A friend recently convinced me to watch “Twin Peaks,” the cult classic of early ’90s TV, and this yielded a viewing experience like no other. The series centers around a brutal murder and rape in a small town, and, in spite of the dark subject matter, it is the zany characters, vibrant cinematography, and fantasy sequences that keep the audience on edge. Rather, I’d say watching “Twin Peaks” makes the audience feel downright off kilter. This is because the show consists of things we simply never see on TV: women carry around logs as pets, mystery clues come to FBI agents in dreams (and they pan out), and teenage lovers take melodrama to new heights.
The show is part nighttime soap, part murder/mystery and part comedy…One minute a girl emerges bloody and traumatized from the woods, the next a detective pontificates about his love of pie and coffee while a barber-shop quartet bustles around him, and the next minute two adulterers plot corporate scandals amidst tangled sheets. This crossbreeding of genres isn’t the only thing that takes getting used to about the show; the shooting and editing techniques also seem quite foreign to the average TV viewer. This is to say: many takes are uncomfortably long and most scenes run at least three times over their necessary lengths. To top this off, music swells throughout every scene and prods us to feel absurdly exaggerated emotions.
Yes, “Twin Peaks” is rare, splendid and strange, and while viewing it I found myself constantly thinking, “I can’t believe this made it onto TV.” As this sensation hit me time and again, I realized that this awe-factor and novelty is probably what landed the drama on primetime, major-network TV in the first place. “Twin Peaks” came into the world and found its niche – however short-lived – because it was different. Even 20 years after it was made, it remains unique from any other show that has ever aired on TV. For this reason, I highly recommend it to anyone who loves film, pop culture, or great storytelling; it will take you a little while to fall head-over-heels for the show’s ridiculousness, but when you fall you’ll fall hard. Oh, and just in case you need more encouragement to check out this TV series, Film Salon named the pilot episode of “Twin Peaks” the best pilot in the history of TV.
Psst: I suggest watching the series through episode 16, but stop there. Episode 16 gives a good sense of resolution with the characters and mysteries, and the show just isn’t as fun to watch after that point. So, why not go out on a high note? Watch and enjoy.