Twin Peaks is a mystery\horror\drama series created by Mark Frost and David Lynch.
The show first aired on ABC from April 8, 1990 to June 10, 1991 for two seasons; however, after a 25-year hiatus, it returned for a third season on the Showtime network as "Twin Peaks: The Return" in 2017.
The success of "Twin Peaks" sparked a media franchise and it was followed by a 1992 feature film "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" (which serves as a prequel to the series).
Set in the fictional suburban town of Twin Peaks, Washington, the series followed FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper investigating the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer.
- Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper
- Michael Ontkean as Sheriff Harry S. Truman
- Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson
- Dana Ashbrook as Bobby Briggs
- Richard Beymer as Benjamin Horne
- Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna Hayward
- Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne
- Warren Frost as Dr. Will Hayward
- Peggy Lipton as Norma Jennings
- James Marshall as James Hurley
- Everett McGill as Ed Hurley
- Jack Nance as Pete Martell
- Ray Wise as Leland Palmer
- Joan Chen as Jocelyn Packard
- Piper Laurie as Catherine Martell
- Kimmy Robertson as Lucy Moran
- Eric Da Re as Leo Johnson
- Harry Goaz as Deputy Sheriff Andy Brennan
- Michael Horse as Deputy Sheriff Tommy "Hawk" Hill
- Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer\Madeline "Maddy" Ferguson
- Russ Tamblyn as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby
- Kenneth Welsh as Windom Earle
- Wendy Robie as Nadine Hurley
- Don Davis as Major Garland Briggs
- Chris Mulkey as Hank Jennings
- Gary Hershberger as Mike Nelson
- Grace Zabriskie as Sarah Palmer
- Catherine E. Coulson as Margaret Lanterman / "The Log Lady"
- Ian Buchanan as Dick Tremayne
- Mary Jo Deschanel as Eileen Hayward
- Frank Silva as Killer BOB
- Al Strobel as Phillip Michael Gerard / MIKE / "The One-Armed Man"
- David Patrick Kelly as Jerry Horne
- Miguel Ferrer as Special Agent Albert Rosenfield
- John Boylan as Mayor Dwayne Milford
- Victoria Catlin as Blackie O'Reilly
- Charlotte Stewart as Betty Briggs
- David Lynch as Bureau Chief Gordon Cole
- Heather Graham as Annie Blackburn
- Robyn Lively as Lana Budding Milford
- Dan O'Herlihy as Andrew Packard
- Billy Zane as John Justice Wheeler
- Don Amendolia as Emory Battis
- James Booth as Ernie Niles
- Michael Parks as Jean Renault
- Carel Struycken as The Giant
- Phoebe Augustine as Ronette Pulaski
- Robert Bauer as Johnny Horne
- Lenny Von Dohlen as Harold Smith
- Hank Worden as The Elderly Room Service Waiter
- Michael J. Anderson as The Man from Another Place
- Jan D'Arcy as Sylvia Horne
- David Duchovny as DEA Agent Denise Bryson
- Tony Jay as Dougie Milford
- Walter Olkewicz as Jacques Renault
- David Warner as Thomas Eckhardt
In the 1980s, Mark Frost worked for three years as a writer for the television police drama "Hill Street Blues" which featured a large cast and extended story lines.
Following his success with 1980 film "The Elephant Man" and "Blue Velvet in 1986", David Lynch was hired by a Warner Bros. executive to direct a film about the life of actress Marilyn Monroe, based on the best-selling book "Goddess."
Lynch recalls being "sort of interested. I loved the idea of this woman in trouble, but I didn't know if I liked it being a real story."
Lynch and Frost first worked together on the Goddess screenplay and although the project was dropped by Warner Bros., they became good friends. They went on to work as writer and director for "One Saliva Bubble" (a film with Steve Martin attached to star), but it was never made either.
Lynch's agent, Tony Krantz, encouraged him to do a television show. He took Lynch to Nibblers restaurant in Los Angeles and said, "You should do a show about real life in America—your vision of America the same way you demonstrated it in Blue Velvet."
Lynch got an "idea of a small-town thing" and though he and Frost were not keen on it, they decided to humor Krantz. Frost wanted to tell "a sort of Dickensian story about multiple lives in a contained area that could sort of go perpetually."
