Viewers began tuning out in droves, alienated by the cryptically-plotted murder investigation, a deep dive into what the hell?! mysticism, and the general appearance of aimlessness. Following an erratically scheduled second season, the bizarre boomtown of Twin Peaks went bust in 1991.
''She's dead...wrapped in plastic...''
With these creepy words — intoned by the late Jack Nance — Blue Velvet director David Lynch and producer Mark Frost launched their deeply beloved, greatly irritating, and widely influential cult-classic TV series Twin Peaks in the spring of 1989. It was a smashing success...for a few weeks or so. Initially, the show became an international phenomenon thanks to its engrossing, aggressively marketed ''Who Killed Laura Palmer?'' mystery, quirky-cool hero (Kyle MacLachlan's pie-loving, coffee-swilling FBI agent Dale Cooper), and Lynch's auteur celebrity and distinctive brand of oddball wit, rich imagery, and atmospheric dread.
The world of “Twin Peaks” is a truly rich and commodious one, attentive both to narrative mythology and to character back story, suited equally to the scrutiny of fanzines and dissertations. At its best the show achieved a crazy, cosmic harmony, setting the comforts of the everyday against the terror of the void. The great unifying element is Mr. MacLachlan’s superbly unflappable performance, a witty distillation of the Eagle Scout qualities often ascribed to Mr. Lynch
Like the homecoming queen who was its resident ghost, “Twin Peaks” died young and left a ravaged but still beautiful corpse. Both demises are now inextricably linked: When David Lynch’s hit series revealed who killed Laura Palmer in the fall of 1990, it also committed a kind of symbolic suicide.
In "Twin Peaks," Cooper detects through immersion--physical indeterminacy, obliqueness, and ambiguity are his primary modes of discovery. Once Cooper has used standard FBI procedures to assemble his suspects, he turns to his preferred means of inquiry, a modus operandi that initiates the town and the television spectator into the sleuthing approach of a mind-body detective.
The dazzled affection that Dale Cooper, hero of "Twin Peaks," inspired in a large television spectatorship can only partly be explained by the appeal of actor Kyle MacLachlan. Nor can it be ascribed merely to the time-tested popularity of the detective figure; on the contrary, Cooper lays waste to a multitude of film and television cliches.
Before Twin Peaks there was plenty of well-made American TV, though it was mostly generic and limited in ambition. But Lynch, a cinema auteur, tore up conventions and almost single-handedly reinvented TV drama. The standard narrative arc went out of the window, and in its place came idiosyncratic character studies, an elliptical plot, dialogue that brought the bizarre and the banal together in a captivating verbal marriage, and imagery quite unlike anything seen on the small screen. There was also, of course, the haunting theme music by Angelo Badalamenti that seemed to plug directly into the eerier quarters of the subconscious.
It's hard to recall now the excitement generated by David Lynch's Twin Peaks when it first aired on British television back in 1990. But it managed to make staying in seem urgent and exhilarating. There were Twin Peaks evenings, at which fans gathered in each other's houses to watch this revolutionary entertainment, a sort of surreal soap-cum-murder-mystery. Offices practically had to install water-coolers just so their staff could stand around them and speculate on who killed Laura Palmer. It was one of those moments when American popular culture reminded us just how cool it could be.
It might seem like a long way down from “Twin Peaks” to “Psych,” and it’s a little irritating how “Dual Spires” milks laughs from the overwrought reactions of the townspeople to Paula’s death. While it may strike some contemporary viewers as hokey, not many things on television have been as brilliantly constructed or portrayed as the crescendo of grief in the “Twin Peaks” pilot. “Twin Peaks” expands in the memory, however; it’s easy to forget that the atmosphere of dreamy menace and the pitch-perfect sendup of 1950s-’60s soap opera — “Peyton Place” in the cocaine age — were largely absent after the two-hour pilot directed by David Lynch, who created the series with Mark Frost. By Episode 3 the weirdness had set in, that supernatural-surreal vaudeville that defined the show while dragging it down.
By 11 p.m. on Wednesday (10 p.m., Central), the people who catalog such things will have already ferreted out and posted the many homages to “Twin Peaks” in “Dual Spires,” the new episode of “Psych” on USA that will have just ended. The allusions appear nearly nonstop, from the obvious — a girl’s body wrapped in plastic, a sheriff named after an American president, a damn fine cup of cider — to the slightly more subtle, like silent drape runners, the letter J and Chris Isaak’s voice on the soundtrack.