Monday, May 22, 2017

My review of the new TWIN PEAKS

When TWIN PEAKS first premiered in 1990 it truly was mind-blowing. There had NEVER been a show like that. Utterly spellbinding. David Lynch was at the height of his popularity. BLUE VELVET brought new meaning to the phrase “ear to the ground” and Dennis Hopper was maybe the creepiest villain ever... until Dean Stockwell showed up in the same movie.

Right from the first night TWIN PEAKS was an absolute sensation – a breakout hit for ABC. The entire country was speculating over who killed Laura Palmer and can a log really talk? The series was filled with riddles, and imagery, and horrific images, and the same crummy furniture from BLUE VELVET apartments. (Were Ralph & Alice Kramden the set dressers?)  Coffee and cherry pie became our national dessert.

Sound played a big role as well with eerie music and winds that only seemed to howl when characters were indoors.  There must be horrible insulation in the Pacific Northwest.  Where other shows hire orchestras to provide the soundtrack, Lynch seemed to use a guy breathing heavily into an oxygen mask.

TWIN PEAKS began as a midseason series and was riveting... until they revealed who actually killed Laura Palmer – well, sort of. After that it was never the same.  Everything after that felt unfocused. I just pictured writers Lynch and Mark Frost constantly saying “Now what do we do?” In short order, the series lost its magic and eventually was cancelled.

A few years later there was a TWIN PEAKS prequel movie that dealt with the Laura Palmer storyline in much greater detail. And the movie did… meh. Since I was a fan of the show I saw the movie. But the more I got to know Laura Palmer the less I liked her and the less I cared that someone was about to bump her off.

Then a few years ago word came down that Lynch and Frost were reviving TWIN PEAKS for SHOWTIME. Was I excited? No. Not really. Was I curious? Sure. Would Lynch be able to catch lightening in a bottle twice? Certainly worth a look.

I must say I was a little surprised by the level of anticipation as the premier date drew near. I guess there were a lot more diehard TWIN PEAKS fans than I thought. So I was in front of my TV last night at 9:00.

What did I think?

Well…

I remember back in college living in the dorm.  I would get together with a bunch of friends, we would gather in one room, put tin foil over the window, sit in the dark, and the only illumination was from the Snoopy blacklight poster. We’d pass around joints, drink Red Mountain wine that came in gallon jugs, listen to Moby Grapes albums, soak up the far out psychedelic vibes, and really think we were cool. It was all so deep and meaningful. Today I look back and think, “What an idiot!”

THAT’S how I felt watching last night’s TWIN PEAK debut. All that imagery and those spooky moody sequences that I once found so mind-blowing in 1990 felt repetitive and silly in 2017. I know that may not be the popular reaction, but I’m sorry. What the fuck was I watching?

I never found it scary. I fully expect the reboot of ROSEANNE to be scarier.

And not only was it very derivative of itself, it was derivative of LOST and FARGO as well. SPOILER ALERT – That big glass box – didn’t the Others put Jack in one just like it? And those stark landscape shots of snowy terrain and scenes where folksy folks talked folksy was FARGO without the humor.

For me the initial attraction of the original TWIN PEAKS was that you had this seemingly normal town but under the surface was all this evil and strangeness. Now everything is so completely whack that any shred of normalcy seems greatly out of place.

I look forward to reading other reviews. I’ll be interested to see whether the general consensus is that the new TWIN PEAKS was the work of genius and anyone who couldn’t see that was just dense, or whether they’ll agree with me that just random weirdness isn’t deep, it’s a college film student’s thesis movie.

31 comments :

Joel Keller said...

From what I'm seeing if the reviews, they're in the "work of genius" vein.

Fred Vogel said...

Nothing wrong with a little Moby Grape.

Jeff said...

Twin Peaks essentially created its own genre. Now it isn't groundbreaking -- it's just a show in that genre.

Jorge González Belmar said...

As far as I've read between last night and today, most reviews have been positive.
Sincerely, I watched the show just a couple of years ago, some months before there was even serious talk about a revival, and in the meantime I've watched a couple of Lynch's films (Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Fire Walk With Me).
Sincerely, this feels more like a continuation of those films while continuing on the threads left hanging from the series finale and FWWM. And for me that is not exactly a bad thing, and mostly it is what I thought it would be (less quirky, more nightmarish), so my experience watching the premiere last night wasn't bad. It's not the original series, but it is Lynch. And for me, that is really good. It almost feels like the original series was the first half of Mulholland Drive and this season is the second half of that film.
Sorry for the rambling. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

blinky said...

I have an original ABC promo photo from the first season with Kyle MacLachlen and Michael Ontkean with a deer head. So weird.
I remember Agent Dale Cooper asking a local: What are these marvelous trees you have here?
Answer: Douglas Firs
Agent Cooper: Douglas Firs.

