Saturday, January 12, 2013

Twin Peaks - the TV show review

(note - there's no big spoilers in here if you haven't seen it yet)

When Twin Peaks appeared on Netflix On Demand and Hulu for free, I figured I'd give it a try - and I highly recommend. I think it's a truly brilliant masterpiece, and I'm sure it's highly influential on future television. In the past few years especially, tv dramas have cared more than ever about cinematography - with Mad Men, Six Feet Under, and Breaking Bad as shining examples. I've loved David Lynch - and highly recommend downloading his audio book "To Catch a Fish" (he's a huge fan of transcendental meditation and he goes off on that a lot when there's so much more substance to his words beyond that. put the ipod on shuffle with your music and enjoy occasional treats from Lynch!) For some reason I thought in my head that I knew what Twin Peaks was all about from the glimpses I've had when it was on the air - but DUH, I was about 10 years old.

Hitchcock understood the GREAT IMPORTANCE of suspense in film. It matters in ALL genres from comedy to mystery in making moments count and the narrative exciting. Hitchcock Quote:

"I have always felt that you should do the minimum on screen to achieve the maximum effect. I believe the audience should work."

This is ESSENTIAL to great cinema and in Twin Peaks David Lynch plays with this a lot.

The characters are extremely well developed - fun, engaging, mysterious, sexy. Some characters are over the top in very specific, purposeful ways. He plays with audience expectations and the conventions of soap opera and bad television. Many people call Twin Peaks a satire of soap opera - in some ways, yes it is, but it's so much more than that. He's extremely aware of the audience's expectation as I mentioned before, and sometimes he plays with it so much it's clear he's got an incredible sense of humor. He earns every pleasurable moment of the show by telling his story with care and skill.

Nothing demonstrates the genius of the show more than when you get past Season 2 Episode 7, the last episode directed by David Lynch aside from the finale. The quality of the show declines rapidly, and then it gets even worse after the discovery of "who killed Laura Palmer" the over arching question of the show. What happens demonstrates the misunderstanding of and inability to replicate David Lynch's vision for the show and it's characters. The show is no longer clever and instead it hits you over the head with information, constantly indicating what it wants you to know - leaving no room for the audience to enjoy piecing things together. It becomes predictable, later romances are un earned (contrast the spark between Agent Cooper and Audrey with Agent Cooper and Heather Graham - notice how the relationship with Graham is completely undeveloped and simply served to you on a boring platter)

I think the show, and it's ultimate decline are a great demonstration of filmmaking skill, and by contrast lack there-of. For example - at the start of that sentence I just wrote - You can anticipate the later half of the sentence, what it's content will be. The mind fills in the blanks based on information given. It's a pleasure to do so and that's art. But you can only get there when you are given substance. Otherwise one just points to things they want you to see.

This is something I like to think of as the Tim Burton problem.

Tim Burton's masterpieces: Beeteljuice and Edward Scissorhands were followed by many great films - Ed Wood, Batman, Mars Attacks, and preceeded by the great Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. However by the time he got to Big Fish, he became detrimentally self-aware. He knew what it meant to "be Tim Burton" and he could no longer simply create without spewing out his signatures and what the audience expects from him - but on the wholly superficial level. And thus backlash. His creations became predictable parodies of his own work.

I feel the directors of later episodes of Twin Peaks picked up on what David Lynch was trying to create without truly understanding its depth and substance. It eventually went from beyond soap opera to exactly that. It's sad to watch poor Agent Cooper be so misunderstood, wasted, and poorly directed. The acting becomes terrible for the most part. Though I'd say the lovable Andy maintains his character better than some of the rest. Maybe he was easy for new directors and writers to understand.

I'd also want to credit the original co-writer Mark Foster as Twin Peaks is the result of their collaboration, and I know Foster wrote less and less as the show went on.

Thankfully the show is only 2 seasons long so you're not stuck with a situation like Gossip Girl - which was very well written and executed in it's early seasons, but later turned out about 3-4 seasons of complete horrible garbage all the way up until its insufferable finale.

Watch Twin Peaks and enjoy a show that was absolutely ahead of its time, and then go googling to understand its context and take a trip down early 90s lane - one of my favorite moments in American entertainment culture and the last great moment in modern music.

LINKS:
- Sesame Street Twin Peaks parody "Twin Beaks"
- SNL "Twin Peaks" parody
- Homer watches Twin Peaks
- Wikipedia entry on Twin Peaks (SPOILER ALERT so scroll carefully)

1 comment:

Falcor81 said...

Heather, I really enjoyed your review of Twin Peaks and agree with your analysis. I remember when I discovered the show and how in awe I was watching. I must say, however, that I disagree with your contention about Tim Burton and Big Fish. I love that movie and think it's one of Burton's most honest works. I don't know if it's necessarily fair to compare it with Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. Overall, keep up the entertaining work.