She's full of seeeeeecrets
August 3, 2012 7:42 AM   Subscribe

I've recently been watching Twin Peaks again, and I've been wondering... to people who actually watched it air in its original run, what was it like seeing something like this on TV? Did you have watching parties that I've heard so much about? Was the reveal of the killer and the twists and turns along the way surprising? Did you watch until the end of the second season, and were you disappointed when it got the plug pulled on it?

Or let me know anything else you can describe about the experience of being a fan of the show.
posted by codacorolla to Society & Culture (66 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
The US pilot and the European pilot had some distinct differences, so you, OP, may be interested in the differences between people catching it stateside and abroad as well.
posted by griphus at 7:43 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it had something of the cult appeal that "Lost" had a few years ago. My friends and I were constantly speculating on what the heck any of it meant! I do remember thinking that it did start going downhill after the killer was revealed, and I wasn't sorry to see it cancelled...
posted by Hanuman1960 at 7:46 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My wife remembers going to a David Bowie concert that happened just as the episode which revealed Laura Palmer's killer was airing. He watched it backstage, and then taunted the audience with his knowledge, something like "I know who killed Laura Palmer ... " and laughing.
posted by feckless at 7:47 AM on August 3, 2012 [10 favorites]

Yeah, Twin Peaks was a definite cultural phenomenon back then. They only difference was that there was no internet, so you had to discuss it with friends after the fact, and no streaming or torrents.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:49 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

KokuRyu is on to the differences, I think. At least I relate to it similarly. I was high school age, living with my parents, and what I remember is that the network's timeslot changes made negotiations over if I could watch it on our one TV very difficult. Or it turns out I'd have to work that day since my work schedule was more consistent than ABC's. I kid (just a little). Despite that it was something of a big deal to me and some of my friends, I missed more than a few episodes due to it being moved around.
posted by safetyfork at 7:56 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: KokuRyu is on to the differences, I think. At least I relate to it similarly. I was high school age, living with my parents, and what I remember is that the network's timeslot changes made negotiations over if I could watch it on our one TV very difficult. Or it turns out I'd have to work that day since my work schedule was more consistent than ABC's. I kid (just a little). Despite that it was something of a big deal to me and some of my friends, I missed more than a few episodes due to it being moved around.

How long did it take you before you actually saw the episodes you missed?
posted by codacorolla at 7:58 AM on August 3, 2012

It was compelling. Also, the pacing was unlike any other television at the time. The laconic, dialogue, and repetition of seemingly unimportant lines gave it a different feel than, say, Murphy Brown, or even Northern Exposure, which was also around that time.

That's all I got.
posted by Danf at 8:02 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It (in my view) was the forerunner of what was later -- and I hate this marketing term -- "appointment TV." The first HBO drama was still seven years in the future and prestigious broadcast TV in 1990 was China Beach and thirtysomething, set against a lot of product like Roseanne and Designing Women and Growing Pains. And as I mentioned once before on the blue, I taped the entire first season and when my ex-roommate came back to town after a year away at school, I sat him down with another mutual friend who had never seen it but wanted to, and the three of us watched the entire season in one sitting. That is unremarkable now in a world of box sets and every third TV channel running marathons of this or that sitcom, but it was unheard of in 1990.

And as KokoRyu said, in the pre-internet world, you had to pretty much talk to people live in person about it. There were bbs systems, but I was still a year or two away from being online even on those. I am sure there were people excitedly firing up their Telix programs and 1200 baud modems to talk about it, though.

The second season, as I recall, was pretty deflating. I watched it then with an ever-growing sense of disappointment but I think I stuck it out until the end. A year ago my POSSLQ watched the show and she is -- by her own admission -- obsessive about seeing the entirety of a TV series. Even she packed it in halfway through the second year (I had given up already). We watched the Lynchg-directed final epsiode which was pleasingly weird, bit too little too late. Later writers and directors had stuffed it full of too many useless zany characters and there was little to be done but a mercy killing by then.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:04 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

They only difference was that there was no internet, so you had to discuss it with friends after the fact, and no streaming or torrents.

