Wrapped in Plastic: Twin Peaks (Pop Classics, ECW Press) by Andy Burns arrives at an expectant time for Twin Peaks geeks. After nearly 25 years off the air, the enduringly weird (and hilarious) television show created by acclaimed directors Mark Frost and David Lynch will return with nine new episodes in 2016. Speculation about where everybody’s favourite supernormal small-town murder mystery will pick up is as fervent as it was when the show debuted.
If you’re not so familiar with the classic two-season show (and subsequent film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me), Wrapped in Plastic is a thorough primer. It fills you in on a town reeling from the death of the universally beloved every-teen Laura Palmer as the eccentric FBI agent Dale Cooper teams with an amiably odd local police force to investigate. It gives brief overviews of celebrated episodes and convincingly centers Twin Peaks in the TV culture of the early 90s.
If you’re a diehard Peaker or lodge-member to remember (as you may or may not coin yourself), you’re sure to find many peak reminiscences (Laura’s father Leland’s dancing, BOB’s accidental appearances) and homey asides (of author, cast, and crew) in Andy's book to reward the constant re-viewings of your Blu-ray collection leading up to the new episodes.
An immersive fan, I requested an interview with Andy to rehash the show’s case. Not mincing words, we met in a once-secret corridor between the Black and White Lodges (now often called the Internet). I waved a copy of his concise book in introduction. He passed fine clues between its pages. "It’s amazing," I think the subtitles said I said, "that Laura Palmer lives on so many potential TV seasons (an uncanny measure of years!) after she was found wrapped in deathly plastic on the blue-grey riverbank of little-screen America."
- Brad de Roo, who carried a handheld tape recorder for one windy summer as an investigative teen, but was unable to get past the static of the mundane before the machine went missing in an abandoned coat-hanger factory that chimed with the rumour of owls.
What is the MO of the Pop Classics series of which Wrapped in Plastic is the third? Have you read the first two entries on Showgirls or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
I’d say that the MO for the Pop Classics series is smart writers writing about the pop culture that they love, in a thoughtful and accessible manner. I’ve read parts of both It Doesn’t Suck and Raise Some Shell, though I elected not to delve too deeply so as to avoid any outside influence while I was writing my own Pop Classics entry. The connection between all three titles, apart from the masterful guidance from editors Crissy Calhoun and Jen Knoch, whose brainchild the series is, is that we all feel quite passionately about our given subjects.
How much of Twin Peaks do you think was a comment on the TV of the times? Could a TV program be as transformative or transgressive a force post-Twin Peaks?
Twin Peaks was absolutely a reaction to television at the time, and the lack of really good storytelling. No offense to series like Dynasty or Dallas, the latter of which I was a huge fan of growing up, but these were nighttime soap operas, pure and simple. While Twin Peaks absolutely carried some of those conventions with it, it was also a series that pushed the boundaries of storytelling, both in terms of visuals and subject matter. Thankfully, equally ambitious creators followed in its footsteps, some unsuccessfully, many with great success. I think in the early 90s there was a bit of a generic template – weird and quirky – but as the medium developed and creators inspired by the show found work in Hollywood, generic gave way to unique. As for whether or not a show today can be as transformative or transgressive, I’d say that the first season of True Detective answers that with a resounding yes.
What are your favourite episodes and/or moments of Twin Peaks?
You’d be hard pressed to find a better pilot for any series than the one that begins Twin Peaks. From the acting to the storytelling to the visual sensibility that David Lynch brings as a director, it’s as perfect as television gets. As for favourite moments, the initial dream sequence in the Red Room/Black Lodge is a highlight, while the reveal of Laura Palmer’s killer remains, twenty-five years later, the scariest hour of television I’ve ever seen. I also think the show’s final hour is outstanding, not to mention frightening, confusing, surreal, funny, confounding.
Does writing this book entitle you to Sneak Peaks (advance apology for the pun) of the nine new episodes to be released in 2016? What is left to be resolved in the new series from the point of view of a fan? Do you worry that the new entries will suffer from the bland reunion curse of many shows?
You know, I’m the sort of fan that doesn’t worry about whether Twin Peaks 2016 series will live up to the previous episodes, for a few reasons. First, I may love Twin Peaks and it may have been groundbreaking, but it’s far from a perfect series. I think everyone involved would admit to that. There were some bad choices in terms of storytelling during the second season; when the series hits its mark, its outstanding, but when it doesn’t, it’s a bit of a slog. Second, Mark Frost and David Lynch are going to have complete control with the Showtime version of the series. They’re co-writing and Lynch is directing all nine episodes. That’s an unprecedented commitment and should give fans faith that Twin Peaks 2016 will be anything but bland.
