1 9 9 0 – 1 9 9 1 (USA)
30 x 60 minute episodes
Directed by David Lynch, this unsettling, dream-like series – set in and around the Pacific Northwest town of Twin Peaks, Washington – revolved around the question “who killed Laura Palmer?”.
The plot became impossibly convoluted – and the ratings had dropped severely by the time obsessive FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) got around to solving the mystery (SPOILER: it was her own Dad, Leland (Ray Wise), who became a homicidal maniac when possessed by an evil spirit named Killer Bob).
Cooper was prone to ecstasy when drinking the town’s “damn fine coffee” and eating cherry pie, and his detecting methods included Tibetan mysticism, dreams and ESP. It was an open secret that the character of Cooper was David Lynch’s self-portrait.
But the serial further confirmed Lynch’s reputation as a man with a darkly original vision, as well as making actress Sherilyn Fenn the sex symbol of the hour.
Gradually, Agent Cooper’s search for the murderer revealed that beautiful 17-year-old high school student and homecoming queen Laura Palmer was not the innocent she seemed and that Twin Peaks was a mired pool of drugs, adultery, avarice, pornography and satanism beneath its picture-postcard image.
The seemingly wholesome Laura had, in fact, had relationships with biker-poet James and hot-tempered Bobby, among others, and had been treated by weirdo psychiatrist Dr Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn). She had also been seen at One-Eyed Jacks, a bordello/casino just across the Canadian border, where drugs and sex flowed freely.
There was an almost surreal, dreamlike quality to the show, especially in the segments helmed by Lynch, enhanced by the famously weird minor characters and touches – such as the log lady (pictured) who lovingly ported a piece of lumber with her wherever she went, Cooper’s delivery of his own narrative into a micro-recorder for unseen secretary Diane, and the fish in the percolator at the Diner.
Other principal stories included the plot by Catherine (Piper Laurie) and developer Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) to wrest the town’s largest industry, Packard Sawmill, away from her brother’s Asian widow Josie – who, it turned out, had paid Hank to kill the late Mr Packard; the triangle between Shelly, Bobby, and Shelly’s abusive husband Leo, who was eventually shot and turned into a drooling idiot; and the blue-collar triangle between Norma (owner of the Double-R Diner), Big Ed (service station owner and James’s uncle), and Norma’s ex-con hubby, the murderous Hank.
Ed’s one-eyed, Amazonian wife Nadine (Wendy Robie), who was certifiably crazy even by Twin Peaks standards, complicated matters.
The large cast featured two of Lynch’s stock movie actors – Kyle MacLachlan and Jack Nance (Eraserhead), and Lynch himself appeared occasionally as FBI Chief Cole. Future Austin Powers sidekick Heather Graham made an early TV appearance as Annie Blackburn.
But what started as probably the most extreme and surreal program ever on network TV eventually got too boring, meandering, silly, and confusing to care about. For a while, obsessed viewers formed clubs and the show was the talk of the town, but several schedule changes and the fact that people wanted to know who the killer was caused the ratings to drop.
With Laura’s murder solved in late 1990, Agent Cooper stayed to investigate further murders; apparently “Killer Bob” lived on, inhabiting others. Cooper’s principal nemesis became Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh), his former FBI partner who had gone insane after his wife had been killed while in his and Cooper’s custody.
Earle, a master of disguises, played an elaborate chess game with Cooper via the mail and newspaper columns, taking a life every time he took a piece; half-witted Leo became his henchman.
The vortex of deception and death finally drew the mystical Agent Cooper – who got many of his leads through dreams populated by dancing dwarfs and towering giants muttering epigrams – into the ‘Black Lodge’, a terrifying, dreamlike place outside of reality where he confronted Earle, dead victims, and his own soul.
The show staggered through to its conclusion, even spinning off a movie – Fire Walk With Me (1992).
Portions of Twin Peaks were filmed on location in the Pacific Northwest, where the little community of Snoqualmie Falls, Washington, was used as a model for the fictional town. The large, rustic Salish Lodge was used for exteriors of the imposing Great Northern Hotel, where Cooper stayed in the series.
Special Agent Dale Cooper
Sheriff Harry S. Truman
Lara Flynn Boyle
Dr Will Hayward
Big Ed Hurley
Deputy Tommy ‘Hawk’ Hill
Deputy Andy Brennan
Madeleine ‘Maddy’ Ferguson
Dr Lawrence Jacoby
Maj. Garland Briggs
Don S. Davis
The Log Lady
Catherine E. Coulson
Mary Jo Deschanel
Phillip Michael Gerard
David Patrick Kelly
FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield
Mayor Dwayne Milford
Lana Budding Milford
FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole