Wednesday, December 24, 2014

COLUMN: Twin Peaks

Well, it's official. It's time to start taking better care of myself. Goodbye, trans fats. So long, listless nights on the couch. Farewell, assorted vices (I'm talking to YOU, doughnuts.) It's high time I start unclogging arteries and deploying long-vacationing muscles.

A new leaf needs to be turned. For the first time in a long while, I have an inarguable reason to live: Twin Peaks is coming back.

It's no big secret that I fancy myself somewhat of a television aficionado. If there's a show out there, I probably watch it, or have at least watched it ONCE and offered an unfair and unsolicited snap opinion as to its worthiness. My mission is simple: consume everything, form immediate and polarizing opinions on it all, and then pronounce judgement, usually in a most rabid and vitriolic fashion, to the eternal amusement (and often annoyance) of anyone around me.

There are shows that are good (Parks and Recreation) and shows that are bad (anything that involves stars dancing in any fashion.) There are under-rated shows (Pretty Little Liars) and over-rated shows (Mad Men.) There are shows that critics hate yet I love (The Newsroom) and shows that critics love but I just don't (Breaking Bad.) There's even shows I can't begin to justify my obsession with (thanks for the wasted summer, Big Brother. #teamzack #fruitloopdingus.)

But it all had to start somewhere... and for me, that somewhere was Twin Peaks.

It probably just came down to good timing. Growing up, I watched pretty much whatever my mom watched, which was mostly generic family sitcoms and the occasional episode of "The Love Boat." My dad usually ignored television entirely unless there was a war movie or a James Bond flick on. When I finally got my own TV, it served mostly as a 24/7 dedicated window to MTV. But once I got to college, I hungered to watch something left-of-center that matched my newfound independence. "Twin Peaks" was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Quite simply, there has never been a weirder, wackier, more immersive or compelling show on the air. "Lost" came close, but you got the impression with "Lost" that the writers were mostly making it up as they went along (which, if you read the interviews, wasn't far from the truth.) "Twin Peaks," on the other hand, was a fully-formed head-turner from start to finish.

At face value, it was a plotline we've seen countless times: In a small town brimming with charm and quirkiness, the FBI is summoned to help solve the murder of a popular cheerleader. As the investigation gets underway and clues are discovered, it quickly becomes clear that behind the smiling facade of Twin Peaks hides a world of danger, darkness, and deception.

But this was no run-of-the-mill murder mystery. This was Twin Peaks, where the owls are not what they seem and where haunted woods, alien abduction, and spirit possession were the order of the day. If you made it through the surreal dream sequence at the end of the third episode -- inarguably the strangest five minutes ever aired on a major primetime network -- you were either a diehard fan or you had absolutely no clue what was going on... or both.

Twin Peaks was the brainchild of David Lynch, a man The Guardian once dubbed "the most important director of this era." Especially gifted at making art out of the mundane, Lynch could take something as simple as a ceiling fan and, with the right lighting and sound effects, turn it into the embodiment of evil. Television would never be the same.

Neither would I. For the first time, I had discovered a TV show that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time I heard the theme music. Every episode was a party in our dorm room, and the remainder of the week was often spent rewinding and re-watching for clues. My roommates and I hung on every last word in hopes of appreciating the series on some kind of higher Lynchian level.

I bought up all the books, listened to the soundtracks, went to the conventions, you name it. For the two years it was on TV, it was the single thing that best defined my life. But the party couldn't last forever. Some say that Twin Peaks jumped the shark in its second season. I say it was just trying to find its footing. Either way, the show was prematurely cancelled and quickly wrapped up with a slap-dash ending that yielded more questions than answers.

These days, Lynch is better known for his outspoken advocacy of Transcendental Meditation and the foundation he runs in hopes of spreading TM to the masses. On more than one occasion, I've made the drive out to Fairfield, IA to hear Lynch speak at the Maharishi University of Management. A couple years back, I actually got to meet him. I thought it was one of the greatest moments of my life. Until this moment, that is.

Last Friday at precisely 11:30 a.m. EST (Nerd Alert: the same time that FBI Agent Dale Cooper first arrived in Twin Peaks,) the usually dormant Twitter accounts of Lynch and Twin Peaks co-producer Mark Frost went live with the same message - a line of dialogue stolen directly from that mind-bending Episode 3 dream sequence: "THAT GUM YOU LIKE IS GOING TO COME BACK IN STYLE."

About the only thing weirder than the Ep. 3 dream sequence was the series finale dream sequence, where Agent Cooper comes face-to-face with the (ghost?) (spirit?) (soul?) of the late Laura Palmer. I wouldn't dare spoil it and try to explain it (not that I could,) but ONE line of dialogue is super important: At one point, Laura looks at Cooper and nonsensically says, "I'll see you again in 25 years."

Truer words have never been spoken. 25 years have now passed since "Twin Peaks" first aired on ABC, and the official news hit this week: it's coming back. Nine new episodes, written by Lynch/Frost and directed by Lynch, are coming to Showtime in 2016. Or, as I believe I said when the news reached me, "Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!"

Someone at work had the gall to say to me, "Not until 2016? Lame." Look, an event of this magnitude is going to require at least two years of solid prep work. There's watching and re-watching to do, forums to join, plotlines to predict, and rumors to debunk. I was a crazy Twin Peaks fan BEFORE the advent of the internet. Nowadays I can log on and argue theories with other online superfans 'til I'm blue in the face.

All I know is that I can't get blue in the face now, at least not prior to 2016. Life is for living, or at least until they cancel my favorite show for a second time. In the meantime, I'll be over there on the treadmill. That gum I like is coming back in style.

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