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Twin Peaks: Five reasons why it remains unchallenged as the ‘peak’ of TV

7 mins read

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks is the DNA of modern television. It laid the groundwork and inspiration for some of the biggest TV shows of our times; with it’s influence found in a wide range of shows from The Sopranos to The Simpsons.

The show followed the investigation into the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer in the idiosyncratic small town of Twin Peaks. In it’s original two-season run in the early 90s, the show brought Lynch’s surrealist style into the mainstream and the show got increasingly darker and weirder. But what makes it such an iconic cultural landmark, even over 30 years after its debut?

5. The score

Angelo Badalamenti’s original score for Twin Peaks added a lot of depth to the atmosphere of the show. From the bittersweet, nostalgic senses of the opening theme to the jazzy Audreys Dance and eery Nightlife in Twin Peaks. Providing vocals on some tracks was Julee Cruise – a long-time Lynch collaborator whose dreamy voice accompanied some of the tracks, both haunting and beautiful.

It takes a lot to craft a score that is played so much (the same motifs are played almost constantly in each episode of the show) but never feels repetitive or boring, but Badalamenti pulled it off with ease.

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

4. The pilot

Often deemed one of the greatest TV pilots of all time, Twin Peak‘s debut episode laid the groundwork for what was to come. With its extensive cast of characters, the show had a lot on its plate to cover in 90 minutes but they managed it! The opening scene of Laura Palmer’s body found down by the river-bank is melancholic and brutal, and the following half hour is nothing but raw emotion as we see the reactions of Palmer’s family and friends to her death and sense the inter-connection of the town as a whole.

From there, we meet our series protagonist and ‘hero’, F.B.I Agent Dale Cooper who is put on Laura’s case as he drives into town – giving one of the most iconic speeches in TV history. The episode also has flourishes of the surreal – The Log Lady, some of the townsfolk’s rather odd personalities, and an unexpected end cliffhanger without overwhelming viewers.

Image Credit: CBS

3. The Black Lodge

While touched on in the first season, season two of Twin Peaks saw the introduction of two lodges; the White Lodge and Black Lodge as part of its central lore. The White Lodge was rarely seen but in a short flashback. However, the Black Lodge and its many inhabitants were more prominent.

Villian ‘Bob’, a vicious supernatural entity, and The Man From Another Place – a dancing, backward-speaking dwarf – haunted both Cooper and the residents of the town. And, through dreams, and then a visit in the season finale, Cooper finds himself drawn to the dark magic of the Lodge. Red-curtained and mysterious, egdoL kcalB ehT/Red Room is one of the images most commonly associated with the show in pop culture.

Image Credit: CBS

2. The atmosphere

Twin peaks is set in a small town in the Pacific Northwest of America; which means it has a very rich, distinct atmosphere. Surrounded by woods, majestic waterfalls, and mountains, in the town of Twin Peaks it feels like late Winter all year. By day, it’s your regular small-town setting. Diners visit the local R.R Diner, the teenagers go to school (or don’t) & it’s business as usual at the Great Northern Hotel.

But by night, the woods come alive, BOB comes out to haunt, and the seedy One-Eyed Jacks brothel opens its doors for business. There really isn’t a show that juxtaposes the quiet beauty of small-town living with its seedier underbelly quite as T.P. does. We’re also confined to the area as seen on the map below for the majority of the show, which really adds to the feel of things.

Image Credit: M. Walton Keys

1. Dale Cooper

Honestly, I could write a whole article entitled, Top 5 reasons Dale Cooper is the best character ever, but I won’t bore you (too much). Cooper isn’t your normal TV F.B.I agent, rather than being stubborn, narcassitic & pretentious, he’s spiritual and as idiosyncratic as the townsfolk of Twin Peaks themselves. Preferring more extraordinary ways of investigation – such as the Tibetan method, which involves ‘hand-eye coordination’ and… throwing rocks at bottles?

Anyways, you couldn’t find someone as wholesome as Coop. He loves a Cherry Pie from the R.R. and a “damn fine cup of coffee” to go with it. And, he’s completely dedicated to his case, and to his newfound Twin Peaks family. His words of wisdom are a good life philosophy; “every-day, once a day, give yourself a present”. His respect for even those who are disrespectful knows no bounds. He’s the heart and soul of Twin Peaks. The show simply wouldn’t be the same without him – and nobody else could play the part except long-time Lynch collaborator, Kyle MacLachlan. Try watching the show without falling in love with his character, it’s impossible.

Image Credit: CBS

Featured Image Credit: CBS

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