When Alan Thicke died this week, he died a true man of television. His more than forty-year career saw him not just star in the hit ABC sitcom Growing Pains but host game, talk, and dance shows as well as compose the theme songs for Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. His final tweet praised the new season of the Netflix reboot of Full House (Growing Pains' near-contemporary) on which he made a guest appearance. But he didn't live exclusively in the mainstream: in September of 1990, he confessed — on national television, of course — his love of David Lynch and Mark Frost's boundary-pushing, reality bending mystery series Twin Peaks.
"Every decade has its TV cult," says Thicke, opening this ABC season-preview special from the Universal Studios lot. "Now, I was never a Trekkie myself, but I do confess, I am a Peaker." A fair few viewers across America could, at that moment, say the same, since enthusiasm for the show peaked, as it were, around the end of its first season and the beginning of its second, the premiere of which the network put together this segment to hype (alongside the debut of Cop Rock, the non-ironic police-procedural/musical). "There's so much more to Twin Peaks than a riveting murder mystery," Thicke continues. "There's a whole look and a feel and a texture," an experience "180 degrees away from anything else on television."
These fifteen minutes include brief conversations with Twin Peaks' creators and collaborators. "It needed to be away from the regular world and be a kind of a hair of a dream spot," says Lynch, somewhat cryptically, "and it needed a woods that had a wind of a mystery, you know, blowing through it." Kyle MacLachlan, who starred as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, offers further insight into the show's appeal: "The people don't... they don't behave normally." It also includes Sheryl Lee, who played the murdered homecoming queen Laura Palmer, reading from the character's "secret diary... her real diary."
Using a map of the eponymous small Washington town, Thicke attempts to catch those who missed all or part of Twin Peaks' first season up on its many plot threads, all directly or indirectly related to the question of who killed Laura Palmer. That central mystery would drive the plot all the way up to the middle of the second season, and its resolution resulted in declining ratings and eventual cancellation. But as we learned with from the collection of video essays we featured yesterday, the work of David Lynch is built on a foundation not of plot, but of pure images and sounds.
That so many more of us now understand that has placed us well to enjoy Twin Peaks' long-awaited third season. Set to premiere next year on Showtime, it has, like Full House — two shows seldom compared to one another — transposed its core concepts from the realm of 20th-century network television into that of 21st-century specialty television. "Revisiting all this territory, there's a freshness to it, there's a lightness to it," says MacLachlan in the new behind-the-scenes teaser above. Encouraging words, but one hopes above all that the project retains the animating creative tension expressed a quarter-century ago, when Thicke asked how thought-out the show really was: "Not too thought-out," insisted Lynch. "Very thought-out," insisted Frost.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.