Yeah, but there were Usenet newsgroups! (Disclaimer: I wasn't a Twin Peaks fan then--in fact, coincidentally, I've just been watching it for the first time within the last few weeks--but your comment hit a wrong note with me because I was a Northern Exposure fan when I was in college and I definitely remember participating in the group.)

I just found the archives on Google for alt-tv.twin-peaks, if the OP (or anyone else, of course) would like to take a look at the pre-WWW era of online TV discussion.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:08 AM on August 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

And yes, watching parties: three or four of us would gather weekly at one friend's place. Weirdly, Twin Peaks is associated in my mind with the taste of Smartfood, which I think had only recently arrived in Canada and was the snack of choice.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:10 AM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Ya, to echo Danf, this was before all the glitzy editing and f/x stuff that is taken for granted in television now.

It was visually interesting, and very different speed — the way Lynch will drop you into a scene and have you look around a bit to some groovy music before ever revealing the thrust of it, the quiet and mundane dialogue that meandered around naturalistically where other scripts would be busy! revealing! plot! was unlike other TV dramas of the time. The subject matters and the humor was very wry and dark, a true tragicomedy.

This, along with the Simpsons, was like the renaissance of superstoner tv. Except, you know, Lidsville.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 8:12 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Other than a show like "Dallas," when the whole "who shot JR" storyline was happening, I don't recall a time when everybody (it seems to me at least) sat down to watch a broadcast TV show week after week. I was rapt. The end of the show pretty much blew my mind, and I still have mixed feelings about it, but Lynch really broke new ground for what we could expect from a TV show. What really stands in comparison from those days?

I wasn't that technologically advanced to be in on the usenet groups, so I was restricted to face to face discussions.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:19 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in college when it aired and was a drama student who ran with film students, so we were all intrigued, but all had wildly different schedules that prevented viewing parties.

All I remember was once watching one of the seasons-end episodes -- all I remember is Agent Cooper going to a bar and suddenly getting visions of the dancing dwarf and a giant who kept telling him "It is happening again", and then the ending scene concerned the soul of some woman who got trapped in...a doorknob? I think -- and when it got to the end of that, I just blinked at the television a couple times and then ran out of my dorm room and down two flights of stairs to a friend's room and burst in, screaming, "I DON'T UNDERSTAAAAAAAAND!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 AM on August 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yes, people were very into it. I remember watching with friends and having conversations at work about the latest episode.

I watched the first season devotedly, but somewhere in the second season I got grossed out by the sadistic misogyny of the plot. I did watch the ending, but it made me feel pretty dirty.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:25 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Codacorolla, I caught up with them a mere 7 years later on VHS through the great Scarecrow Video in Seattle. That gap is nothing compared to my partner who took over 12 years to finally see the end of the second season.
posted by safetyfork at 8:28 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Everyone at my high school watched it and talked about it the next day. (This was a small ~120 people magnet school for nerds, lest that sound more impressive than it was.) We were all pretty into it at the start and through the first season, but I can only remember one girl who REALLY loved David Lynch making it all the way through season 2 and on to the movie that came out in theaters a while after. I stopped at the end of season 1, I think. I very clearly remember thinking "oh this has just gotten RIDICULOUS." At some point it went from "quirky small town with a bit of the supernatural" to "supernatural with only a bit of quirk" and I said "meh".
posted by MsMolly at 8:29 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I didn't have any friends who were into it. I think it was just before I found and started playing on FidoNet, so I had no one to discuss it with, really. I sort of found it somehow and remember being very intrigued. However, in the second season I felt it lost its way.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:30 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

It was compelling right from the get go. The first season was great, and it seemed like in the second season it all went to hell. That's the problem with the success of something that really should have only been 13 episodes. You have this one idea, and a mood, but then you're trying to be more profound and more hip than you have story to accomodate.

So exactly like Lost in that respect.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:32 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

the first season aired when I was a junior in high school. As far as I knew, I was the only person in my "group" that watched it.

