Throwback Thursday: In 1990, 'Twin Peaks' Made It OK for TV to Be Weird

Capital Cities/ABC/Courtesy of Photofest
David Lynch on the 'Twin Peaks' set

Says original star Sheryl Lee of Showtime's revival: "I sure hope there's a place for at least one of my two dead characters"

This story first appeared in the Oct. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 

As far as The Hollywood Reporter was concerned in 1990, the fact that David Lynch's new Twin Peaks drama on ABC was "a provocative, stunningly photographed piece of storytelling" was secondary to the fact that the director of Eraserhead and Blue Velvet had turned to television and "done it in such a way that critics and producers alike … will now see how it's supposed to be done." Lynch and writer Mark Frost's series centered on blond homecoming queen Laura Palmer's murder in the small Northwestern town of Twin Peaks. The show was a surrealistic soap opera with secret lodges that do good and evil; dancing dwarfs; a Canadian brothel/casino called One-Eyed Jacks; an FBI agent — played by Kyle MacLachlan — with a taste for homemade cherry pie; and some twisting of space and time. It brought peculiar to mainstream TV.

Read more 'Twin Peaks' ' Mark Frost Talks Showtime Revival — and Why It Wouldn't Work on Netflix

More important for ABC and its then-head Robert Iger, who championed the series, the show was a huge hit. The two-hour pilot was the 1989-1990 season's highest-rated TV movie and the first year's episodes averaged 24 million viewers. Lynch landed on the cover of Time magazine, and Japanese fans took tours to Snoqualmie, Wash., to see the beach where Palmer's corpse was found. Ratings tapered off in the second season after Palmer's murder was solved, and the show was not renewed.

Now Showtime is reviving Peaks for a nine-episode run set to air in 2016, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of its cancellation. "This was a journey interrupted," says Frost, who'll co-write the new episodes with Lynch. "We've had a quarter century to think about where we wanted to go next. But we will serve no coffee and pie before its time." Die-hard fans will remember the final episode, in which the ghost of Palmer appears before the FBI agent and says she'll return in 25 years. "I have absolutely no idea where they're going with the new show," says Sheryl Lee, who played both Palmer and her brunette cousin Madeleine Ferguson. "I sure hope there's a place for at least one of my two dead characters."

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