Twin Peaks started with Marilyn Monroe. It sounds like a bad April Fools joke but it’s true.
In 1986, after the success of Blue Velvet, David Lynch was hired to direct a biopic of Marilyn Monroe. Lynch would later say that the Monroe film never happened because, while he liked the idea of doing a story about “a woman in trouble,” he was not comfortable with telling a true story. Even though the film was never made, it did lead to David Lynch meeting and befriending a screenwriter named Mark Frost. Frost, who had written for ground-breaking TV shows like Hill Street Blues, was one of the many screenwriter who would take a stab at the screenplay for the Monroe project.
Even after it became obvious that the Monroe biopic was never going to be produced, Lynch and Frost continued to look for projects that they could work on together. After several film proposals that failed to generate much interest, they followed the advice of Lynch’s agent and worked on a project that, like Blue Velvet, would look at the underbelly of life in small town America.
Lynch and Frost started with an image, a body washed up on the shores of the lake. The body was Laura Palmer who, like Marilyn Monroe, was a woman in trouble. Originally called North Dakota (because that was where it was originally meant to take place), this is the project that eventually became Twin Peaks.
Twin Peaks premiered on ABC on April 9th, 1990 and, for its first season, it was a phenomena. Though critics were often baffled, audiences were intrigued by the combination of Lynch’s surrealistic vision and Frost’s serialized storytelling. Twin Peaks was nominated for 14 Emmys at the end of its first season. The second season, however, saw rating sharply decline as audiences, critics, and executives all decided that the show was just too strange. After just 30 episodes, Twin Peaks was canceled.
Even after it ended, Twin Peaks lived on. There was a feature film. There were frequent reruns on stations like Bravo. Twin Peaks‘s quirky style changed the face of television. Shows like Picket Fences and Northern Exposure were basically Twin Peaks-lite, quirky without ever being truly surreal.
Despite the unceremoniously way that it ended, Twin Peaks never went away and new audiences discover it every day. In May, 26 years after it went off the air for the first time, Twin Peaks will be returning. with new episodes, to Showtime. Before it starts again, we are going to take a look back at the original Twin Peaks on this site. Look for Lisa’s review of the pilot tomorrow.
To quote Dale Cooper, “I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”