News hit this week that David Lynch the co-creator of nineties cult classic Twin Peaks has departed the series planned Showtime revival over budget issues, claiming that the budget given to him by premium cable network Showtime was too small to adequately realize his vision. Showtime, for it’s part, has said that the show will go on without Lynch, but should it? For those not in the know, Twin Peaks was a drama series that aired on ABC in the early nineties for two seasons. The story centered around the murder of a teenage girl, and the investigation that followed. What made Twin Peaks so unique, though, was how bizarre it actually was. Twin Peaks wasn’t a straight up crime story, as the plot dealt with odd characters, quickly veered into the supernatural, and acted as a send up of traditional soap operas.
These elements are what gave the series it’s charm, and they’re certainly the product of the eccentric sensibilities of writer/director David Lynch, whose work in general tends to be very esoteric and, for lack of a better word, odd. Anyone who has watched a film by Lynch knows that he has a unique vision, and that is evident in Twin Peaks. Though the new Twin Peaks will not be without his influence, as he has written all nine scripts of the series revival alongside Mark Frost. Frost, who helped Lynch create Twin Peaks, is still very much on board. As such, Twin Peaks may very well be perfectly fine. Still, even with scripts fully written, some of the best ideas from Twin Peaks didn’t occur to Lynch until actual filming had begun.
Take for example the character of Bob. Bob was an evil spirit who possessed people and compelled them to kill and ultimately was part of the answer of the series main mystery of who killed Laura Palmer. When Twin Peaks was conceived and written, the character of Bob did not exist at all. Bob was, in fact, inspired by set dresser Frank Silva who had made an impression on Lynch when he was heard moving furniture around when a woman warned him not to block himself in. Inspired by this exchange, Lynch filmed two shots of Silva, one with him at the base of a bed, and one which Lynch had not planned, and only learned of when the camera operator informed Lynch that the scene had been ruined because you could see Silva’s reflection in the mirror featured in the scene. Lynch decided to keep the shot as is, and it’s from these random occurrences that Bob was born. This kind of spontaneous creativity is unique to Lynch, and it is highly arguable that, even sticking firmly to a Lynch written script, without Lynch there, the series will lack that kind of creative force that shaped so much of the original.
There is also the question of whether or not key actors will stick with the series now that Lynch has bowed out. Kyle McLaughlin was originally handpicked for the role of Agent Cooper by Lynch, and while no statement has been issued, it is likely that the actor’s commitment is directly related to David Lynch’s involvement. Without Lynch, his confidence in the series may wane, and he may bow out as well, a choice that would likely be mirrored by others involved in the project. If that happens, can Showtime possibly entertain the idea of continuing with Twin Peaks? I’d say not at all, and I’m sure many fans would agree with that. But what if this is all a ploy by Lynch to get a bigger paycheck from Showtime? It’s not uncommon in Hollywood for prominent figures to use their status as a bargaining chip for more money. Surely Lynch knows how important to this project he is and he may be using that to bargain with Showtime. Showtime for it’s part stated that they were surprised by Lynch’s decision as they believed they were still in negotiations with the director. This could all be a big stunt, and Lynch could very well announce his return once Showtime satisfies his demands.
Whatever the case may be, the fans are the ones left damaged in the scuffle. We were promised Twin Peaks, complete with David Lynch. Even if the final product turns out to be wonderful, there will still always be that lingering “what if?” over David Lynch’s absence. No matter how good of a product we get, we’ll not be able to help but wonder how much better Lynch’s directing could have made it, and the comparisons to the original series will be even more sharp than otherwise. The thing about Lynch’s style is that you can’t imitate it with any sense of authenticity, and if Showtime tries to imitate Lynch’s style in his absence, then it will be glaringly obvious to the fans who have, over the years, obsessed over every tiny detail of Twin Peaks. Having said that, Showtime just can’t take it in a different artistic direction either. They have firmly set expectations that this new series will be the Twin Peaks that we all know and loved, and they can’t go back on that. Losing Lynch puts Showtime in a very awkward position, and they should be doing everything in their power to appease him and keep him on board.
Showtime, in this case, may be better off canceling the new series, rather than trying to soldier on, and making a sub par product that won’t satisfy fans, which were already phenomenally difficult to please, even with Lynch on board. Fans had 25 years to speculate on what would come next, and how Twin Peaks should be. If Showtime was pushing a boulder up a hill before, well, that hill just became a mountain. In my mind, Showtime has two options here, either get Lynch back on board, or just cancel the whole thing. While it may turn out to be a great series it ain’t Twin Peaks without David Lynch.
Stay tuned to TVEnthusiast this week for more coverage of Twin Peaks, as we celebrate the iconic series’ 25 year anniversary.