Bill said...

The backwards-talking dream sequence was mesmerizing. "LOOK AT BURNS'SUIT! SHEESH!"
Oh, wait.
What's wrong with Moby Grape anyway??

Scott said...

ABC's "Twin Peaks" was groundbreaking. It was surreal and weird and different. Now, everything is weird. And that's supposed to be the substitute for either funny (every comedy on TBS) or drama (most HBO and Showtime series). I'm of the opinion, and maybe it is because I turned 50 late last year, that writers and producers think the weirder they are, the less they have to, you know, actually come up with jokes or storylines. I'm sorry, but weird is not funny and it's not interesting in and of itself. You're not going to "out-weird" current events. So write some jokes and/or create an interesting story.

Anonymous said...

Respectfully disagree with your assessment.

Yes, it was very slow-paced, and at times frustrating, but the premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return was everything this die-hard Peaks Freak had hoped it would be.

This just reiterates that David Lynch is not for everybody.

Hollywoodaholic said...

A long opening sequence of a guy on a sofa watching a glass box waiting for something to happen, and then he gets screwed. What's not to understand?

Jon B. said...

My reaction to the new Twin Peaks: FABULOUS. I have no idea where this is going and I am not sure what I even saw last night. Please do not be turned off by Ken's review. Please also note that Lynch's movie Mulholland Drive is considered by many to be a masterpiece, yet some first time viewers will wonder what all the fuss is about, mainly due to its incoherence.

YEKIMI said...

Wasn't interested in the first one and didn't watch it anyways and not interested in the re-boot. I did however like the vocal version of the song "Falling" by Julee Cruise but even that couldn't interest me enough to watch the show. Watched Blue Velvet and thought "What a fucked-up, creepy ass movie" but Dennis Hopper did almost make me poop myself, he was that scary.

And speaking of weird: One of the captchas actually had an State Route Ohio 94 sign I had to click on and I know exactly where that sign is located since I lived on state route 94 for a time.

Mike Doran said...

A Dissent (sort of):

From about midway through the first season, I came to think that Twin Peaks was a triumph of Hype.
From the word go, ABC played up the "strangeness", and quadrupled the promos accordingly: this was something you had to see or you were an outsider - not "hip" or "with it".
What I saw - Batman all over again, fast start leading to a faster finish.
Meanwhile, the "critics" swallowed the Hype whole: Twin Peaks was unique, groundbreaking, sui generis, etc. etc.
I admit to having stayed the course for the first season, but even at that point it started to look like Lynch and his crew were starting to ad-lib their way through things - no overall plan, just making it up as they went along.
Ultimately, Twin Peaks was running on fumes. By the end, it had become not so much groundbreaking as annoying.
When Showtime announced the revival, I could truthfully say that I hadn't given Twin Peaks a thought in years. I've had some chances to add TP to my DVD wall - VHS before that - and I never have.
All that said, I did like the music ...

* ... and does David Lynch wear his hair that way intentionally?*
** ... and for that matter, does Brian Grazer?**

Mike said...

LOL. That show was always terrible: incoherent, non-sensical plots and overly-pretentious direction. But there were a bunch of sheep who said, "Oh, it's weird and doesn't make sense, and therefore, it MUST be good. See how smart we are?"

The sheep like the Twin Peaks revival, too. Baaaaaaaaa.

Eric J said...

I missed the original when it played. Getting a new business off the ground was priority. I binge watched it on Netflix last year. It was mesmerizing...until about half way through the 2nd season. Then it got boring. Still weird, but boring. I forced my way through the remaining episodes.

One thing about it never got boring. The clip showing the automated saw blade sharpener in time with the theme music. I'm pretty sure I'd watch an hour of that before a Twin Peaks sequel. The nightly news is weirder.

Kenneth Nielsen said...

Love your blog, Ken, but every time a post features the words "my review" in a headline, my immediate thought is "He doesn't like it."

Johnny Walker said...

Twin Peaks was more than just the murder of Laura Palmer, it was about the incredible world it created. The murder was just the maguffin. The thing is, you kind of do you need a maguffin when you're making entertainment.

I was disappointed by Fire Walk With Me when it was released. It didn't feel like Twin Peaks, and even ten years later, fans were divided, but over the last 10 years it's been reassessed. Personally I've come to love it. It really is quite phenomenal, as is Sheryl Lee's performance.

Twin Peaks: The Return (as I guess we're calling it), is something different yet again. It's challenging. Weird. Difficult. Obstinate. Lacking in a focussed narrative. Divisive. Indulgent. And Weird. It feels little like Twin Peaks meets Inland Empire (which was a very difficult watch). But although I can easily see what someone might say is "wrong" about it... I want to keep watching. It keeps pulling me back.

