Five Great TV Shows Influenced By Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks, 2017. Photograph by Ms Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME
Ahead of the new series, we look at the TV that’s taken its cues from Mr David Lynch’s show.
Mr David Lynch might be the US’s greatest living artist. Building on the psychosexual fugue of his 1986 film Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks coined a dark new televisual grammar stuffed with symbols – forests, logs, dwarves, giants, owls, discoloured hair, eye patches. Mr Lynch’s disquieting blend of secrets, depravity, humour, nightmares, musical manipulation and the supernatural has haunted long-form drama ever since – there it is in The X Files, Lost, Happy Valley, the catatonic half-dressed girl who staggers down the street in The Missing, even podcast-of-the-moment S-Town, with its mazes and clocks and rambling flights of philosophy. To celebrate the third series of Twin Peaks, which screens from 21 May (22 May in the UK), here are five of the finest TV shows it has influenced.
The Sopranos (1999-2007)
Mr James Gandolfini, Ms Edie Falco and Mr Robert Iler in The Sopranos, 2005. Photograph by HBO/Kobal/REX Shutterstock
Sopranos creator Mr David Chase has repeatedly praised Twin Peaks’ dream sequences. In an interview with Vulture, he suggested Lynch’s imagery hits a Jungian subconscious that “scares us and delights us”. Both shows articulate the duality of family respectability and its seamy undergrowth through dreams, some easier to interpret than others. They can even advance the plot or (in the case of Sopranos episode “The Test Dream”) masquerade as reality. The Sopranos’ final sequence, ambiguous and coded enough to provoke dissertation-length think-pieces, would have made Mr Lynch twinkle with pride.
The Killing (2007-2014)
Ms Sofie Grabol in The Killing, 2012. Photograph by WENN
The first series of Forbrydelsen, Scandi-noir’s breakthrough police procedural, remains the highpoint of the movement. Its radical patience – one murder case solved across 20 episodes, each episode a single day – is tightened by the sort of grand-canvas plotting and chiaroscuro morality you find in Twin Peaks. Both shows also examine how a single murder can unearth lies, prejudice and envy in a “civilized” Western community. Such is the attention to detail that tiny clues, like a hoodie from the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics (you’ll know if you’ve seen it), electrify.
True Detective (2014-)
Mr Matthew McConaughey in True Detective, 2014. Photograph by Photo 12/Alamy
Series one of True Detective was a soulful slice of contemporary Southern Gothic, Mr William Faulkner meets Mr Edgar Allan Poe in the Louisiana swamplands. Among the unreliable narrators, muggy suspense, sexual depravity, cultish horror and virtuoso long-takes, there’s still space for laughter in the dark thanks to Mr Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, who echoes Mr Kyle MacLachlan’s FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper: sexily aloof, an earnest eccentric, quick to make notes (in a ledger instead of a Dictaphone) and deranged by the murder case he’s asked to solve. For Mr Lynch as for Mr McConaughey, television gave two of the US’s cinema-surrealists room to riff.
Mr Martin Freeman in Fargo, 2014. Photograph by MGM TV/FX Productions/REX Shutterstock
Mr David Foster Wallace defined the adjective Lynchian as “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”. It could also describe Fargo, the TV anthology spin-off of the Coen brothers’ 1996 masterpiece: oppressive landscape (snow instead of wood), aw-schucks folksiness and a white-noise of black comedy jolted by screams of pure evil (Mr Billy Bob Thornton’s character is basically the devil). The casting of actors associated with a comic key (Mr Martin Freeman and Key & Peele in series one; Mr Nick Offerman in series two) enriches the tone. Series three, which is currently airing and stars Mr Ewan McGregor as twins, may be the weirdest yet.
Messrs Donald Glover and Keith Standfield in Atlanta, 2016. Photograph by FX Networks/Everett Collection/Alamy
Visionary polymath Mr Donald Glover – 30 Rock writer at 23, Grammy-nominated musician Childish Gambino and about to play Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo Star Wars spin-off – once half-joked that Atlanta was his attempt at “Twin Peaks with rappers”. With an almost entirely black cast, it's TV's most nuanced expression yet of modern American black identity. Among so much else, it deconstructs racial profiling, gangs, drive-by shootings, fame, the hierarchy of rap, black TV channels and trans-racialism with a deadpan-absurd lyricism. Largely shot at the honeyed "magic hour", even a dilapidated sofa on a lawn looks like a painting. Mr Glover’s hero Earnest deliberately talks to the characters, like binmen and bathroom attendants, that most shows overlook. It could have been a well-intentioned mess, but instead it’s a glorious game-changer.