TV fans across the country are rejoicing at the news that the acclaimed television drama “Twin Peaks” will be returning to the airwaves in 2016. And they should: “Twin Peaks” did more than perhaps any other program to convince network executives that American viewers could handle the sort of bold, sophisticated shows that have come to define the best of American TV.
“Twin Peaks” premiered in 1990 on ABC, and from the first episode creators David Lynch and Mark Frost made it clear they were more interested in examining the bizarre characters who inhabited the fictional northwestern town of Twin Peaks than they were in the show’s main plot conceit — the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer. FBI agent Dale Cooper relied on dream sequences, in which people talked backwards, to get leads in the murder case. A one-armed traveling shoe salesman and a woman who held a log as if it were a pet (“the Log Lady”) played prominent roles in the show.
And audiences ate it up. More than 34 million people tuned into the premiere, at a time when there wasn’t widespread cable competition. Those were meaningful numbers for television executives who might have thought that American viewers were only interested in sitcoms and football. And although the show lost steam during its second season, it helped pave the way for smarter, edgier programming. For example it’s hard to imagine “Lost,” with its Byzantine twists and turns and flashbacks, being greenlit by ABC before “Twin Peaks” proved that complex TV could work on a network.
There is no word yet on how the reboot — which will be written and produced by Lynch and Frost, and will air on Showtime — will tie into the first two seasons, apart from some cryptic clues that it might include some of the characters from the ’90s original. Now that so many cable drama — and network dramas, too — take advantage of the sort of serial storytelling “Twin Peaks” pioneered, a rebooted series will have to push the boundaries even farther to feel fresh. But Showtime’s interest and involvement are reasons for hope. And the cable channel’s plans to air the original episodes, too, is a fitting tribute to the classic program.
And if you’re like me, and were born 10 months after the show first aired, it will be an opportunity to watch a piece of television history on an actual television, as opposed to a computer screen, via iTunes.
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