“The owls are not what they seem…”
I remember it vividly.
1990 and Twin Peaks had been the subject of fevered classroom conversation for weeks. There had been teasers and trailers. Deliciously, it was airing on BBC2. Mark and I were in our final year of sixth form, enjoying a friendship that had been long in the making: a knowledge of each other in primary school refined by the ruin of other friendships in secondary school and a discovery of shared interests in gaming and cards and quirky television.
Twin Peaks, the product of the warped creative genius of David Lynch and Mark Frost, was unlike anything else that had been on television. It was the 1990s and it was the first decade I felt I could truly own, really aware of the music and film and television informing the media culture we were growing up in. It was also the last Century of a dying Millennium and somehow the dark weirdness of Twin Peaks seemed utterly appropriate. And from the slow motion opening credits, accompanied by Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score, I knew we were hooked.
The murder of Laura Palmer – and the seductive overtures of Sherilyn Fenn’s Audrey Horne – would overshadow our final school days.
That all seems a long time ago now and in the intervening years I forgot the specific qualities that made Twin Peaks uniquely brilliant. More sadly, friendships faded and with them the remembrance of things that made them live so vividly at the time.
Then, several years back I spotted Twin Peaks on DVD.
I couldn’t resist. I wanted to know if it had stood the test of time. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Like the very best wine and the very best whisky it had improved. In an almost Lynchian way, it didn’t feel dated – perhaps because so many of the usual markers that age television of a period (technology, city fashions etc) are absent. Instead it was fresh and provocative. And, once again, Twin Peaks accompanied the transformation of a relationship – this time in a very much better direction.
Having previously watched the whole of Sex and the City back to back with Em, Twin Peaks was always going to be something of a contrast. However, we were immediately immersed in Lynch’s mischievous and murderously dark envisioning, lapping up Agent Cooper’s humorous musings, Audrey Horne’s sensuous teasings and hankering after a mug of “damn fine coffee” and a slice of cherry pie.
Lynch is one of our favourite directors.
Even at his most disturbing, there is something shockingly honest about his camera and what it sees. Wild at Heart is one of the films that sticks most in my memory, my Midnight Cowboy or The Graduate, seeing it for the first time after I moved away from home to begin my studies in Hull. Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern give two career-defining performances in this twisted celluloid nightmare that somehow veers just the right side of kitsch, ricocheting through the violent badlands of an America that is only equalled by that of Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone in its capacity for brutality. IMDb has a long list of film trivia that is testament to the influences on Lynch and which he recognises in Twin Peaks through wry asides and visual tributes.
Em loved it.
And we both shared the same enormous frustration at learning that the release of Series Two had been held up by legal wranglings. I was particularly keen to get hold of it as I had – have – seen every episode except the very last. Mark never spoiled it for me and I don’t know to this day how the series resolved.
On several consecutive August excursions to Cornwall we asked the guy in Moods and Visions, in Falmouth’s George’s Arcade, if it had been released. We always left empty-handed, wondering if we would ever get to sit down with Coop again.
Then, quite by chance, walking past Basildon’s HMV just last week, I saw it.
Tonight we went back to Twin Peaks and picked up where we left off. It is gloriously bonkers and I am glad to be back home.
Buy it. Watch it.
Enjoy it for the uniquely brilliant piece of extended television theatre it is.
And just in case you are reading, Mark, here’s another little reminder of 1990…