When it was originally on: 1990-1991 (rebooted in 2017)
Original network: ABC (reboot by Showtime)
Where you can stream it now: Netflix, Hulu, and CBS All Access all have the original two seasons. For the reboot, you’ll need a Showtime subscription.
Had I seen it before: I’ve seen all of Season 1, but had lost my patience with the show by then, so I never gave Season 2 a chance.
What IMDb says: An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.
Why I picked it: Twin Peaks, much like Hill Street Blues, is one of the shows that I never thought about much until I started diving into the history of television. Following in the tradition of Hill Street Blues, Twin Peaks takes serialized television one step further, with the entire series revolving around a single murder. From my understanding, this was a pretty radical move at the time, and the show took the world by storm.
It’s also one of the earliest, if not the very first example of a filmmaker who made his name in the feature film world transitioning into television. That shows in the final product, with Twin Peaks being known for its more cinematic feel. For most of the history of television, it was largely considered a less prestigious medium than film, something writers, actors, and directors, and producers did to pay the bills while still longing for a feature film career. Twin Peaks was the first show to prove that television COULD be more like the movies if only we let it, and that precedent is still shaping television to this very day.
What I liked: One of the advantages that more serialized murder mysteries have over their procedural counterparts is that you have a lot more time to explore the emotional ramifications of a murder. When there’s only 42 minutes to solve the crime, sometimes scenes about classmates and family just living with the tragedy get shortchanged.
Twin Peaks does a good job of taking full advantage of this structural difference. I like that we get a fair amount of time to just watch Laura’s friends and family react to the news before we really dive into the crime-solving aspects of the story. We get a sense for who Laura was before she was killed.
I also had forgotten how long the pilot takes to introduce Dale Cooper, and I think it was a smart move. They take their time to establish the backdrop of Twin Peaks before they make it about the murder. You get this great sense that Twin Peaks is a small town where this kind of thing would NEVER happen, and yet they never have to come straight out and tell you that the way other shows might (Yes, I’m looking at you, Riverdale).
What I didn’t like: This is a very long pilot that lacks focus, resulting in it dragging in many parts. One of the things that makes these small-town murder mystery stories fun is having a ton of mundane characters and knowing that each one could potentially be a murderer. While Twin Peaks does throw a lot of different characters at us, it’s not always great at showing us how each of these characters relates to Laura Palmer and how they might have been involved with her murder.
For example, there’s this girl named Audrey whose dad owns a hotel and is trying to get Finnish people to invest in it. Did Audrey know Laura? Did Laura stay at this hotel at one point? What about the fact that everyone in this town is sleeping with someone they’re not supposed to be sleeping with? There’s just so much going on and so much of it seems unconnected to the Laura case, even after Dale Cooper arrives and I thought the pilot would become a little more focused. It’s like there’s a million different puzzle pieces with no reassurance that everything belongs to the same puzzle.
And look, it is a mystery after all, so of course some things should be left unexplained. But the problem is that just telling me a lot of things without really showing me why they’re worth explaining leaves me uninvested. That paired with the fact that Twin Peaks has a longer than average pilot left me less interested at the end of episode than I was at the beginning.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: If I hadn’t already seen all of Season 1, there was definitely enough here to make me curious for more episodes. That being said, I have seen all of Season 1, and unfortunately the show doesn’t give you quick enough answers to satisfy me.