Television’s Second Golden Age: Twin Peaks and it’s Influence


In 2013, David Lynch, an iconic director, cinematographer, and story teller and creator of the most unusual, yet extremely influential show Twin Peaks, made a polarizing but insightful comment that says something very powerful involving the art of TV on cable and Netflix. Paraphrasing, Lynch stated that he did not think that film would have a bright future in advancing and creating mesmerizing stories. Lynch continued that television, now more than ever, is showing that it is one of the best formats to tell a well written and acted story and will only continue to advance over time by giving us stories that are complex, unique and multifaceted with many layers and brilliant ideas (“David Lynch See… Par 1-3). This statement by Lynch, the man who has directed films like Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet, will surely get any movie fan or TV skeptic readied for an argument. However, for those who are open minded and can reflect on what David Lynch said, one can appreciate TV and see that it isn’t a biased opinion at all, but rather a well thought out statement that captures the true potential of TV. It is a point of view that accurately captures that we are in the second golden age of the TV drama series and it is Lynch himself who made the most influential TV series that some say influenced the second golden age of Television the most. This influential show was Twin Peaks.


(Welcome to Twin Peaks)

The second golden age of TV changed TV from a guilty pleasure entertainment to a social conscience art espousing societal and artistic value. Nowadays most people talk much more about shows like Breaking Bad, Dr. Who, and Lost than movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent. These TV shows are seen as compelling and thought-provoking, possessing depth and subtle nuances because of their episodic structure long length compared to movies. The second golden age of television highlights how TV has progressed over the years and turned many TV clichés on their head. Examples that I have learned throughout my Television History class were shows like Moonlighting and Hill Street Blues for being shows in the second golden age of TV. These shows made gutsy decisions like breaking the fourth wall in Moonlighting, and in Hill Street Blues, for having an anti-hero as a protagonist and a grey moral system for cops. One final example is Dallas, having multifaceted characters and cliffhangers. These examples were story concept techniques utilized to create shows that were pushing the envelope on the genre they were set in at the time of their release but offered something different that people never saw before.
No discussion on the second golden age is complete unless we discuss Twin Peaks. This is a TV show that most people do not view as “famous” but it is known as one of the greatest television shows of all time by many audiences and critics. The show also happens to be one of my personal favorite shows and is my pick for the greatest TV drama of all time for its influence and great lasting appeal even to this day. Because of this personal connection I have with the show and its renewal that is scheduled for 2016, it is about time to do a proper research and analysis of this TV show and understand how influential it is and how it changed the art of TV forever. Twin Peaks is a unique and special show that is important to television because it was a show that couldn’t be classified as any sort of genre, an example of the very unique style in Twin Peaks that encouraged shows in the future, and what it’s renewal in 2016 could mean for the future of TV and why people should get excited.
A quality that defined the second golden age of TV was being able to utilize TV’s history and storytelling techniques but use that knowledge to turn clichés around and surprise audiences. As briefly mentioned previously, examples of this can be seen in self parody and breaking the fourth wall through Moonlighting, with its very self-aware storytelling that was not seen from any previous TV show, and Dallas with its multifaceted characters and cliff hangers that made audience participation and immersiveness essential for experiencing the story in its most complete form. What does Twin Peaks have that these shows didn’t have? Well, both of these qualities and many more. Twin Peaks was a one of a kind of show because it was not classified as a single genre show but multiple genres. This TV show was so hard to describe that people had to make up their own word, “Lynchian”.
What is the show Twin Peaks about? Well, it is about a very small town that is away from modern civilization, has a low population, is located near woods and nature, and filled with a lot of secrets with much beauty and darkness. The show follows main character, Special Agent Dale Cooper, who tries to investigate the death of homecoming queen Laura Palmer who was killed unexpectedly by someone in the town. Since this female character was loved by everyone, and there aren’t many violence crimes that appear throughout Twin Peaks, the whole town reacts dramatically to Laura Palmer’s death. Cooper, the untraditional detective and quite possibly the most unique detective to ever appear in a story, and my personal favorite television character ever, has to rely more on just intuition and rational thinking to solve the crime. He realizes that all the other townsfolk, Laura Palmer, and the dark woods of Twin Peaks have dark secrets and double lives and he must figure out what those secrets are by investigating and bringing himself into a place that seems to be both a beautiful surreal dream and disturbing dreamy nightmare at the same time.
Twin Peaks, like Dallas and Moonlighting has a compelling narrative filled with multifaceted characters but also a quirky side and self conscious side that manage to break fourth walls here and there with the main character looking at the audience in the last episode of the series, and characters making references to other shows and movies. Twin Peaks even hosts a fake soap opera, titled Invitation to Love, that Twin Peaks seems to parody at times. To add to this, the series’ narrative incorporates a detective story, and a surreal nightmare atmosphere that is ambiguous but immersive. This atmosphere, as well as complex characters, help to bring audience members into the narrative because it makes audience members similar to Special Agent Dale Cooper, trying to help solve the case by paying attention to what’s right in front of them but also what is hidden underneath, often scenes making audiences discover what the meaning is for the famous red room dwarf infested dream. Now what is that?
Probably the most famous scenes that audiences remember about this show, apart from its multifaceted characters, quirky self parody and creepiness, are the dream sequences that has the main character, Dale Cooper, entering a dream world that is infested with red curtain and a little dwarf and a doppelgänger of Laura Palmer. Not many shows before Twin Peaks ever tried to do dream sequences as surreal as Twin Peaks since the show was made by David Lynch. David Lynch is much known for making surreal movies with dreams and semiotic symbolism so it only makes sense for the show to have a dream sequence. Even in my Columbia class, I have never seen a show that had such emotional and surreal experience that Twin Peaks has with incorporation of the red room. It is just so magical and surreal. The dream has Dale Cooper, unafraid, calm and open-minded, entering his dream world by hearing a poem, “Through the darkness of future’s past, the magician longs to see, one chants out between two worlds, fire walk with me”. Mike, a mythological deity, is a killer who works with another mythical figure called Bob, and they both enjoy living a chaotic, fun life, filled with murder. But later in the dream Mike says that when he found the face of God a little later in his chaotic life, he chopped off his arm with a tattoo and abandoned Bob so that he wouldn’t kill anymore. Bob, in the dream, starts whispering, “Mike, Mike, catch you with my death bag! You may think I’ve gone insane, but I promise, I will kill again”. Then, long after this scene, Cooper enters a red room filled with red curtains, white and black striped floors, a white man statue, a doppelgänger of Laura Palmer, and a dwarf that says, in reversed dialect, “let’s rock”. The dwarf explains to Cooper that he has some good news and that his favorite gum will come in style and that this lady or doppelgänger looks like Laura Palmer and is his cousin. He then says there is always music in the air, and starts dancing in a sexual but quirky way. The doppelgänger of Laura Palmer, who isn’t sexualized or desexualized in any way, comes to Cooper and kisses him in a gentle way on the lips and Cooper agrees and joins his lips to hers, then whispers the name of the killer in Cooper’s ear. Cooper wakes up and is stunned but is very taken aback from the dream and tells his partner on the phone, Truman to meet him in the diner to tell him he knows who killed Laura Palmer. Unfortunately he cannot remember the name of the killer but tells Truman that his dream is a code waiting to be broken and that if he solves the puzzle or breaks the code, he will solve the crime.

