Laura Palmer and Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks

Long before streaming enabled us to hand over whole weeks of our lives to watching every episode of a TV series all at once, there was the Special Edition Twin Peaks VHS Box Set. 

Released in 1993, it likely inspired the first incident of en masse binge viewing. Gen-Xers happily handed over $100 to lose a whole weekend in David Lynch and Mark Frost’s trippy noir, which was unlike anything ever seen before on network TV.

Now, Lynch and Frost are bringing Twin Peaks to Showtime in 2016, . And as any backward-dancing dwarf in another dimension could have foretold, the Internet totally freaked out. 

Nostalgic Gen-Xers and Boomers seized control of Twitter to make Twin Peaks the top trend two days running. They, along with head-scratching millennials, may be inspired to review the ABC series. Frost, in an interview with interview with HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall, encourages it.

“I would think that it would be very helpful for people who want to come in at this point to catch up a little bit,” Frost said. “Certainly, at this point, there’s no shortage of ways for people to tap into them. As we get closer to that time, I’m hopeful we’ll bring a whole bunch of new people to the party.”

For those who don’t want to wait for Showtime to roll out old episodes, there’s Netflix, Amazon, Grandpa’s crusty old laserdisc collection.

However you do it, returning to the mythological Washington town of Twin Peaks will be a learning experience both for old fans and the uninitiated. Because while the show deserves all the credit it’s gotten for paving the way toward better television, there’s one thing people often forget: Twin Peaks wasn’t very good. 

It really wasn’t. 

The Good

The Twin Peaks pilot was groundbreaking. Prior to Twin Peaks’ ratings-busting premiere, there was nothing like it outside of cult film. Lynch’s trippy version of a small down with dark secrets (plus dream dwarves AND space giants) had a distinctive style.Twin Peaks stood out in a medium that has always believed imitation is the sincerest formula for success. 

A beautiful high school prom queen with seemingly everything to live for, is dead and wrapped in plastic. Agent Cooper, a straight-shooting FBI agent with a penchant for Eastern mysticism, arrives in Twin Peaks and finds a town which has as many dark secrets as the dead girl.

Twin Peaks arguably set the modern template for the deeply devoted fan. With quotes such as “Damn fine cup of coffee” and “That gum you like is going to come back in style,” it launched memes before Richard Dawkins gave us a name for them.

Guess who?

The Bad

Yet the high camp played as noir ran aground soon after Lynch left during the first season. An overabundance of crazy characters, McGuffins and David Duchovny in drag led to side stories that went nowhere. The dialogue disintegrated. Plus, there was a dwarf.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1CuX0Ix33I

Sure, who doesn’t love “The Man From Another Place” (Michael J. Anderson), a clue-dropping dwarf who inhabits the “Black Lodge,” some evil place Agent Cooper visits in his dreams? But c’mon. 

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“Have you ever had a dream with a dwarf in it?” a young Peter Dinklage shouts in Living In Oblivion, a 1995 indie movie sendup of indie movies. Portraying an actor hired to play a dwarf in a movie dream sequence, Dinklage demands, “Do you know anyone who’s had a dream with a dwarf in it? NOOOOOO! I don’t even have dreams with dwarves in them.” 

Dinklage then storms off set while ethereal music reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti‘s Twin Peaks score plays. We weren’t so unenlightened then that we didn’t know the joke was on Lynch.

The Legacy

Looking back, it’s easy to see how we were snowed. More than a decade before big name directors and movie stars would deign to do TV, back when Netflix was a foreboding shadow in Blockbuster Video’s dreams, Twin Peaks launched the golden age of television we enjoy today.

The mainstreamed Northern Exposure, Lost and The Killing? True Detective, Breaking Bad and House of Cards? Twin Peaks helped birth them all. It made it respectable to think outside the cops-and-lawyers-and-doctors box that constrained mainstream TV drama. It freed showrunners to embrace quirkiness and antiheroes and shows with uncomfortably dark themes.

But oddball characters, sultry, chain-smoking teens who look about 30, spooky music and damn fine coffee can only take you so far. In 1990, the pilot was groundbreaking. Today, Twin Peaks is an artifact of the world it created. 

Lead image courtesy of ABC