I FREAKED THE FUCK OUT when Agent Cooper got shot at the end of the first season and spent the whole summer going ZOMFG IS HE DEAD OR NOT. There wasn't any internet to provide spoilers, BUT about a week or two before the start of the new season, "Diane...The Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper" came out (on cassette!) and it continued beyond the end of the first season and proved that he was alive and well.

Also - I was on one of the proto-internet sites (like GEnie, Compuserve, I don't remember which one), and became pen-pals with a guy in California, and we bonded over our love of Stephen King and Twin Peaks. My Dad was going to England on a business trip, and I mentioned it to the guy, and he said "IS THERE ANY WAY HE WOULD BE ABLE TO BUY A COPY OF THE UK VERSION OF TWIN PEAKS I WILL PAY HIM BACK." My Dad was able to find ONE copy in a store he went to, and I sent it to my friend, who converted it to the US VHS format and sent me back a copy.
posted by Lucinda at 8:32 AM on August 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

This subject gets some discussion in the book Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks. One of the essays in the book centers on the BBS discussion communities surrounding the show.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:35 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

My best friend and I were too young to drive, so we each watched it at our respective houses and called each other at nearly every commercial break to discuss the unfolding plot during the first season. I had a hard time following the second season and lost interest. I taped the second season finale but didn't watch it for weeks. (When I finally did, the Black Lodge scenes terrified me. I was 12.)
posted by purpleclover at 8:42 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hit post too quickly....

my senior year of high school we could dress up for Halloween, and I was Laura Palmer. I wrapped myself in plastic (with white underneath - I should've gone with nude colored items), did my face in "I'm dead" makeup, glued a letter "R" to my fingernail (I didn't stick in under my nail, I wasn't that devoted) and carried around a battery-operated boom box with the Twin Peaks theme playing constantly.

Maddy's death was particularly freaky, and there's one sequence that's just a static shot of BOB walking through the Palmers' living room, over the couch and right into the camera that is literally the most terrifying thing I have ever seen on television. I still can't watch it.

You could also tell that the show was floundering around for ideas after I also was *very* despondent over the final episode of the second season. POOR DALE!
posted by Lucinda at 8:43 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Did any of you watch Fire Walk With Me when it was released? From everything I've read on line it was a huge let-down to fans, and universally panned by critics (which I find strange, since I think it's one of the best Lynch projects I've ever watched).
posted by codacorolla at 8:46 AM on August 3, 2012

I also watched "West Side Story" for the first time simply because Ben Horne and Lawrence Jacoby were in it - it's one of my all-time favorite movies now.

And my senior quote under my yearbook picture was "Is this real....or some strange and twisted dream?" from Jerry Horne.
posted by Lucinda at 8:47 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I saw a few episodes, and came to the conclusion that I don't have the patience for this shit. I liked it, sure. But I didn't (and don't) do watching parties, and infrastructure for catching up on stuff, legally or otherwise, really didn't exist like it does today.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:49 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did see it when it first came out. I remember being particularly annoyed that Lara Flynn Boyle did not play Donna Hayward.

I hadn't seen any other of David Lynch's work at that point in my life, so my biggest thing was "BUT WHAT ABOUT DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALE?" and was disappointed when I was not given a satisfactory answer.
posted by Lucinda at 8:51 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was in college when "Twin Peaks" was on. Yep, big groups would gather every week to watch it. There was a constant sense of astonishment -- "I can't believe what's on my screen right now is actually being shown on TV." I don't think anything since has really compared to it on that metric. In some sense it reminds me of the sudden ascension of Nirvana a year later -- "what? that is allowed to be popular??"

David Lynch was much less famous at the time than he is now -- Blue Velvet was an "art movie" and most people hadn't seen it. So people really didn't have any sense of what to expect.

Lucinda's comment about that famous shot of Bob is right on -- usually we'd hang around and discuss the show after it was over, but that night, everybody was too freaked out and we all just kind of silently dispersed.

