How, and why, Showtime resurrected “Twin Peaks”

It is happening again…
It is happening again…
Image: ABC
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The groundbreaking drama Twin Peaks changed television forever, and paved the way for the innovative, risky dramas that are now a staple of premium cable networks like Showtime. Now, Showtime has come up with the perfect way to repay the favor: by bringing back the very show that started it all.

The network is reviving Twin Peaks, the hit 1990 ABC show about the search for the murderer of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, as a nine-episode “limited series,” airing in 2016. That will mark the 25th anniversary of its series finale, in which Palmer tells Agent Dale Cooper, as both are seated in the extradimensional Red Room: “I’ll see you again in 25 years.” Show creators David Lynch and Mark Frost will write and produce all nine episodes, with Lynch directing all of them.

“In some ways, Twin Peaks was the precursor to all of the high-quality, provocative serialized drama that we all do now,” Gary Levine, Showtime’s executive vice president of original programming, told Quartz. “So to go back to the OG of provocative, serialized drama seemed like a no-brainer. Twin Peaks always did and always will define cool, and that was just too tempting to turn away from.”

Lynch and Frost, who began kicking ideas around for a revival three years ago, met only with Showtime about the project, in large part because Levine was the executive who developed and oversaw Twin Peaks during the show’s run on ABC. The clincher, according to Frost: the famously quirky Lynch loved the artwork on the walls of Showtime Networks President David Nevins. (“I love that David said the art in my office was integral to him coming to Showtime,” Nevins told Quartz with a laugh. “It’s my sister-in-law, she’s the artist!”)

Twin Peaks was a full-blown pop culture phenomenon in 1990, as more than 34 million viewers turned into the pilot and fell under the spell of the first season’s intoxicating blend of cherry pie, a dancing dwarf, a log lady and, of course, “damn good coffee.” Even though the series went off the rails during its second and final season—it lost all its momentum after Laura Palmer’s murder was solved, and Lynch and Frost were focused on outside projects—its cult following, Nevins included, has remained loyal and passionate ever since.

“The show blew me away when it was on,” Nevins told Quartz. “Twin Peaks needed to come back. It needed answers. It was never finished in the right way.”

For Nevins, giving the show its long-overdue proper ending meant getting Lynch and Frost’s commitment that they were going all-in. “You couldn’t bring it back unless you got Frost and Lynch to step up and say they were going to do the whole thing, so that was essential,” said Nevins. “It’s not something that you want to try and do with somebody else.”

In turn, the network is giving them carte blanche to realize their vision. “We give our creators such freedom and such license to explore every part of their dark imaginations, and there’s no one I would rather give that freedom to than David Lynch and Mark Frost,” said Levine.

Of course, that freedom, which led to the wondrous highs of Twin Peaks’ first season, also resulted in the train wreck that was season 2. Levine, however, isn’t worried about a repeat of past mistakes. “I trust in David and Mark, and having 20-some odd years to reflect on it, I think there’s a lot of stories they want to tell, I think there’s a lot of answers they want to provide and I think a lot of satisfaction they want to deliver, so I have no doubt about it,” he said.

While everyone is staying tight-lipped about the new season’s storyline, Lynch and Frost did give Showtime an idea of where they’re headed (“They shared some things with us,” said Levine). There are no casting announcements yet, though if Kyle MacLachlan’s Twitter feed is any indication, he’ll be returning as Agent Cooper.

Twin Peaks also represents a new direction for Showtime, which hadn’t been looking to get into the burgeoning “limited series” genre (which includes shows like Fargo and True Detective) until Lynch and Frost came calling. “But this one made sense. I still fundamentally believe in shows I can bring back year after year and get people hooked,” said Nevins. He added that he hasn’t given up on the notion that the same thing will happen with Twin Peaks if Lynch and Frost come up with additional ideas: “I’ll have them at my party as long as they want to stay!”