1. Lower your expectations for the original.
Here’s why. 1990 was not exactly the golden age of television. The top 30 rated television shows included Growing Pains, Head of the Class, Major Dad, Who’s the Boss?, Matlock, Full House, and Murphy Brown. Heck, the 8th most highly rated show was America’s Funniest Home Videos. When the Twin Peaks pilot aired on April 8th 1990 it was like nothing we had ever seen. It was a spanner tossed into the inner workings of the bland and predictable television machine. How did this even happen?
David Lynch and Mark Frost pitched their crime/slapstick/noir/soap opera to Aaron Spelling and company (yes, the very same Aaron Spelling behind such television treasures as Charlie’s Angels, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat) and not only did they get the green light but they were given complete creative control. Today, the media landscape could not be more different. HBO, Netflix, Showtime, and other players have launched the most adventurous, well-funded, creative series in television history and have hired writers that don’t pander to weekly Nielsen ratings. Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Stranger Things – like them or not, it’s hard to dispute the quality of the writing and acting and directing. How the Twin Peaks reboot will measure up against our current embarrassment of riches is my biggest question. Lower your expectations, people. But hope for the best.
2. Angelo Badalamenti’s score was as important as any of the characters.
It’s an excellent sign that Saint Angelo is back on board. The original opening credits were mesmerizing. The theme, aptly titled “Falling,” opened with a reverb-laden tube amped surf guitar landing an f note over a delicate bell-like electric piano arpeggio. With these spooky mechanistic images of the inner workings of a sawmill the theme then progressed to the cascading counterpart played by the composer on this deliciously reedy polyphonic synth. It all worked so well. And the composer’s noir riff compositions were just as interesting. Oh, and there’s this: (not that we need the hipsters for validation) but it’s worth noting that Death Waltz Records of (where else?) Austin, Texas, recently reissued the soundtrack on heavyweight 180 graham vinyl. And, of course, it is sold out. Once again, true hipster status is beyond your reach.
3. Hair, Makeup, and Wardrobe.
Fun fun fun—creative control in the hands of what I’m imagining was a very adventurous crew. I dare you to name me two better heads of hair than Agent Cooper (Kyle McClaughlan) and Sheriff Trumann (Michael Ontkean). Their hair could have launched it’s own late night talk show. And the women? I truly wish I would have invested in Revlon in 1989, because the sheer volume of various shades of red lipstick is staggering. And Audrey Horne’s (Sherilyn Fenn) retro film noir skirts and shoes are absolutely stunning.
4. Is a toned down Lynch a better Lynch?
I’ve seen all of his films (yes, even Eraserhead). Some of them even made me cry. I know it might be totally schlocky, but when the lead character John Merrick recites the 23rd Psalm in The Elephant Man, it cuts me open and makes me bleed. But some of Lynch’s films traffic in a realism of violence that I can no longer watch. Blue Velvet is visually spectacular. But I’m done with it, because of the rape scene. So there. I’m suggesting that Lynch is better when more is left to the imagination.
5. Twin Peaks heavily trafficked in the history of popular culture, especially television.
The original two seasons were filled with references like this: Agent Cooper (Dale B. Cooper) is a riff on D.B. Cooper, a legendary felon who parachuted from an airplane somewhere between Seattle and Portland, $200,000 in hand, and was never found. Of course there is Sheriff Harry S. Truman (named for the 33rd president of the United States). The “one armed man” is an homage to the mysterious elusive villain in the 1960’s TV series The Fugitive. And even the central characters were mined from the history of not-so-classic television. Michael Ontkean (Sheriff Truman) starred as Officer Willie Gillis in the early 70’s action police drama The Rookies. And Peggy Lipton (Norma Jennings) was best known for her role as flower child Julie Barnes in the ABC faux counterculture television series The Mod Squad.
Watch for more of these riffs in the reboot.
6. Truman was just as smart as Cooper.
Sheriff Truman was no Barney Fife to Cooper’s Andy Griffith. This was a buddy series in which they complemented each other so well. Cooper was the analyst, always observing and measuring and investigating. But Truman had the street smarts and the people skills. It’s magical how well these two actors played off each other. (Sadly, for whatever reason, Ontkean’s people say that he is officially retired and will not be in the reboot.) It’s probably too much to ask, but it would be amazing to see two female leads achieve the same sort of prominence and chemistry as Truman and Cooper.
7. The quirky side characters were just as engaging as the leading actors.
The first two seasons gave us The Log Lady, The One Armed Man, the ridiculously disdainful Albert Rosenfeld, and my two favorite supporting actors, Lucy and Andy. Lucy, the dispatcher, with her high-pitched voice and her gossip at the switchboard, and dear, dear Andy, the deputy who had to leave each crime scene because the violence was so overwhelming it made him burst into tears. Let’s hope for more of the same with the supporting roles.
8. Lower your expectations for the reboot.
Things change. You can’t go back home. The sequel is rarely as good as the first one. Have you ever been in the basement of the Louvre and viewed DaVinci’s Mona Lisa Two? Enough said. Nevertheless, I AM going to watch this reboot of Twin Peaks and I’d love your company if we can work it out. (I actually used to host a viewing party every week in my little apartment in Seattle during the first season—that’s how addicting it was.) Hopefully, Lynch and Frost have been in a sensibly manic and playful mood and will have some great surprises for us. Let me know what you think when it airs next month.
This article was written by Mark Stenberg for The Stake.