Originally, the show was to be titled North Dakota and set in the Plains region of North Dakota. After Frost, Krantz, and Lynch rented a screening room in Beverly Hills and screened Peyton Place, they decided to develop the town before its inhabitants.
Due to the lack of forests and mountains in North Dakota, the title was changed from North Dakota to Northwest Passage (the title of the pilot episode), and the location to the Pacific Northwest, specifically Washington. They then drew a map and decided that there would be a lumber mill in the town; then they came up with an image of a body washing up on the shore of a lake.
Lynch remembers, "We knew where everything was located and that helped us determine the prevailing atmosphere and what might happen there."
Frost remembers that he and Lynch came up with the notion of the girl next door leading a "desperate double life" that would end in murder. The idea was inspired, in part, by the unsolved 1908 murder of Hazel Irene Drew in Sand Lake, New York.
Lynch and Frost pitched the idea to ABC during the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike in a 10-minute meeting with the network's drama head, Chad Hoffman, with nothing more than this image and a concept.
According to the director, the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer was initially going to be in the foreground, but would recede gradually as viewers got to know the other townsfolk and the problems they were having.
Lynch and Frost wanted to mix a police investigation with a soap opera. ABC liked the idea and asked Lynch and Frost to write a screenplay for the pilot episode. They had been talking about the project for three months and wrote the screenplay in 10 days.
Frost wrote more verbal characters, like Benjamin Horne, while Lynch was responsible for Agent Cooper. According to the director, "He says a lot of the things I say."
ABC Entertainment President Brandon Stoddard ordered the two-hour pilot for a possible fall 1989 series. He left the position in March 1989 as Lynch went into production.
They filmed the pilot for $4 million with an agreement with ABC that they would shoot an additional "ending" to it so that it could be sold directly to video in Europe as a feature film if the TV show was not picked up.
ABC's Robert Iger and his creative team took over, saw the dailies, and met with Frost and Lynch to get the arc of the stories and characters.
Although Iger liked the pilot, he had trouble persuading the rest of the network executives. He suggested showing it to a more diverse, younger group, who enjoyed it and the executive subsequently convinced ABC to buy seven episodes at $1.1 million apiece.
Some executives figured that "Twin Peaks" would never get on the air or that it might run as a seven-hour mini-series, but Iger planned to schedule it for the spring. The final showdown occurred during a bi-coastal conference call between Iger and a room full of New York executives; Iger won, and the show was on the air.
Each episode took a week to shoot and after directing the second episode, Lynch went off to complete "Wild at Heart" while Frost wrote the remaining segments.
Standards and Practices had a problem with only one scene from the first season: an extreme close-up in the pilot of Cooper's hand as he slid tweezers under Laura's fingernail and removed a tiny "R". They wanted the scene to be shorter because it made them uncomfortable, but Frost and Lynch refused and the scene remained.
The cast of "Twin Peaks" features members of a loose ensemble of Lynch's favorite character actors, including Jack Nance, Kyle MacLachlan, Grace Zabriskie, and Everett McGill. Isabella Rossellini, who had worked with Lynch on "Blue Velvet" was originally cast as Giovanna Packard, but dropped out of the production before shooting began on the pilot episode; the character was then reconceived as Josie Packard, of Chinese ethnicity, and the role given to actress Joan Chen.
It casts several veteran actors who had risen to fame in the 1950s and 1960s, including 1950s film stars Richard Beymer, Piper Laurie, and Russ Tamblyn.
Other veteran actors included British actor James Booth (Zulu), former "The Mod Squad" star Peggy Lipton, and Michael Ontkean who co-starred in the 1970s crime drama "The Rookies".
Kyle MacLachlan was cast as Agent Dale Cooper. Stage actor Warren Frost, father of Mark Frost, was cast as Dr. Will Hayward.
Due to budget constraints, Lynch intended to cast a local girl from Seattle, reportedly "just to play a dead girl."
The local girl ended up being Sheryl Lee. Lynch stated, "But no one—not Mark, me, anyone—had any idea that she could act, or that she was going to be so powerful just being dead." And then, while Lynch shot the home movie that James takes of Donna and Laura, he realized that Lee had something special. "She did do another scene—the video with Donna on the picnic—and it was that scene that did it."
As a result, Sheryl Lee became a semi-regular addition to the cast, appearing in flashbacks as Laura, and portraying another, recurring character: Maddy Ferguson, Laura's similar-looking cousin.
