunities for Black actors and actresses. Put them in better roles and you’ll get more Oscar nominations and wins. And we saw evidence of that latter that year at the Emmys, where women and POC dominated the awards! That right there says it call. Give the people good material and they will rise to the occasion. And then the recognition will follow.

Anyway, I’m keeping my fingers cross that Twin Peaks lives up to my expectations!

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  2 comments for “TWIN PEAKS and The Changing State Of Television

  1. May 22, 2017 at 4:51 AM

    Wait, are they redoing Twin Peaks?? It was also one of my favs; I never missed an episode, but then David Lynch left and it lost focus. I agree. It revolutionized television. I’ll be in he lookout for it.

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