Yes, my memory is that the plot twists were authentically surprising. But I think it was well-understood that the unsettling feeling of the show was the point, the direct questions about plot less so -- it didn't matter so much exactly what the owls were, just that they were not what they seemed.

I watched the show's whole run, but the communal episode-watches were definitely more a feature of season 1.

I miss television like Twin Peaks.
posted by escabeche at 8:58 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

YES that scene of Bob coming toward the camera was utterly terrifying.

I wasn't old enough to go to R-rated movies when Fire Walk With Me came out.
posted by purpleclover at 9:02 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I worked at a movie theater when Fire Walk With Me came out. A couple of other co-workers and I watched it the night before to preview the projectionist's build of the film. It was suitably creepy in that setting: show started about 11:30 or midnight with about 5 people in the entire multiplex. Watching it later, it was less creepy and less interesting. But I did find myself enjoying it more the third or fourth viewing later. For a time I had that movie poster as well.

The best product tie-in that I remember was that you could buy Dale's tapes to Diane and a friend of mine had these. We'd drive around North Bend and Snoqualmie at night in his VW Rabbit listening to those tapes. Good times.
posted by safetyfork at 9:03 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I lost interest in the second season. The first season I recall very well because for various reason I had to dash home to catch the show. (Yes, of course I had a VCR, but it was such a hassle to set the timer accurately, make sure the channel was right on the cable box, reaffirm that the tape in the recorder was blank and long enough...)

One thing I remember above all else is how simply beautiful the show was: the shots framed so elegantly, gorgeous lighting indoors and out, consistently fascinating art direction, and above all how the camera adored the faces of the leading actresses. This kind of sheer visual glamour on a television show was something quite new and exciting back then. (The flatness and cheesiness of Wild Palms, the Twin Peaks knockoff a couple season later, really set that opulence in relief.)
posted by La Cieca at 9:03 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was kind of young when I watched it the first time, I think a bunch of the episodes were taped on VHS to see later in the week.

I just re-watched the whole series and was amazed how fantasitic it was. It is still hard for me to believe it was on network tv.
posted by JayNolan at 9:04 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I went to a small artsy high school -- around 350 people across four grades. We had a giant board in one of the halls that was an elaborate diagram of the character relationships in Twin Peaks the entire time the show was on the air. Nobody touched it except to update it.

Definitely viewing parties every week; we did a good business in recording episodes to VHS to trade and rewatch, too, as I recall, to obsess over every detail. Speculating about what was going on was a favorite hobby. Definitely a precursor to the same kinds of behavior you later saw around shows like Lost.
posted by Andrhia at 9:07 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was in grade 10 or so and there were only a few of us who watched it. Mostly nerdy types with weird senses of humour, I suppose. We'd talk about it at school, or sometimes on the phone during commercial breaks. It was FREAKY and genuinely surprising.

I loved the show, especially the first season, though the movie was disappointing. (And like ottereroticist, I thought some of the gender/sex stuff was really ewwwwww.)

The Bob scene scared me, of course, but to this day whenever I see a ceiling fan at the top of a staircase my pulse quickens. Also, I still try to work "There was a fish in the percolator" into my conversations every few months or so.
posted by methroach at 9:46 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was young as well and vividly remember babysitting in a new house while watching it next to a sliding glass door after it was dark. Then Bob came on and I couldn't move. I had to sit there until the parents came home because I was terrified.

None of my friends watched it and couldn't understand why I was so into it so I suffered all of me theories alone. I probably recorded it on VHS to watch later as well but back then you always arranged your plans to watch live. Oh, and I had the soundtrack on tape which my sister and I used to make up interpretive dances to. Like I said, we were young.
posted by Bunglegirl at 9:49 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

We did watching parties, which I remember fondly; it was an event. And me and my housemates hid behind the sofa together when Bob was on.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:54 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in elementary school when it originally aired and too young to watch it. But I remember adults talking about it all the time, and the "Who killed Laura Palmer?" catchphrase. To the point where I wondered semi-obsessively who the fuck Laura Palmer was and why all grownups seemed to care so much about her.
posted by Sara C. at 9:57 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend and I watched every episode. The stuff around the killer was chilling, and I remember being really kind of terrified--and surprised at the graphic nature of the show. Seems funny now, watching Breaking Bad, etc.

