The TV event of 1990, as far as I was concerned anyway, was the arrival on our screens of what can only be described as “Soap Noir”, David Lynch’s groundbreaking, genre-defying cult classic Twin Peaks.
As I may have mentioned in passing, I’m a massive fan of his work, and the idea of having a slice of Lynch on the TV every week was a film nerd’s dream.
And us nerds, we weren’t disappointed.
As I sat down in my tiny bedsit in Crowborough to watch the feature-length pilot, I was instantly drawn into Lynch-land by the haunting theme, composed by long time Lynch collaborator, Angelo BadalamentI
The series opens with the discovery, by Pete Martell (Lynch regular, Jack Nance) of a body, wrapped in plastic, on the shore from which he is fishing.
Leaving the body as he finds it, he calls the Sheriff, Harry S. Truman (played by the slow talking, amiable Michael Ontkean) who arrives with one of the show’s first recognisable Lynchian comic creations, bumbling, slow witted deputy, Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz) who, on discovering that the body is that of popular local homecoming queen, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), repeatedly bursts into tears whilst attempting to photograph the scene.
The significance of her identity is continually reinforced by each successive character’s reaction to the news. The town doctor/medical examiner, Will Hayward, who arrives to transport the body (twinkly-eyed but world weary Warren Frost) is shocked that the sweet and innocent girl he delivered into the world should turn up so brutally murdered.
Watch the opening scene here.
The show features many well established actors, as well as a whole host of newcomers made famous by their roles in it. One of the recognisable stars who appears throughout is Grace Zabriskie, known for roles in TV series Seinfeld, and movies such as Fried Green Tomatoes…, and other Lynch projects like Wild at Heart and Inland Empire. She stars as Sarah Palmer, Laura’s mother, and we first meet her when she finds Laura’s bed unslept in, and is ringing round her friends trying to find where she spent the night.
Meanwhile, we see Laura’s father, Leland, receiving the news of her death from Sheriff Truman, while at work at The Great Northern Hotel.
Unfortunately, his wife has just rung him..
…and overhears the conversation, leaving her in her default state for much of the series, which can be pretty much summed up by;
During the following scenes, we see various school friends hearing of Laura’s murder.
Her boyfriend, Bobby Briggs (the swaggering Dana Ashbrook)
..classmate and best friend, Donna Hayward (wholesome girl-next-door Lara Flynn Boyle)
…and pouting teen sex kitten Audrey Horne (played with smouldering silver screen vampishness by Sherilyn Fenn)
Even re-watching the series, as I have many times, the whole Twin Peaks universe seems trapped in a bubble of timelessness, neither of it’s time, nor dated by the passage of time. The presence of so much warm hued pine, used in many of the interiors, lends a comfortable glow to the atmosphere, sometimes at odds with events taking place there.
And it’s this juxtaposition of the cosy, familiar surroundings of small town life, where even the thought of murder is alien to those that live there, that makes the increasingly bizarre story that unfolds in and around their tight knit community all the more shocking.
The Great Northern, located at the top of the waterfall;
The RR Diner;
I realise that it seems as if this is going to be, even at it’s most condensed, a very long winded analysis, but I think I should at least try to set the scene, to give those of you new to the strange world that is Twin Peaks, a feel for the ambience of the place which our hero, Dale Cooper is about to enter…
I shall bear in mind the fact that a friend of mine was actually forced to stop watching the show, just to avoid discussing it with me each week (sorry Simon) and rein in my tendency to ramble, as we follow him on his strange trip.
Photos – the David Lynch archive.