The character of Phillip Gerard's appearance in the pilot episode was originally intended to be only a "kind of homage to "The Fugitive".
The only thing he was gonna do was be in this elevator and walk out," according to David Lynch; however, when Lynch wrote the "Fire walk with me" speech, he imagined Al Strobel, who played Gerard, reciting it in the basement of the Twin Peaks hospital, a scene that appeared in the European version of the pilot episode, and surfaced later in Agent Cooper's dream sequence.
Gerard's full name, Phillip Michael Gerard, is also a reference to Lieutenant Phillip Gerard, a character in "The Fugitive."
Lynch met Michael J. Anderson in 1987. After seeing him in a short film, Lynch wanted to cast the actor in the title role in Ronnie Rocket, but that project failed to get made.
Richard Beymer was cast as Ben Horne because he had known Johanna Ray, Lynch's casting director. Lynch was familiar with Beymer's work in the 1961 film, "West Side Story" and was surprised that Beymer was available for the role.
Set dresser Frank Silva was cast as the mysterious "Bob". Lynch himself recalls that the idea originated when he overheard Silva moving furniture around in the bedroom set, and then heard a woman warning Silva not to block himself in by moving furniture in front of the door.
Lynch was struck with an image of Silva in the room. When he learned that Silva was an actor, he filmed two panning shots, one with Silva at the base of the bed, and one without; he did not yet know how he would use this material.
Later that day, during the filming of Sarah Palmer having a vision, the camera operator told Lynch that the shot was ruined because "Frank [Silva] was reflected in the mirror." Lynch comments, "Things like this happen and make you start dreaming. And one thing leads to another, and if you let it, a whole other thing opens up."
Lynch used the panning shot of Silva in the bedroom, and the shot featuring Silva's reflection, in the closing scenes of the European version of the pilot episode.
Silva's reflection in the mirror can also be glimpsed during the scene of Sarah's vision at the end of the original pilot, but it is less clear. A close-up of Silva in the bedroom later became a significant image in episodes of the TV series.
Mark Frost and David Lynch made use of repeating and sometimes mysterious motifs such as trees (especially fir and pines), coffee, cherry pie, donuts, owls, logs, ducks, water, fire—and numerous embedded references to other films and TV shows.
During the filming of the scene in which Cooper first examines Laura Palmer's body, a malfunctioning fluorescent lamp above the table flickered constantly, but Lynch decided not to replace it, since he liked the disconcerting effect that it created.
Cooper's dream at the end of the third episode (which became a driving plot point in the show's first season and ultimately held the key to the identity of Laura's murderer) was never scripted.
The idea came to Lynch one afternoon after touching the side of a hot car left out in the sun: "I was leaning against a car—the front of me was leaning against this very warm car. My hands were on the roof and the metal was very hot. The Red Room scene leapt into my mind. 'Little Mike' was there, and he was speaking backwards... For the rest of the night I thought only about The Red Room."
The footage was originally shot along with the pilot, to be used as the conclusion were it to be released as a feature film.
When the series was picked up, Lynch decided to incorporate some of the footage; in the third episode, Cooper, narrating the dream, outlines the shot footage which Lynch did not incorporate (such as Mike shooting Bob and the fact that he is 25 years older when he meets Laura Palmer's spirit).
In an attempt to avoid cancellation, the idea of a Cooper possessed by Bob came up and was included in the final episode, but it was cancelled even before the episode was aired.
With the resolution of the show's main drawing point (Laura Palmer's murder) in the middle of the second season along with subsequent story lines becoming more obscure & drawn out, public interest in "Twin Peaks" began to wane.
This discontent (coupled with ABC changing its timeslot on a number of occasions) led to a huge drop in the show's ratings after being one of the most-watched television programs in the United States in 1990.
A week after the season's 15th episode placed 85th in the ratings out of 89 shows, ABC put the show on indefinite hiatus. An organized letter-writing campaign, dubbed COOP (Citizens Opposed to the Offing of Peaks), attempted to save it from cancellation.
The campaign was successful, as ABC agreed to air the remaining six episodes to finish the season, but due to the Gulf War, the show was moved from its usual time slot "for six weeks out of eight" in early 1991 (according to Frost) preventing the show from maintaining audience interest.
