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Twin Peaks 2017

Everything you need to know about the TV event of the year.

Gorgeous promotional shot of the returning cast (source: ew.com)

Twitter went into meltdown again last week when the first images from Twin Peaks new season emerged, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly. The promotional machine is now kicking into full gear, ahead of its May return to TV; for fans of the original series, there will doubtfully be any more significant TV moment this year. But those who weren't around during its '90's peak (pun intended) or haven't yet watched are likely wondering what all the fuss is about. So here's everything you need to know...

What is Twin Peaks?

Twin Peaks is the co-creation of film auteur David Lynch and talented screen writer Mark Frost, and premiered on network giant ABC in April 1990. Story-wise it is about the murder of high school prom queen Laura Palmer, and the effects it, and the subsequent FBI investigation by lead character Special Agent Dale Cooper, have on the small town of Twin Peaks; the central mystery, framed perfectly in the question "Who killed Laura Palmer?", captured the public imagination like few before it. In terms of style and tone, it is pastiche of almost every American TV genre that existed at the time; part police procedural, soap opera, teen drama and supernatural horror, it both parodies and plays homage to the tropes of these genres. On it's release, Time magazine said Twin Peaks "... is like nothing you've seen in prime time -- or on God's earth. It may be the most hauntingly original work ever done for American TV".

Why is it considered important?

Peaks pioneered a kind of cinematic quality production in a serialized drama that had previously been reserved for serious, weighty mini-series (such as Roots). The majority of drama (aside from period drama) had also had an urban or metropolitan setting, and Peaks was one of the first to focus on small town life, with a slew of imitators (Northern Exposure, Picket Fences) following in its wake. The use of dream sequences to illustrate subconscious or abstract ideas was also influential, and its level of violence and horror pushed the envelope of what was acceptable on TV. The idea of 'event' TV, something that penetrated pop culture and created a 'must see' vibe, arguably also started here; the term 'water-cooler moment' was coined specifically about how people would gather the next day at work to discuss the many talking points the mysterious show would present. Its influence can be felt is shows as diverse as The X Files, Wild Palms, The Sopranos and The Killing, and even video games like Deadly Premonition and Silent Hill.

Why is it coming back now?

Despite the initial surge in popularity, the mid season two revelation of Laura's killer led to a drop in interest, when the writers failed to find a compelling follow up plot. Ratings started to fall and this was compounded further by a time-slot switch; despite ending the second season on a major cliffhanger, ABC cancelled Peaks in the summer of 1991. David Lynch directed a prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, but on its 1992 release FWWM was met with critical derision and audience disinterest, and effectively put an end to the franchise for 25 years.

In the interim, a dedicated fan-base has kept its spirit alive online and with fan festivals in the US and UK; its also remained on the periphery of pop-culture consciousness thanks to references and homages in various works, and creators that speak of it continued influence on them. After years of speculation, and denials from all involved, it was announced in October 2014 that a new series of Twin Peaks would be created by Frost & Lynch and air on Showtime. Initially it seemed like new episodes could air in time to coincide with the anniversary of Laura's infamous unresolved words to Agent Cooper in the Red Room - "I'll see you again...in 25 years". Unfortunate production delays mean it will now be on in May 2017, 26 years after instead.

So...what do we know about the new season?

Well every one of the 18 episodes will be written by Frost & Lynch, and directed by Lynch himself, and it will premiere on May 21st on Showtime. Beyond that, not a huge amount has been given away; ever tight lipped, Lynch has refused a conventional trailer, instead trolling the whole notion of trailers, by putting out 30 seconds of himself (as his character Gordon Cole) eating a doughnut. Plot-wise the most we know has come from Showtime President David Nivens, who stated "the core of it is Agent Cooper's odyssey back to Twin Peaks". A press release of the entire 217 strong cast came in April 2016, but served to confuse as much as it did explain.

So who is coming back?

Of the original cast of characters, many fan favorites will be making an appearance; the list is long but includes Kyle Maclachlan as Dale Cooper and Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne; Peggy Lipton, Everett McGill and Wendy Robie as Norma, Big Ed and Nadie; Madchen Amick and Dana Ashbrook as Shelly and Bobby; and Al Strobel and Carl Struycken as mysterious entities MIKE and The Giant.

Miguel Ferrer, who sadly passed away in January, will appear as cynical yet passionate FBI Special Agent Albert Rosenfield. Ferrer's death was too soon followed in February by Warren Frost, father of Mark, who played Dr. Will Hayward in the original and new series. Catherine E Coulson, another Peaks icon to have left us too soon in September 2015, filmed some scenes as The Log Lady that Lynch has confirmed will be included. Russ Tamblyn underwent open heart surgery in October 2014 but has thankfully made a good recovery and will be appearing as Dr. Jacoby.

There is also a huge number of newbies, in as yet unspecified roles, among them Lynch regulars Laura Dern, Naomi Watts and Balthazar Getty; others include Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth and Robert Forster, rumored to be replacing non-returner Michael Ontkean as the local Sheriff.

Are there other notable non-returners?

Tragically a number of Twin Peaks principle supporting cast members have passed away since the first two seasons aired. Jack Nance and Dan O'Herlihy, who played Pete Martell and Andrew Packard respectively, died in 1996 and 2005; their character's fates seemed perilous in the finale and their absence can be explained this way. Don S. Davis, whose heavyweight presence will be sorely missed, died in 2008; no Garland Briggs is a loss for fans and new viewers. The inimitable Frank Silva, whose nightmarish performance as Killer BOB was the dark heart of Twin Peaks, passed away at only 44 in 1995.

Notable surviving cast members not coming back include Chris Mullkey, whose character Hank Jennings was killed off in Mark Frost's book The Secret History of Twin Peaks, and Piper Laurie as Catherine Martell; with her story-line husband and brother both dying in season two finale, there was little reason for her to be involved. The absence of Heath Graham as Annie Blackburn is surprising, given that her fate was left hanging previously; Michael J Anderson's lack of involvement is another shocker, his role as The Man From Another Place being especially memorable and iconic.

So what should we expect overall?

It's hard to say definitively but quite probably a tone closer to that of prequel movie Fire Walk With Me, and the episodes of the original directed by Lynch, given his almost complete creative control over it. Frost's book is considered canon, and it hints at Peaks connection to wider American conspiracies like The Freemasons and The Illuminati, but only time will tell whether this is touched on in the show.

Fans, myself included, will be hoping it captures some of the original's magic, whilst expanding and enriching the existing story. If it's half as smart, sexy, funny, bold, scary and weird as the first two seasons at their peak, then the whole audience should be in for a treat this spring time.

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