(Twin Peaks and its myth figures)
There have been dream sequences in shows before but not in the confident and surreal way that Twin Peaks goes about it. What does this scene mean? I think it is a mix of the book “The Philosophy of David Lynch”, Ledwon and his book, and my personal opinions that lead me to believe that Twin Peaks is a show about duality and the idea that there isn’t one way to approach the daily tasks of life. Life is beautiful and strange and if one limits himself or herself to the rational point of view, he is missing something that is essential to human nature such as emotions, the surreal, and dream myths. Dale Cooper, a very open man, proves to be extrospective and introspective by being friendly and observant to everybody in Twin Peaks as well as listening to his dreams and surreal elements in the town of Twin Peaks to solve the crime. I believe that David Lynch is showing that there is duality in everything in the world whether it be introspective, extrospective as well as desire and fear, evil and good, the rational and the surreal, feminine and the masculine, and mythological figures and dream creations. The world of Twin Peaks is about understanding these two worlds and learning how to merge the two together peacefully. According to Carl Jung , to achieve individuation one must form duality by harmonizing with one’s persona, a societal mask that makes one aware of society, one’s shadow or things that a person hates about himself and is not accepted, and finally, one’s extrospective and introspective tendencies, all to achieve the best form of oneself or the total person. With so many ideas to interpret in Twin Peaks, audience participation and open mindedness, just like Cooper to solve the case, the world of Twin Peaks is both beautiful and strange and holds so many truths about life and human nature.