According to Frost, the main storyline after the resolution of Laura Palmer's murder was planned to be the second strongest element from the first season that audiences responded to: The relationship between Agent Cooper and Audrey Horne.
Frost explained that Lara Flynn Boyle, who was romantically involved with Kyle MacLachlan at the time, had effectively vetoed the Audrey-Cooper relationship, forcing the writers to come up with alternative storylines to fill the gap.
Sherilyn Fenn corroborated this claim in a 2014 interview, stating: "[Boyle] was mad that my character was getting more attention, so then Kyle started saying that his character shouldn't be with my character because it doesn't look good, 'cause I'm too young... I was not happy about it. It was stupid."
This meant the artificial extension of secondary storylines, such as James Hurley and Evelyn Marsh, to fill in the space.
After the ratings began to decline, Agent Cooper was given a new love interest, Annie Blackburn (played by Heather Graham), to replace the writers' intended romance between him and Audrey Horne.
Despite ending on a deliberate audience-baiting cliffhanger, the series finale of "Twin Peaks" did not sufficiently boost interest and it was not renewed for a third season, leaving the cliffhanger unresolved.
Lynch expressed his regret at having resolved the Laura Palmer murder, saying he and Frost had never intended for the series to answer the question and that doing so "killed the goose that laid the golden eggs."
Lynch blamed network pressure for the decision to resolve the Palmer storyline prematurely. Frost agreed, noting that people at the network had in fact wanted the killer to be revealed by the end of the first season.
In 1993, cable channel Bravo acquired the license to rerun the entire series of "Twin Peaks" which began airing in June of that same year. These reruns included Lynch's addition of introductions to each episode by the Log Lady and her cryptic musings.
Looking back, Frost has admitted that he wished he and Lynch had "worked out a smoother transition" between storylines and that the Laura Palmer story was a "tough act to follow."
Regarding the second season, Frost felt that "perhaps the storytelling wasn't quite as taut or as fraught with emotion."
Before the one and a half hour pilot premiered on TV, a screening for "Twin Peaks" was held at the Museum of Broadcasting in Hollywood, California.
Media analyst and advertising executive Paul Schulman said, "I don't think it has a chance of succeeding. It is not commercial, it is radically different from what we as viewers are accustomed to seeing, there's no one in the show to root for.
The show's Thursday night time slot had not been a good one for soap operas (as both "Dynasty" and its short-lived spin-off, "The Colbys" did poorly). The show was also up against the hugely successful sitcom "Cheers".
Initially, the show received a positive response from TV critics. Tom Shales, in The Washington Post, wrote: "Twin Peaks disorients you in ways that small-screen productions seldom attempt. It's a pleasurable sensation, the floor dropping out and leaving one dangling."
In The New York Times, John J. O'Connor wrote: "Twin Peaks is not a send-up of the form. Mr. Lynch clearly savors the standard ingredients...but then the director adds his own peculiar touches, small passing details that suddenly, and often hilariously, thrust the commonplace out of kilter."
Entertainment Weekly gave the show an "A+" rating and Ken Tucker wrote: "Plot is irrelevant; moments are everything. Lynch and Frost have mastered a way to make a weekly series endlessly interesting."
Richard Zoglin in Time magazine said that it "may be the most hauntingly original work ever done for American TV." The two-hour pilot was the highest-rated movie for the 1989–90 season with a 22 rating and was viewed by 33% of the audience.
In its first broadcast as a regular one-hour drama series, "Twin Peaks" scored ABC's highest ratings in four years in its 9:00 pm Thursday time slot. It also reduced the ratings for "Cheers." The show had a 16.2 rating with each point equaling 921,000 homes with TVs.
The episode also added new viewers because of what ABC's senior vice-president of research, Alan Wurtzel, called "the water cooler syndrome" in which people talk about the series the next day at work.
But the show's third episode lost 14% of the audience that had tuned in a week before; that audience had dropped 30% from the show's first appearance on Thursday night. This was a result of competing against "Cheers" (which appealed to the same demographic that watched "Twin Peaks").
A production executive from the show spoke of being frustrated with the network's scheduling of the show. "The show is being banged around on Thursday night. If ABC had put it on Wednesday night it could have built on its initial success. ABC has put the show at risk."
