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Twin Peaks: The First Season

Artisan Home Video

Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Sheryl Lee,
Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, and Richard Beymer

Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost

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Review by Gregory P. Dorr                    

David Lynch's first foray into television may not have gained an audience to match the fervor of its many admirers, and may have nose-dived into pure silliness during its uneven second season (not to mention an even less comprehensible prequel film Fire Walk With Me), but, at least in a small way, Twin Peaks changed television forever. At a time when the airwaves were ruled by the colorful sweaters of sitcom king Bill Cosby, Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost revitalized last-place network ABC with a macabre, quirky, and sleaze-filled weekly soap opera.

In many ways similar to Lynch's masterful Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks digs away at the pervasive savagery and evil lurking in the shadows of a seemingly normal, wholesome small town. When homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is found murdered, wide-eyed FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is called to investigate and all of Twin Peaks' darkest secrets are rustled from cover. Twin Peaks' sordid plot-lines involving hardcore drug use, sexual perversion, and a malevolent supernatural force shocked the television system, opening the door for grittier nighttime dramas like NYPD Blue and supernatural-themed series like The X-Files. Even The Sopranos creator David Chase has referred to his celebrated series as "Twin Peaks set in New Jersey."

However, the show's most profound effect came via the off-beat quirkiness of its small town characters. Suddenly, quirky small town shows started popping all over, the most successful of which were the occasionally dark Picket Fences and the much more docile Northern Exposure. And yet, despite longer runs, none of the copycat shows earned the same intensity of fanboy affection showered on Twin Peaks, which, 10 years after its cancellation, has over 20 devotee Web sites and a still-active fanzine (Wrapped in Plastic); was analyzed in a scholarly book of media criticism (Full of Secrets : Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks); and was celebrated in 2001 with a festival featuring several cast members.

Artisan's DVD release of the first season is a quality package, but with one unavoidable flaw: The set only includes the seven one-hour episodes of the series' debut season and is missing the two-hour pilot. While Republic Pictures owns the video rights to the individual epsiodes, Warner Brothers own the home-video rights to the series opener, which they released theatrically in Europe (and eventually in the States on VHS and Laserdisc) with a tacked-on apocryphal "ending," and has yet to issue it on DVD. A region-free Asian DVD of the pilot (sans forced ending) is often found on eBay. ABC still has the television rights to the original pilot, which has appeared on cable TV from time to time.

As for the seven episodes featured in this set, each is by turns funny, eerie, dreamy and captivating. The world of Twin Peaks is a time-warped Anywhere, USA, aesthetically trapped between the 1950s and the 1990s, where everyone is driven by obsessions, longings, and gluttonous needs (there is an odd thread of food fetishes running through the series). Even though it was relentlessly copied throughout the 1990s, Twin Peaks is a unique and uniquely entertaining event, even without a beginning (or much of an end).

Fans of Twin Peaks will love this set, with its attractive packaging, eerie menus, digitally remastered high-definition full-frame transfers and DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 representations of Angelo Badalamenti's dreamy score, but newcomers may want to track down the elusive pilot episode before jumping into Artisan's box. Every episode features a commentary track, usually with the episode's director or writer, or with other crew members. Each episode also features a handful of optional "Script Notes," which offer behind-the-scenes insights and an optional introduction by the ambiguous Log Lady (Catherine Coulson). And in each supplement menu, look for an Easter egg that leads to bonus interviews.

Disc One

Episode One: After the shock of Laura Palmer's murder begins to settle, Agent Dale Cooper and Sheriff Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) begin investigating. Initial suspicious are allayed while unexpected romantic connections and other dubious relationships begin to surface. There's a fish in the percolator!
Food Fetish: Damn fine coffee.
Quirkiest Moment: Nadine (Wendy Robie) excitedly reveals her masterplan for silent drape runners.
Lynchian Moment:A cigarette slapped out of insolent Bobby's mouth become lodged in a nearby slice of meatloaf.
Freakiest Moment: Apparition Bob (Frank Silva) makes a startling appearance.
Big Clue Revealed: Shelly (Madchen Amick) finds blood on Leo's shirt.
Episode Supplements: Commentary by director Duwayne Dunham, script notes, Log Lady intro.

Episode Two: Tension grows between Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) and Leo (Eric DaRe) as Laura's death complicates their drug trafficking enterprise, and Leo suspects Bobby as a cuckold. Audrey Van Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) develops a crush on Agent Cooper. Abrasive FBI Forensics specialist Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) arrives and insults everybody. Cooper has a mysterious, revealing dream.
Food Fetish: Butter and brie on a baguette.
Quirkiest Moment: The table of perfectly organized donuts at Cooper's demonstration of Tibetan deductive reasoning.
Lynchian Moment: Cooper's dream, shown in surreal reverse, features a dancing dwarf.
Freakiest Moment: Leland Palmer (Ray Wise), Laura's father, emotionally dances with a photograph of his daughter, then smears blood on it.
Big Clue Revealed: In Cooper's dream, Bob promises to kill again.
Episode Supplements: Commentary by series director of photography Frank Byers, script notes, Log Lady intro.

