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'Twin Peaks' and its enormous influence on modern TV

When Twin Peaks first aired, way back in the spring of 1990, it was an immediate critical sensation. The recipient of a Golden Globe for Best Drama as well as 14 Emmy nominations for its first season, Twin Peaks was instantly recognized as an unprecedented event in television, full of innovative storytelling and off-kilter sensibilities.

Although it was canceled just a little more than a year after its inception, Twin Peaks has always had a long and lasting influence on modern television. With the possible revival of the show as a Showtime limited series, I thought it would be a good idea to look at how David Lynch and Mark Frost’s groundbreaking show has paved the way for so many contemporary shows, from The X-Files to Bates Motel.

The impact of Twin Peaks on television really extends as far back as the early 1990s, to The X-Files. Both shows changed the perception of what TV shows could look like. The impact of Twin Peaks paved the way for modern TV shows to take chances and incorporate more mysterious storylines into their DNA.

Take Bates Motel. The ongoing prequel series to Psycho is concerned with the arrival of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother (Vera Farmiga) to a mysterious town. While the constant comparison is the classic 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film, the A&E series actually shares a lot of obvious thematic similarities with Twin Peaks. The theme of a small town with a lot of secrets (White Pine Bay) hidden underneath its seemingly innocent surface is also explored in Twin Peaks. Both series are interested in the idea of landscapes that represent Americana and showing the horror underneath the apparently pure backdrop.

That idea also applies to its characters: What you see isn’t necessarily what you get. Both properties have a wide cast of odd characters, adding an element of weirdness and unpredictability. Then there are the towns’ respective underground businesses. With Bates Motel, Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot) is involved with a weed enterprise. There are also drugs featured in Twin Peaks, but the most obvious business is the brothel and casino One-Eyed Jack’s, and how it factors into the ongoing investigation.

Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin, creators of Bates Motel, acknowledge the massive influence that Twin Peaks has on their show as a whole. Both capture an idyllic representation of the small town where everything is perfect, hiding many darker elements. In Bates Motel, Norman and Norma Bates are capable of doing terrible things, but at the same time, they just want a normal life. The same goes for Twin Peaks Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). A connective theme of underlying truth exposes some dark secrets being hidden from plain sight.

Twin Peaks features FBI Agent Dale Cooper (a charmingly committed Kyle MacLachlan), who’s presented with an image of Laura as the homecoming queen. But the more he investigates, the more he discovers the issues she was going through before she was murdered (for a more in-depth look at the last days of Laura Palmer, I recommend the underrated prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, directed by Lynch himself).

Aside from these thematic similarities, both shows share a distinct visual style: chilly cinematography with a heavy emphasis on atmosphere. Granted, Twin Peaks offers more dream sequences and quirky Lynchian surrealism, but a lot of Bates Motel also incorporates similar motifs, such as bizarre sequences and weird characters. For example, in Bates Motel‘s season two, Norma auditions for a musical production; it looked like a scene right out of a Lynchian dream sequence in Twin Peaks. There’s even an obvious Twin Peaks reference with the blue drapes (instead of red like those in Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge), which serves subtly inverts Twin Peaks’ distinct visual style in an homage.

Landscape shot of Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks was especially influential in the mystery genre. This show was largely responsible for the idea of a central mystery driving the overall storyline. This permeates the TV landscape today, with countless shows like Lost, The Killing, and many more.

Without going into specific spoilers, Twin Peaks faced a controversy (that future shows would also face) at the end of the first season, which caused a decline in quality and viewership during its mixed second season. The decline was so fast that ABC shut down the series.

A TV show that mixed neo-noir procedural drama, soap-opera sensibilities, supernatural themes, and surreal dream sequences was co-created by the man who had directed The Elephant Man and Blue Velvet. So perhaps it was bound to alter the television landscape in a major way. Even with last year’s True Detective, Twin Peaks’ impact was obvious in that show’s look, neo-noir approach, mystery development, and even its cynical version of Dale Cooper in the form of Rust Cohle.

Dale Cooper arrives at the town of Twin Peaks

Despite its short run, Twin Peaks has been massively influential. With its potential revival, it will be interesting to see how audiences perceive this show, especially after we’ve seen it be referenced for years now.

If you’ve never seen it, give it a try—especially the extraordinary first season. Grab a cup of coffee and a slice of cherry pie, and jump on board the beautifully surreal journey that is Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks is currently available on Netflix and Blu-ray.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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