After the reveal of the show, it seemed directionless and enfuriating, a parody of itself. I still watched every episode, but sullenly. And when it was over, I shed no tears. It should have been a one-season run.

And, uh, I may have had impure thoughts about Audrey Horne.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:58 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I watched it with my mom, which was a bit weird because she thought of it as a straight-up soap opera/murder mystery and was completely befuddled (but not put off) by all the Lynchian weirdness. There were many, many times where a midget would be dancing on screen or whatever and she'd ask me what was going on (I was 16) and all I could say was "I have no idea."
posted by "But who are the Chefs?" at 9:59 AM on August 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

I was in college and a large group of students gathered in the dorm lounge every week to watch. We were all attending a catholic college in Dubuque, Iowa, so just the sheer weirdness of it all was so refreshing. I remember seeing Blue Velvet in a theater in Dubuque, too, with about three other people in the audience. These strange cultural artifacts (before the internet, after all) were reassuring about the crazy cool larger world we still weren't really a part of.
posted by Malla at 10:13 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in Jr. Highschool (in California). We watched it every week and talked about it the next day. Some of us would actually sometimes come to school dressed like the girls in Twin Peaks (sweaters and plaid skirts became very fashionable). I bought "Laura Palmer's Diary" at the bookstore in the mall. I created a flow chart of all of the relationships of all of the people on the show, and I'd update it after I watched every episode in order to evolve my theories about the killer. We had a few watching parties when the whole "who killed Laura Palmer" storyline was going to be wrapped up, and we'd scream and gasp at all of the most insane developments.

It was fantastic!
posted by pazazygeek at 10:13 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

OH! And I did go see Fire Walk With Me in the theater, but it came out long after the tv series was gone (in my memory, I think I was in high school by then so, obviously, ages and ages later in teenage years). I was a big David Lynch fan by then so I wasn't disappointed so much, but the charm of the show was missing and I was kind of bummed about that. There were also some storylines that they didn't really wrap up in Twin Peaks and I had hoped the film would address them, but they didn't. There were characters who had these really ambiguous endings that made no sense and I wanted to know if maybe he would explain those endings a little more in the film - none of those characters were even in the film.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:16 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Watched it religiously at the time, remember only one thing - the first episode just flew by, i.e., the credits started to role and my friend and I looked at each other and then at the clock, amazed that an hour at passed.
posted by she's not there at 10:33 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The group of friends I was hanging out with was not a tv-watching bunch, but we watched Twin Peaks together. It was so artsy, and so weirdly funny, nothing at all like regular tv. I don't remember our reactions to particular plot developments, and we did lose interest by the end of the second season.
posted by feste at 10:37 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It came out right around the time I'd moved from San Diego to a small town in Oregon. I remember going over to new friends' houses to watch it as a group, I remember reading the diary when it came out, and going as a group to see the movie as well. It was a nice bonding experience with new (like-minded) folks who were into watching weird TV shows, and even though on subsequent viewings there are things that piss me off (or make me groan) at the time I loved it and couldn't get enough. I was super disappointed when the plug got pulled. One thing that I remember sucking was the lack of DVR-ability. One of the friends had a VCR that you could punch some code you got out of TV Guide that did some auto-magic taping thing, and that saved us from missing at least one of the episodes when the local affiliate preempted it for some dumb reason.

I'm fairly certain that in today's era of the (modern) internet the whole thing would be ruined. You'd have assholes camping out stealing scripts, spoilers galore, tons of criticism by internet nerdery, etc. When Lost was on I distinctly remember thinking that it'd have been better if it had come out around the time of Twin Peaks, because so much of what was ruined (for me) about that show was a direct result of the internet--Lindelof and Cuse spent too much time listening/catering to the echo chamber.
posted by togdon at 10:42 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the distance between Fire Walk With Me and the end of the show felt pretty great.