Disc Two

Episode Three: Laura's funeral brings her cousin Maddy (Sheryl Lee) to town. The results of Albert's forensic tests come in and he gets a punch in the snoot. Cooper is introduced to The Bookhouse Boys as Twin Peaks' dark underbelly begins to come into clearer focus.
Food Fetish: "Nothing beats the taste sensation when maple syrup collides with ham!"
Quirkiest Moment: A group of old men laugh as Shelly mocks the following Lynchian moment:
Lynchian Moment: Leland Palmer throws himself on his daughter's casket, causing a mechanical malfunction in the hydraulic lift.
Freakiest Moment: Retarded 27-year-old Johnny Horne (Robert Davenport) yelling "Amen!" during Laura's service.
Big Clue Revealed: The letter "J" is discovered under Laura's fingernail.
Episode Supplements: Commentary by series director Tina Rathbone, script notes, Log Lady intro.

Episode Four: The One-Armed Man (Al Strobel) is apprehended. Audrey launches her own investigation into Laura's murder. Norma's (Peggy Lipton) deadbeat husband Hank (Chris Mulkey) gets paroled. Maddy's eerie resemblance to Laura begins to affect James (James Marshall). More suspicious relationships come to light.
Food Fetish: Mayonnaise
Quirkiest Moment: Cooper comes face to face with a llama.
Lynchian Moment: During his police interrogation, Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) performs magic tricks with a golf ball.
Freakiest Moment: Hank sucking on his domino keychain.
Big Clue Revealed: Bite marks on Laura's body identified as bird pecks.
Episode Supplements: Commentary by director Tim Hunter and series writer Robert Engels, script notes, Log Lady intro.

Disc Three

Episode Five: Planted evidence misleads Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman. The Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) invites the investigators in for tea. Doublecross! Hank and Leo reacquaint. Shelly gives Leo what-for. Agent Cooper gets a surprise visitor.
Food Fetish: Leg of lamb.
Quirkiest Moment: Loud Icelanders revel into the wee hours.
Lynchian Moment: Cooper questions a key witness: a log.
Freakiest Moment: The discovery of a possible murder scene.
Big Clue Revealed: Maddy discovers Laura's secret hiding place.
Episode Supplements: Commentary by director Lesli Linka Glatter, script notes, Log Lady intro.

Episode Six: Cooper delicately rebuffs lovestruck Audrey. Nadine's dream of a silent drape-runner dynasty collapses. The Bookhouse Boys pay a visit to One-Eyed Jacks. Doublecross! The Packard Mill becomes the focus of growing intrigue. Audrey takes her amateur investigation a step too far. Dr. Jacoby gets set up.
Food Fetish: Ninety-nine bottles of beer, Icelandic-style.
Quirkiest Moment: A giant pine cone.
Lynchian Moment: A giant pine cone.
Freakiest Moment: The myna bird's last words.
Big Clue Revealed: The myna bird's last words.
Episode Supplements: Commentary by director Caleb Deschanel and series writer Harley Peyton, script notes, Log Lady intro.

Disc Four

Episode Seven: Vague details for this cliffhanger-filled finale: Shelly picks the wrong time to wash her hair. The Bookhouse Boys snag a suspect. Leo takes Shelly to work with him. Jacoby suffers a heart attack. Leland visits the hospital. Audrey gets to know her father better. Cooper hears a loud noise.
Quirkiest Moment: The hunchback seamstress.
Lynchian Moment: Television imitates life, for Leo.
Freakiest Moment: "Bite the bullet, baby!"
Episode Supplements: Commentary by series production designer Richard Hoover, script notes, Log Lady intro.

Disc four also includes a pleasing set of supplementary features:

Mark Frost Telephone Interview (14:35) — In a scenario Lynchian in its own right, the two founders of Twin Peaks fanzine Wrapped in Plastic interview series co-creator Frost. Although cameras were present at both ends of the telephone interview, the Wrapped in Plastic end had to be recreated months later. Frost talks about the series' origins, Cooper's similarity to Sherlock Holmes, and the pilot's tacked-on ending.

Learning to Speak in the Red Room (3:39) — Diminutive Man From Another Place Michael Anderson gives three lessons in learning to speak backwards so that it will sound forwards when played backwards… Oh, never mind.

An Introduction to David Lynch (21:27) — Featurette featuring interviews with Catherine Coulson, Kyle MacLachlan, University of Texas film professor Charles Ramirez Berg, Lesli Linka Glatter, Miguel Ferrer, Michael Anderson, Duwayne Dunham, Sheryl Lee, Peggy Lipton, and Richard Beymer.

17 Pieces of Pie (9:43) — Interview with Mar-T Diner proprietor Pat Cokewell, whose establishment stood in for Twin Peaks' Double-R diner.

The Twin Peaks Directory — A thorough, if practically unnavigable, graphical web of character relationships, featuring, in some cases, cast bios, filmographies and interview clips. The best of the bunch: One-armed actor Al Strobel's story of dismemberment.

— Gregory P. Dorr

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