(Scariest moment in Twin Peaks is by knowing that all of darkness and evil exists in everywhere and everybody)

( Shadow Selves and the silouettes of all of the Lost characters, yes this definitely reminds me of Twin Peaks)

This surreal element of dreams and mythology has influenced many shows in the future. Lost, X Files and The Prisoner have surreal elements where there are dream sequences as well as surreal narratives and places. Lost, a wonderful series created by Damon Lindelof and JJ Abrams, made a show that explores a group of multifaceted characters, like Twin Peaks and Dallas, suffering on a deserted island that is cut off from civilization. The island has super natural elements where the island is even seen as its own character, housing the collective unconscious of the entire cast of islanders in the series and their personal demons that may doom them or lead them to redemption. Everyone in Lost is in trouble and everyone has their problems and good qualities, just like everyone in life since everyone has things they like about themselves as well things they don’t like about themselves and deny, their shadow. An example in Lost that has a dream sequence is a dream where Locke, my second favorite character in a television series, tries to open up a hatch with his friend Boone. They get stuck until Locke has a dream where he sees Boone all bloody saying, “Theresa falls up the stairs, and Theresa falls down the stairs.” Then later Locke sees his mother and he is then in a wheelchair and sees a plane flying in the distance and crashing in the island. Locke believes this surreal dream is a sign and tells Boone to find the plane on the island with him to find something that can break the hatch. Unfortunately because the dream showed Boone bloody, Boone died in a horrible plane crash when he found the plane and found a radio transmitter trying to communicate with officers. Lost was a success for its mythological symbolism and surreal imagery and compelling characters.

( “Theresa falls up the stairs, Theresa falls down the stairs”)

Twin Peaks has not only affected the second golden age in these two ways but also through its portrayal of evil. Mythological figure Bob in Twin Peaks, who has been said to be a symbol of the evil that man does, and Breaking Bad with the transformation of Walter White from bitter teacher to Meth Kingpin named Heisenberg are prime examples. Other themes of double lives also apply to the show Mad Men, with the double lives of Mad Men being in the work place and outside, and Twin Peaks having a town with people with dark secrets. Twin Peaks has been revolutionary and has become a cult show with it being like no other TV show even through today. The show has stood the test of time, and right now the show is renewed for a third season in the year 2016. The show is returning with original creators David Lynch and Mark Frost. David Lynch will direct every episode and Mark Frost, writer of Hill Street of Blues, will be the writer along with David Lynch. There will also be a book bridging the 25 year gap between season 2 and season 3. This is being aired on Showtime and will not be a Netflix original series despite what people may think because Netflix seems to be beating out cable. Is the renewal of Twin Peaks a good thing or bad thing for television? I think it is a brilliant. Not only will audiences get to see Twin Peaks return but there will also be a very epic post modern foreshadowing. In season 2 for the finale, the doppelganger of Laura Palmer said to Cooper in the red room, “I will see you again in 25 years”. The show ended in 1991 and 2016 will be 25 year anniversary after the show ended. I think people have to see this series and watch its renewal because people need to start and wonder why this series was so influential and why it is still amazing even to this day. While Rothman thinks that Twin Peaks renewal isn’t going to be as good as its first airing because when it aired on ABC it was a one of a kind show and now that it is going to air on Showtime it is going to be a “two of a kind show” (Rothman Par 1). With Twin Peaks returning, more people will be fascinated in Twin Peaks and more people will begin to watch it. Audiences today are even more receptive to drama series as the second golden age of television continues to gain in popularity and quality. I think the show is a thought provoking and unique show that influenced so many shows in the second golden age of TV. Twin Peaks is the gold standard of what a television drama series can achieve and underscores Lynch’s view that television will eclipse film as the most effective and artistic storytelling medium.

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( David Lynch is one of the greatest directors and I wish him so much luck for the Season Three of Twin Peaks).

Works Cited
“David Lynch Sees No Future in Cinema; Says the Best Art House Is on TV.”Screen Rant. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
Devlin, William J., and Shai Biderman. The Philosophy of David Lynch. Lexington, KY: U of Kentucky, 2011. Print.
“Jung, Carl Gustav.” Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia (2014): 1p. 1. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

Ledwon, Lenora. “Twin Peaks And The Television Gothic.” Literature Film Quarterly 21.4 (1993):260-270.
International Bibliography of Theatre &Dance with Full Text. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.)
Rothman, Lily. “There’s One Big Difference Between The Original Twin Peaks And The Reboot.” Time. Com (2014): 1  Business Source Complete Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
Thompson, Robert J. Television’s Second Golden Age: From Hill Street Blues to ER: Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Cagney & Lacey, Moonlighting, L.A. Law, Thirty something, China Beach, Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure, Picket Fences, with Brief Reflections on Homicide, NYPD Blue, Chicago Hope, and Other Quality Dramas. New York: Continuum, 1996. Print. Continue reading