As for resolutions, I’m confident we’ll find out how Annie is… Not to mention Cooper, Audrey, Lucy and the rest of the key cast who are still with us. No "sneak peak" for me… At least not that I know of.
Was there anything in the researching or writing of this book that struck you as something out of Twin Peaks? Were you visited by giants or backwards talking in your dreams? Did you start to see logs and pie differently? Do Twin Peaks fan conventions ever conjure characters, images, or moods that would feel at home in a Twin Peaks episode?
No visits from giants or dwarfs, but I did have to cut back on my coffee intake for health reasons. I’m not sure if that’s coincidental or if there may have been a fish in the percolator.
As for fan conventions, I attended my first during the summer of 2014 in North Bend, where the pilot and the film were shot. The fans were all warm and kind – they’re a great bunch that has been incredibly supportive of Wrapped In Plastic: Twin Peaks.
You cite Fire Walk With Me, the Twin Peaks film following the series, as your favourite Lynch film. Most fans, I suspect, would not agree with you. Casual viewers would likely agree even less. Why do you think the film is not as beloved as Blue Velvet or Mullholland Dr. or the original series?
Look, a film about incest is going to be a hard sell to anybody, and that’s essentially what Fire Walk With Me is. It’s a harrowing, unflinching journey into the life of a seventeen-year-old girl who has been abused continually for much of her life. This is dark stuff; darker, I’d argue, than Blue Velvet, and that’s a pretty dark experience itself. BUT Blue Velvet is also uncomfortably and absurdly hilarious in places – it’s that sort of laughter you have when something is so twisted you don’t know what else to do. After the first twenty minutes of Fire Walk With Me, there’s nothing to laugh with or at.
Here’s the thing with the two movies you site, though. Nobody was walking into those films saying “I want to see the story of a guy who finds an ear” or “I want to see Lynch’s take on Hollywood starlets”; with Fire Walk With Me, there was an expectation from fans that we would be getting something specific – the people, the town, the humour. Fans wanted answers to the cliffhangers the series ended with, but that wasn’t the film Lynch wanted to make.
I would suggest, though, that fans and critics have really reappraised the film since its 1992 release. The performances are all good and, in the cases of both Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise, award-caliber.
Is there any anecdote, fact, question or observation about Twin Peaks you couldn’t fit into your book that you’d care to mention now?
One of things that that really stuck with me, and there’s mention of it in the book, is just how influential Jennifer Lynch, David’s daughter, was in crafting who Laura Palmer was. She was pretty much given carte blanche when writing The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, and in talking about Jen and the character with Sheryl Lee, I know Jen’s writing was key in helping Sheryl develop her take the character, especially for the film.
Music is an essential player in Twin Peak’s world. Why is the music of the series so powerful? Is there a way that Lynch uses music that sets him apart from other TV directors/writers?
There’s simply something special when Angelo Badalamenti works in David Lynch’s world. The show’s score is powerful because of just how unique it is – slow, ethereal, jazzy. Unlike other shows of the era, the opening credits aren’t face-paced or rousing. The music moves languidly, just like the water on screen. Add in the occasional chanteuse styling of Julie Cruise and its just an incredibly unique aural experience.
In his essay ‘David Lynch Keeps His Head’ David Foster Wallace writes:
AN ACADEMIC DEFINITION of Lynchian might be that the term "refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former's perpetual containment within the latter." But like postmodern or pornographic, Lynchian is one of those Porter Stewart-type [sic] words that's ultimately definable only ostensively-i.e., we know it when we see it.What do you think of this definition? Would you add anything to it? Is there any way in which a Lynchian POV is limited?
“We know it when we see it” – I think that’s a very fair description, and I wouldn’t add anything to it. I do think it’s important here to comment that, while David Lynch’s vision certainly helped fuel the Twin Peaks landscape, he did only direct a handful of episodes. Those ones certainly have the hallmark Lynchian tropes – cinematic camera shots, inanimate or mundane objects infused with an uncomfortable or macabre vibe to them – but the entire series was not a playground solely visited by Lynch. Mark Frost was already a celebrated television writer and brought his own prodigious talents to the table. Meanwhile, other directors, such as Lesli Linka Glatter, Caleb Deschanel and Tim Hunter also contributed significantly to the series, utilizing a similar style and feel, a vocabulary, if you will, but never really aping Lynch. As if anybody could.