As strange as it is, as narratively frustrating it is, it's also compelling.

My biggest complaint as a fan is that it doesn't feel like Twin Peaks anymore -- just like I initially felt Fire Walk With Me didn't when it was first released (but now that does). You can't deny that when you spend time with the older characters, you really see how different the show is now. And it's a bit irksome for me. I still miss that old show. But the thing is, once upon a time, I believed that Lynch put the audience first (closely followed by his muse). Now I believe he puts his muse first.

Note: This isn't necessarily valid criticism. It's Lynch's work and he can do what he wants with it. This is what he fell in love with, so this is what he's made. It's strange to call this new thing "Twin Peaks", but that's what it is.

And make no mistake, you'd be a fool to think Lynch is trying to be weird for the sake of it. Lynch is an artist, and, in the end, this is what we're seeing: A piece of art. Challenging, difficult, weird, divisive. And as difficult as it can be to watch, it has to be viewed through that prism. It isn't entertainment. It has to be accepted for what it is, instead of being compared to typical TV fare (which is a bit difficult, given that it's a sequel to an original series straddled art/entertainment so well).

I'm enjoying it as a piece of art and, truth be told, when I'm watching Cooper climb out of a metal box in space, I can't help take a little glee in the fact that this is (technically) a mainstream TV show, sitting alongside things like The Big Bang Theory, Fuller House, and X-Factor.

Really, when you look at it like that, how can it not delight you? :)

BCS109 said...

Reviews are looking pretty positive...

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/twin_peaks/s03/reviews/?type=top_critics

pumpkinhead said...

I enjoyed the hell out of it. I don't know why and I don't care why. I just know that I did, and that's good enough for me.

One thought, though... it seemed like it was more like Lynch's movies than like the original Twin Peaks tv series, and I could see that being a problem for some Twin Peaks devotees.

D. McEwan said...

I was a HUGE Twin Peaks fan, which is why I have the entire series and the movie on Blu-Ray. Over the last three months I rewatched the entire original series again (I've watched the entire series multiple times. Used to have it on VHS. Now have the Blu-Rays), and loved all of it.

Once the murder of Laura Palmer was solved, the folks who were watching it only to learn whodunit (and especially the ones who expected a normal Agatha Christie solution to the mystery) left the show, and ratings dropped, but I stayed with it and loved the whole very creepy Windom Earle storyline.

Yesterday, I watched Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me again, followed by 90 minutes of its deleted scenes, and then the premiere. (The movie was 135 minutes, and they had 90 minutes of deleted scenes. How long was that screenplay?) Some of the deleted scenes apparently were cut because they committed the worst David Lynch sin; they made things clearer. I found I liked the movie rather more than I had when it first came out. (Which was only one year after the show ended.)

Yes, Laura can be seen as not at all a likable girl. But her being on coke, selling coke, whoring out, juggling boy friends, etc., all came out in the investigation on the series. None of that was news. I found the film made her MORE likable, because you saw why she was how she was. She'd been being raped regularly by her father since she was 12 years old. She says in the movie how "Bob" had been doing her nightly since she was 12. We see a scene where Bob creeps in her bedroom window and rapes her and mid-rape, she snaps to reality and sees that it's her father who is raping her, who had always been raping her. Well, no wonder the poor girl was so screwed up. She's a sad case, a victim with no one to help her.

While I was disappointed that the revival debut did not focus on the town, and was, both figuratively and literally, all over the place, I enjoyed it. I found Evil Agent Cooper as scary as Bob. I'm intrigued by all the new mysteries spinning out. Could I do with fewer shots of Cooper running around red drapes? Yes. I've never seen anything Lynch directed that wouldn't benefit from some less self-indulgent editing. (A friend got very pushed out of shape once, when I suggested that you could take 15 minutes out of Eraserhead without harming it, just cutting down the wasted footage of static shots.) But Lynch channels his unconscious directly onto the screen with no filter. It's never less than hypnotic, and I can't wait for the next episode.

Ken Levine said...

Kenneth Nielson,

Read my recent reviews of BROCKMIRE, THE NIGHT OF, and HIDDEN FIGURES just to name a few.

David G., 60 minutes from Roslyn, Washington! said...

My prediction -- nay, my hope: By the end of next year, we get to finally see what a few of the longtime and (mostly) newer residents of a little town in Alaska are doing these days in a new TV series called "Cicely"...!

ThisIsTheGirl said...

There's sometimes a busy. David Lynch is driving this buggy. And, if you fix your attitude, you can ride along with him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GekiIMh4ZkM

ThisIsTheGirl said...

*buggy

~

And:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZowK0NAvig

QED


Peter said...