I DID see it in a theater (after attending a funeral no less!) and I still think it's a masterpiece.

And I watched it with the same friend that I'd seen the TV show with every showing. (We didn't even have a VCR, so we had to watch it when it, like, aired. Which was an amazing experience. And yeah, plenty of people would come over if they weren't near their own TVs. But I prefer the way things are now.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:45 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

TWIN PEAKS took over all TV conversation at work. All my co-workers watched it, though we did not converge in groups. It was mind-fucking TV. I expected weird, being a Lynch fan anyway, but the show went way beyond my expectations. Once we found out who killed Laura, there really was nowhere else for them to go. It was obvious they hadn't been able to think of any other plot-line half as compelling. And yeah, the crash-landing of the second season was a major let-down. I videotaped the entire series on my VCR and still have the tapes.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:23 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I remember "Who Killed Laura Palmer" T-shirts being on sale at the mall, and being very popular as well. I can't imagine a show today that would be able to pull that off.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:26 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine a show today that would be able to pull that off.

Sopranos-themed shirts were a dime-a-dozen when it was big.
posted by griphus at 11:29 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: On the 20th anniversary, I wrote about my own experience watching "Twin Peaks" as a young woman. It was surreal, it was spooky, it was touching, it was --- for me, anyhow --- a completely novel experience in TV.
When “Twin Peaks” was first broadcast, my friend S (who didn’t have a TV in her tiny rented room) used to come over to my big, often-empty house on a rambling village road to watch the show with me. We would make popcorn or, one happy night, cherry pie and coffee, and gasp with delight and horror as we watched.

We were, what, 19, 20? Just the right age to be totally enveloped in that baroque, silly, scary world, to feel fellowship with Laura and Audrey and Donna and even thick-headed James, too sappy to be a Brando and too soft to be James Dean.

Every week, S would get so spooked that she’d put off walking home in the dark by herself for as long as she could, until — every week — suddenly it was midnight, and now the streets would be even darker and completely deserted.

So, every week, I walked S home after midnight, down long winding roads lined with old trees creaking in the breeze, few streetlights, and deep pockets of shadow looming everywhere. We’d chatter in a subdued way, mocking our ridiculous fear even as we drove it off with titters of laughter.

And every week, I would leave S at her brightly lit doorstep, take a deep breath as if I could breathe in that bright light and carry it with me into the night… and then I would step into the dark to start walking home.


More than any of the spooky motifs, the sudden twists, the dreamy vignettes, or the in-jokes, I remember those walks home in the dark, where the mundane landscape of my youth suddenly loomed so menacingly, where the perfectly normal things of daytime became imbued with mystery and danger. It seems to me that’s what “Twin Peaks” is all about.
As I wrote here, I think Fire Walk with Me is problematic and sloppy but weirdly effective --- maybe even essential to completing the story. FWwM strips away all the idyllic small-town comforts of the TV show and leaves the perverse, disturbing bones of the plot. [Assume SPOILERS from here on.] It shows us the dark underbelly of "Twin Peaks": a seedy town instead of a sleepy village; the hostile local police force in place of down-home Sheriff Truman and his adorable troop of deputies; the disregarded corpse of an unknown, unloved drifter/waitress instead of the privileged, beloved golden girl/prom queen.

Most of all, it shows us Laura Palmer: not as a hazy, idealized, passive memory, but as flesh-and-blood. She's not a case to be solved: she's a tragedy in motion. We see the depth of her despair, the denial of her friends and family, the dreadful choices that her trauma lead her to make.

The power of Laura's personality --- her fury and desire and rage --- feels almost like a rebuke from Lynch. On "Twin Peaks" [again, assume SPOILERS everywhere and OH SUCH A SPOILER HERE], he told us the story of a girl who was raped for years by her father... and we cheered and ate cherry pie and talked about doughnuts and coffee and the Log Lady. Though I find FWwM flawed, watching it really deepened my appreciation of the TV show.

