How 'Twin Peaks' Brought David Lynch's Warped American Vision to TV

It’s a question we’ve been asking since the late Seventies: What exactly is David Lynch, and where the fuck did he come from?

With the ballyhooed resurrection of Twin Peaks, his legendary 1990-1991 TV series, Lynch yet again has stepped onto the cultural stage in a big way, and earned his profile as America’s bullgoose weirdo. Magazine profiles once again try – and fail – to ascertain who exactly he is and what he’s doing. Worse, they try to normalize him, place him within established cultural traditions and treating him like a wise man from Planet Whatzit. When will they learn: Lynch is not one of us. He has grown up and grown old among us humans and our music and furniture and neuroses. But his America is not our America. His relationships with rock, film noir, teenagers, Hitchcock, sex, families, etc., often feel like a Martian trying to reconstruct the meaning of a baseball game.

The fact that he’s survived and thrived here is kind of a miracle, just as Twin Peaks seemed miraculous in the post-Reagan years, a lurking and self-amused mutation of the safest pastime in America – network television – into … what? No one really knew in 1990. It was a one-of-a-kind network experiment that, as far as the suits were concerned, flared and then failed in two seasons, and was therefore destined for the bulldozed landfill of defunct TV.

That’s not what happened, of course; video releases inducted new cult members periodically, and the aura of the show stayed active beneath the surface, like a fungus, waiting for Internet culture’s tendency toward conspiracy skullduggery and niche obsessions to feed it.

It was ahead of its time, though it’s possible that no moment in modern times would be completely Lynch-appropriate, including 2017. Which is as it should be. Still, it should be kept in mind, while we’re picking over these questions, that Twin Peaks, new and old, isn’t pristine, mainlined Lynch. It is a TV show, after all, co-created with Hill Street Blues vet Mark Frost, and patrolled by network hound dogs, and responsible (more then than now) to sponsors and (more now than then) expectant fans. This isn’t raw, straight-from-the-honeycomb Lynch, but a Lynchified kitchen with many cooks, and many agendas for the menu.

But so? Whatever else its sociopathic-soap vision of smalltown meta-America may or may not be, Twin Peaks could once again serve as the gateway drug to the less civilized regions of Lynchistan. Peaksians should be wary, though, and be sure to get their shots before daring onto Blue Velvet (1986) or Inland Empire (2006) or his first T.P. reconstitution, the scorched-network-turf of Fire Walk With Me (1992), all of which sometimes feel as if you’d stuck your hand into the moldy, lightless crevasse in the back of its creator’s skull, and then had something violently grab you.