Monday, 6 October 2014

TWIN PEAKS

There's no real way of saying this in a way that doesn't make me sound like history's worst man, but Twin Peaks' first, eight episode series is imho etc the greatest piece of screen art ever made, a lush waking dream somewhere between dreamy rapture and screaming, bottomless horror, the total safety of nostalgia and the total certainty of obliteration.

The second series had nine equally good episodes at the start and probably five or six at the end. Unfortunately it was 22 episodes long, and in the middle was a directionless – if definitely not meritless – eight episodes that basically did for the show.

Its cancellation always nagged at me as a minor American tragedy... it felt like it was doomed by the way US network television was made – as a result of the success of a short first series, it was over commissioned. Much as improvisation was a factor in S1, it seemed obvious that it wasn't suited to being left to fill for time and ramble on over 22 episodes; if David Lynch did have a masterplan for the 'who killed Laura Palmer?' story that the network scuppered by demanding he reveal the killer early (and I doubt he did) then he should have asked for a break as a trade off (I'm sure TV doesn't work like that or whatever). Still, if the second series had been as short as the first I can well imagine there would have been a strong third series and whether or not any more were made, it would probably have ended under less of a cloud.



Twin Peaks always meant a strange kind of semi-nostalgia for me – I first saw S1 as Channel 5 repeats in 1997 (when I was 16), but they didn't repeat S2 and so the rest of it seemed to almost be this semi-mythical thing from a near past that seemed much further away to me then than six years ago would seem to me now. I think in a weird and clearly EXTREMELY NARCISSISTIC way I elided the nostalgia Twin Peaks held for 50s small-town America with the nostalgia that in 1997 I already felt for aspects of my own childhood; my sense of my own past became unreasonably touched with Lynch's sense of America's past. Which is clearly a bit preposterous and a lot self-absorbed, but I suppose on a fundamental level Twin Peaks had a 'childish', wondering view of the world.

Anyway, over the next two years I painstakingly pieced together S2 in hilariously retro fashion, by finding the videotapes of three episodes a time (I guess one much have been four) in various Birmingham music stores... it was all so sporadic and hard won that I'm not sure the mid-S2 hump was very obvious to me the first time, though second time out (I've only managed the whole thing twice) it certainly was. But when I finally finished S2 in 1999-ish I just felt sad that there were no more. So I did the next best thing and in 2000, while Greyhounding around North America, I went to Snoqualmie Falls in Washington State and it was kind of amazing, kind of... I'm not sure if sad is the right word, but the lack of palpable enthusiasm for Twin Peaks in the area felt like a shame, nobody seemed to care... as I recall all we could find to officially mark the show beyond the scenery was a few very old postcards and what looked like an unofficial, hand-knitted, very ugly jumper in a shop somewhere.

Obviously I'm delighted that the show's stock has risen so much in subsequent years, to the point that Lynch and Mark Frost have announced an S3 to run in 2016. The serendipity of this being 25 years after S2 ended with a declaration that Agent Cooper would be trapped in the Black Lodge for 25 years – meaning that on some level Lynch and Frost can sort of semi act as if this is what they'd always intended to do – is, frankly, glorious.

Still, I can't help but feel a little bit of trepidation... the chance to do an S3 in the style of the first two has long passed, I don't think Twin Peaks 2016 would be this isolated place where everyone dresses badly and nobody swears or contacts the outside world... I'm not sure Twin Peaks would evoke nostalgia half so well if it was in fact nostalgic for itself, it'd seem like an in joke or a concession to fans. I think what I'd like to happen would be a drastic stylistic shift, a damaged Cooper emerging into a colder, techier, less interesting world, a show that served as an elegy to the 50s, not an evocation of them.

I've not actually read Boneland by Alan Garner, but I loved The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath when I was child, and I think IN THEORY it's wonderful that Garner would wait 48 years to write a dark, oblique, radically generically different final part to the trilogy that annoyed loads of people, and I guess I'd love it if Lynch did something like that.

I think my slight problem with the renaissance in Twin Peaks' popularity is that something so other and ultimately abrasive has kind of become colonised by its fans, the show living on in fancy dress Twin Peaks marathons and received wisdom about S2. On some level, Lynch and Frost making S3 because Twin Peaks has become sufficiently popular again is a pandering of sorts. But it's a very different pandering to the compromises of S2, and I hope whatever he chooses to do for S3 will be hysterically single-minded and conspire to annoy lots of Twin Peaks fans (probably including me). In the 23 years since its cancellation, Twin Peaks has become our property – I hope with S3 its creator will rip it back from us.