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‘Twin Peaks’: Newsday’s original 1990 review

Sherilyn Fenn and Kyle MacLachlan starred in the

Sherilyn Fenn and Kyle MacLachlan starred in the original "Twin Peaks" on ABC. Credit: ABC / Craig Sjodin

From Jan. 9, 1990, here’s Newsday’s very first story about “Twin Peaks,” which the reporter screened at that winter’s TV Critics press tour in Los Angeles, three months ahead of the show’s official TV premiere.

Showtime’s “Twin Peaks” limited-series revival premiered May 21.


LOS ANGELES — What a disaster this season has been. Isn’t there anything new and different to watch?


But you’ll have to wait until April. That’s when “Twin Peaks,” a mystery-drama, debuts on ABC. It’s the most intelligent, gorgeously filmed and highly stylized series of this disappointing season.

It’s also the first TV effort of David Lynch, the quirky cult director whose films have included the midnight-movie fave “Eraserhead,” the sci-fi bomb “Dune” and the haunting and shocking “Blue Velvet,” which made many critics’ top-10-of the-’80s lists.

With its pacing, attention to detail and offbeat dialogue, “Twin Peaks” looks and sounds like a David Lynch movie. Viewers who have seen “Blue Velvet” will find “Twin Peaks” more accessible. Lynch’s series is laced with dark humor as it probes the dry rot lurking beneath the seemingly tranquil surface of a small town — in this case the fictitious Pacific Northwest logging town of Twin Peaks.

Like Lumberton in “Blue Velvet,” Twin Peaks is a town whose ambience suggests it is stuck in the 1950s. “Blue Velvet” opened with the discovery of a severed ear and “Twin Peaks” likewise begins with a grisly scene: An early-morning fisherman stumbles on the mutilated, plastic-wrapped body of a teenage girl. As with “Blue Velvet,” your emotions will be given a high-intensity workout. You may not be quite sure when to laugh uneasily, laugh heartily, be shocked or feel you’re being put on. But since this is network television, Lynch’s most bizarre and violent tendencies have been reined in.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that TV has never seen a small town like Lynch’s Twin Peaks. It makes “Peyton Place” look as homey as Mayberry.

Lynch said he’s confident that his quirky show will not prove too obscure for the mass audience that network television requires. “It’s a murder-mystery soap opera with fantastic characters. Everybody loves a mystery and we’re all detectives of sorts and we want to know what’s going to happen,” Lynch told TV critics here.

Executive producer Mark Frost, a “Hill Street Blues” alumnus, claimed that “Twin Peaks” is not a radical departure. “If you consider that we’re just trying to re-imagine the genre of the nighttime soap in a way that ‘Hill Street’ did the cop show a decade ago, then I think we have to give the audience a chance to decide whether they like it or not,” Frost said.

Both Frost and Lynch insisted that “Twin Peaks” is not a sendup of the prime-time soap opera.

“It’s sort of a step outward in a different direction,” Frost said. “There are things that people could certainly laugh at, but you can’t really control that. It was never our intention to do any kind of parody. The story, however it may strike you, was told with a straight face.”

The murder of Laura Palmer, a popular high school student is the raison d’être for the series. The mystery will continue throughout the series’ run, but along the way the murder serves as the catalyst to get viewers involved in the lives of the rest of the characters, which are certainly filled with the staples of prime-time soaps — infidelity, backstabbing, passion and greed.

The series has an ensemble cast of 15 regular characters and 20 satellite roles.

The cast is certainly one of prime-time’s most eclectic, filled by performers who will have viewers asking, “Where has he or she been?” They include: two cast members from “West Side Story,” Richard Beymer (who plays the town’s most important businessman) and Russ Tamblyn (the town’s only psychiatrist); two stars of old cop shows, Peggy Lipton of “The Mod Squad” as a diner owner and Michael Ontkean of “The Rookies” as the sheriff (who’s named Harry S. Truman); film veteran Piper Laurie as a sawmill manager; and art-movie favorite Joan Chen (“The Last Emperor”) as the town’s wealthy widow.

But it wouldn’t be a David Lynch production without the presence of Kyle MacLachlan, the young star of “Dune” and “Blue Velvet.” Here, MacLachlan plays FBI Agent Dale Cooper, a no-nonsense guy sent to Twin Peaks to assist the sheriff in investigating Laura’s murder.

Lynch spent 22 days last spring filming the pilot in Seattle and environs. ABC chose not to add the show to its September schedule, preferring to wait for midseason when a series like “Twin Peaks” would be bound to get more attention. It’s one reason why ABC is increasingly getting a reputation as the network that’s most receptive to mold-breaking programing.

But with most daring programing, there are problems. Foremost is that Lynch is an acquired taste and this series demands that you pay attention. The large ensemble cast may prove unwieldy. Also potentially problematic is that all seven episodes after the pilot were filmed in Los Angeles, not in Washington State. However, both Lynch and Frost claim they were able to duplicate the pilot’s eerie, earth-toned ambience. Lynch, who wrote and directed the two-hour pilot, directed only one of the subsequent episodes.

And Lynch allowed — finally — that he might be a bit nervous about the acceptance of “Twin Peaks.” “You only have one night in TV,” he said. “Word has to be gotten out that this is a cool thing worth watching.”

In three months, you’ll decide for yourself whether “Twin Peaks” is a cool thing worth watching. This viewer has the pleasure of already knowing that it is.

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