A second attempt at posting this, as it doesn't look like it got through first time.

I've just finished watching the first four episodes. The first two were simulcast in the UK at 2am our time, which I obviously wasn't going to stay up for, and the next two are available on streaming, so I sat down and watched them all in one go.

My overall reaction is positive but with a couple of quibbles.

First, the positive. I have to respectfully disagree with you, Ken. There was some truly breathtaking imagery and moments of horror that put to shame most of what passes for horror films now. The scene in which the couple are murdered in that room in New York was incredible.Not student film stuff at all.

Just seeing the old familiar faces was also wonderful, especially the beautiful Madchen Amick, who's barely aged a day. But it's also incredibly bittersweet to see the final performances of Catherine Coulson and Miguel Ferrer. The scenes with Ferrer back as Albert Rosenfeld are both a joy and heartbreaking that he's no longer with us.

My main quibble, and it was something I had expected but hoped wouldn't happen, is that it's been shot on digital video. The original series was shot on film. Comments here and elsewhere online have mentioned how the new season doesn't feel like Twin Peaks and I think a lot of that is to do with the decision to go digital. Film has a warmth and a grain that video doesn't. It also means that stylistically it lacks continuity with the previous seasons. I imagine the decision was on cost grounds, which is a shame.

Some of it also feels and looks like the Lynch of Inland Empire, which is the one Lynch film I didn't like, with its excess of long meandering scenes and random images.

But my patience was rewarded with episode 4, which is the most quintessentially Twin Peaks episode so far. After three episodes with none of the old musical themes used, we finally get "Laura's theme" in a very moving moment with the Bobby Briggs character, and there's a brilliant scene with Michael Cera that has the old show's quirky humour. 

As a Peaks and Lynch fan, I'm obviously going to stay the course and hope that Lynch and Frost have something wonderful in store.

Pallas said...

"it’s a college film student’s thesis movie."

Lynch TV/ films have always been like a film student's thesis movie. (I like his movies, that's not a diss). Eraserhead is considered a classic and it's literally something he made as a film student.

A lot of the appeal is he mixes this film student stuff with more mainstream stuff, so it give it a crossover audience.

Greg Ehrbar said...

@blinky "Michael Ontkean with a deer head."

It was so funny when Uncle Arthur did that to Darrin. I forget which one. That was ABC, too.

Speaking of Moby Grape, I have a 45 by Goofy Grape (voiced by the great Paul Frees). It's based on a Pillsbury "Funny Face" drink mix that made kids ingest cyclamates, which were deemed dangerous, so it was taken off the market.

B McMolo said...

Hear, hear, Johnny Walker! Well-put.

D. McEwan said...

"Peter said...
Just seeing the old familiar faces was also wonderful, especially the beautiful Madchen Amick, who's barely aged a day."


Madchen looked gorgeous, but she did not look like she hadn't aged a day. On the TV series she looked like a pretty girl. On the revival, she is clearly a stunningly beautiful woman. Very much a difference, very much an improvement.

"After three episodes with none of the old musical themes used..."

You need to listen closer to episode 1. The moment we first went to Twin Peaks itself, on came the original Twin Peaks Theme music, "Falling," unless you got a different sound track in the UK than we had in America, and that seems unlikely.

Geoff with a G said...

I'm loving it but I generally respect your opinion; it's not for everyone. I do take exception to the idea that Lynch (with Mark Frost) was ripping off anyone. It'd be like saying John Ford can't film in Monument Valley just because others, after him, had also filmed there. Or that James L Brooks can't do a heartwarming dramedy.

Peter said...

D. McEwan said

"You need to listen closer to episode 1. The moment we first went to Twin Peaks itself, on came the original Twin Peaks Theme music, "Falling"

Sorry, I should have clarified. I was referring to the individual themes that Angelo Badalamenti scored for use within the episodes of the original run, not the actual theme music. "Laura's Theme", which is the very moving piece that was used in every episode of the original series and played over their end credits, doesn't appear till episode 4. It comes in at just the right moment and is truly beautiful and moving.

While I'm on the subject, something I forgot to mention in my previous post is that I'm not keen on what appears is going to be the format for the ending of every episode, which is to roll the credits over a band singing in the Bang Bang Bar. Once was fine but it means that episodes don't finish on a dramatic flourish or a cliffhanger but an anti-climactic band performance.

Earl Boebert said...

Saw it last night, loved it. Of course, you have to enjoy surrealism, which is not to everybody's taste, and realize that it's not a story, it's a great puzzle. Wife and I "semi-binge watched" the first series (one episode a night, recommended) in preparation. If you cracked the code for the first series then the continuation is natural. If you come on it cold I can see how you could be bewildered, frustrated, and bored.