In response, the network aired the first-season finale on a Wednesday night at 10:00 pm instead of its usual 9:00 pm Thursday slot.
The show achieved its best ratings since its third week on the air with a 12.6 and a 22 share of the audience.
On May 22, 1990, it was announced that the show would be renewed for a second season.
During the first and second season, the search for Laura Palmer's killer served as the engine for the plot, and captured the public's imagination, although the creators admitted this was largely a MacGuffin; each episode was really about the interactions between the townsfolk.
The unique (and often bizarre) personalities of each citizen formed a web of minutiae that ran contrary to the town's quaint appearance. Adding to the surreal atmosphere was the recurrence of Dale Cooper's dreams, in which the FBI agent is given clues to Laura's murder in a supernatural realm that may or may not be of his imagination.
The first season of "Twin Peaks" contained only eight episodes (including the two-hour pilot episode), and was considered technically and artistically revolutionary for television at the time, and geared toward reaching the standards of film.
Critics have noted that the show began the trend of accomplished cinematography now commonplace in today's television dramas.
Lynch and Frost maintained tight control over the first season, handpicking all of the directors, including some Lynch had known from his days at the American Film Institute (e.g., Caleb Deschanel and Tim Hunter) and some referred to him by those he knew personally. Lynch and Frost's control lessened in the second season, corresponding with what is generally regarded as a decrease in the show's quality once the identity of Laura Palmer's murderer was revealed.
The aforementioned "water cooler effect" put pressure on the show's creators to solve the mystery.
Although they claimed to have known from the series' inception the identity of Laura's murderer, Lynch never wanted to solve the murder, while Frost felt that they had an obligation to the audience to solve it. This created tension between the two men.
Its ambitious style, paranormal undertones, and engaging murder mystery made "Twin Peaks" an unexpected hit. Its characters (particularly Kyle MacLachlan's character, Dale Cooper) were unorthodox for a supposed crime drama, as was Cooper's method of interpreting his dreams to solve the crime.
During its first season, the show's popularity of "Twin Peaks" reached its zenith, and elements of the program seeped into mainstream popular culture, prompting parodies, including one in the 16th-season premiere of Saturday Night Live (which was hosted by MacLachlan).
During its first season, "Twin Peaks" received fourteen nominations at the 42nd Primetime Emmy Awards, for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Kyle MacLachlan), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Piper Laurie), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Sherilyn Fenn), Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series (David Lynch), Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series (David Lynch and Mark Frost), Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series (Harley Peyton), Outstanding Art Direction for a Series, Outstanding Achievement in Main Title Theme Music, Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore), Outstanding Achievement in Music and Lyrics, and Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series.
Out of its fourteen nominations, the show won for Outstanding Costume Design for a Series and Outstanding Editing for a Series – Single Camera Production.
For its second season, it received four nominations at the 43rd Primetime Emmy Awards, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Kyle MacLachlan), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Piper Laurie), Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series, and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series.
At the 48th Golden Globe Awards, it won the award for Best TV Series – Drama, Kyle MacLachlan won for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series – Drama, Piper Laurie won for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV; while Sherilyn Fenn was nominated in the same category as Laurie.
The pilot episode was ranked 25th on TV Guide's 1997 "100 Greatest Episodes of All Time" list. It placed 49th on Entertainment Weekly's "New TV Classics" list.
In 2004 and 2007, Twin Peaks was ranked 20th and 24th on TV Guide's "Top Cult Shows Ever" list. In 2002, it was ranked 45th of the "Top 50 Television Programs of All Time" by the same guide.
In 2007, UK broadcaster Channel 4 ranked Twin Peaks 9th on their list of the "50 Greatest TV Dramas".
Also that year, Time included the show on their list of the "100 Best TV Shows of All-Time".
Empire listed the show as the 24th best TV show in their list of "The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time."
In 2012, Entertainment Weekly listed the show at #12 in the "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years", saying, "The show itself was only fitfully brilliant and ultimately unfulfilling, but the cult lives, fueled by nostalgia for the extraordinary pop phenomenon it inspired, for its significance to the medium (behold the big bang of auteur TV!), and for a sensuous strangeness that possesses you and never lets you go."
"Twin Peaks" has been nominated for the TCA Heritage Award six consecutive years since 2010. It was ranked 20th on The Hollywood Reporter's list of Hollywood's "100 Favorite TV Shows."