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I've been watching my Twin Peaks Gold Edition set and felt I should just warn people that some of it's menus are a little screwed up. On one of the DVDs, on the individual episode screens, you can't actually hit enter on anything. You can see the screen, but you can't interact. You can still make all the episodes on the disc play, but only by hitting "Play All" from the root menu, then skipping forward. I've also noticed that on most episodes, if you hit forward to skip the credits (and why wouldn't you skip the credits? Dear god, they're the longest, most boring credits I've ever seen) it takes you to right after the credits. But on some episodes, it takes you 12 or 20 minutes into the episode. Since Twin Peaks is not episodic, it's not always obvious you've missed something. I've also noticed that if you're in the first act of an episode, sometimes when you hit the back button it takes you to the start of the episode, sometimes to the previous episode. This has happened to me on other DVD sets, but again, with Twin Peaks it's sometimes less obvious you're suddenly in another episode entirely.

I class all these as minor annoyances, given that the first time I watched Twin Peaks it was downloaded and with that I had to deal with extremely low res, sometimes out of sync dialogue, Danish subtitles and the occasional coding error that would make it impossible to finish the episode. By comparison, this isn't so bad, and I'd still want to buy this DVD set. But since some of you expressed interest in acquiring the DVDs, just thought I'd give a heads-up.
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I got my Twin Peaks complete series DVDs last night and couldn't resist indulging in some of the extras. They really outdid themselves with this—there's a two hour documentary where they talk with pretty much everyone involved, and there's a half hour interview with Lynch, where he proves that he just can't communicate like a normal person. Trust me. It was pretty painful to watch. But they also dug up a series of commercials the cast did for a Japanese coffee, a bunch of promos for the show, including ads for when it changed timeslots and one to support the troops in the Gulf War. And—this is my favorite. Apparently Twin Peaks, at the height of its fanatical following, had a 1-900 line where you could call and get spoilers for $2 the first minute, $1 each additional minute. This is brilliant. Twin Peaks was just at the dawn of the internet—one of the first shows with a usenet group—so it was before websites would have taken those spoilers and posted them for everyone. You couldn't do something like that now.

The rise and fall of Twin Peaks, with vague spoilers, but I don't discuss who killed Laura Palmer )

Television is a collaborative medium. The ultimate failure of Twin Peaks was that it was, from the beginning, David Lynch's show. Mark Frost was able to take Lynch's wild imagination and shape it, but the two of them were practically unsupervised by the network the first season. To a man, everyone interviewed considered themselves conduits for David Lynch. Most of the actors, editors, even the directors, said that they'd read a script and they just wouldn't get it. Even looking at the raw footage they didn't get it. They all trusted Lynch and recognized his genius, but not one understood or shared his vision.

The first eight episodes were pretty much artsy independent films, which is what Lynch had done in the past. Television, on the other hand, places gruelling demands on the creator, and one or two people simply cannot continue to be solely responsible for a show over several seasons. So when both Lynch and Frost's attention flagged in the second season, and they left to work on their own movies for a few episodes, no one was capable of stepping up and taking over.

One of Twin Peaks' hallmarks was its dream-like quality. In every episode, there are weird, inexplicable elements. But as actress Sherilyn Fenn pointed out, everything that Lynch did was grounded in something. Everything was deliberate and had meaning, if only to him and no one else. When he went hands-off in season two, the new show runners started being weird just to be weird, and there is a palpable difference between the two.

That's the tragedy of Twin Peaks. The combination of surreal elements, when done right, is genius. But the minute they lost focus, those very elements, incorrectly used, made the show suck harder than almost anything on television. There have been many shows on TV that went from brilliant to crap, but most, like the X-Files, had nine seasons to do it. Twin Peaks went from the heights to the depths in one season, practically from one episode to the next. So watching Twin Peaks is not just good entertainment, but a whole education in how television shows are run.


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August 2017

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