Aaaaand tonight I'm going to pull out my DVDs and watch some "Twin Peaks." Thanks for the nudge.
posted by Elsa at 11:32 AM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

In my adult phase I jonesed over other TV shows before TP, like. say Hill Street Blues or St. Elsewhere (which had a few supernatural touches of its own here and there), and The X-Files afterward, but TP is still in a class of its own, I think. (I don't watch TV anymore, and never saw Lost, so for all I know there have been other good shows like that. I do occasionally watch DVD sets, so I've seen the first couple seasons of Heroes and I am currently nuts for Nurse Jackie, but other than that, all I watch on the TV is movies.)
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:34 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's funny that I had no interest in "Lost" anywhere along the way, but the conversation around "Lost" was really similar.

I was in high school. My parents are huge David Lynch fans and knew some of the show's writers, thus I saw all of Season 1. I found Season 1 to be amazing. I was obsessed. I had a t-shirt that said, "I Killed Laura Palmer" and buttons. People at school, besides a few theater geeks, thought this was extremely weird of me. I had a crush on Agent Cooper (so much that I still can't watch SHOWGIRLS without being really sad). I bought the Visitors Guide to Twin Peaks.

Season 2, well, while in my grownup brain I appreciate it and love it, at the time I remember loudly complaining in the middle of the season, "Oh fine. He's just making it up as he goes along now! He never had a plan! WTF!" I remember feeling cheated that the ending of the pilot was reedited to include Bob. Part of the difficulty was I missed an episode or two and it was already hard to track.

However, when FIRE WALK WITH ME came out, it seemed a lot more people liked the show. The aforementioned theater geeks and I went to see it. We rudely quoted the movie ("Who wants to f- the homecoming queen?") during gym class. It flipped into a weird camp appreciation with that film somehow. (We did similar with "It puts the lotion on it's skin!" with SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.)

I married a guy who is about 100x more a fan of "Twin Peaks" than I ever was. I loved that we watched the whole set in a row on the anniversary of Laura Palmer's death and spent one Christmas in Snoqualmie at the hotel that was The Great Northern and had cherry pie at the crappy diner as well. It's very different in my head than it was then. I wish I still had that t-shirt.
posted by Gucky at 12:23 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in elementary school when it originally aired and too young to watch it. But I remember adults talking about it all the time, and the "Who killed Laura Palmer?" catchphrase.

Same here. My parents would undoubtedly not have watched it - it was shown late night in the UK - but having still not seen it, the conversation around it in the media was enough that 'damn fine cherry pie' became a meme, almost. Given that that pops into my head whenever I see them at Tesco, I should probably watch it.
posted by mippy at 12:34 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I watched it while I was at university (I'm in the UK), and I didn't watch any other TV at that time. It was compelling and definitely something I talked about with friends and people on the internal newsgroups. I _think_ it was the first show I heard about from the proto-internet, and as someone said above, Lynch was much more of a cult then, so when I heard about a David Lynch TV show, I thought "this I have to see".

I did make it all the way through the second season, and I felt it kept a lot of the atmosphere of the show, but I did get fed up with the plot which got sillier as it went on.

I was still into the show enough to see FWWM at the cinema. I actually really liked it, although I could see that parts of it were terrible, but I think I agree with Elsa that it brings out the horrific aspect of the show much more than the series does. Parts of it are really effective and shocking.

I did re-watch TP recently (first season only) and I was surprised how slow and how "soapy" it seemed - that really didn't come over to me when I watched it in my early 20s.
posted by crocomancer at 12:36 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Also, I only started watching Northern Exposure last year. Too young for it too, and I used to get that and Twin Peaks mixed up a lot as a result.)
posted by mippy at 12:37 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was about 17, in the UK. I bought my family's first video recorder (my parents had no desire to get one) from my Saturday job wages so I could tape it because it clashed with a youth theatre I went to one evening a week.

It was definitely a huge conversation piece, though I think some people got less interested after the killer was revealed. I loved it to the end, though the reviews of Fire, Walk With Me put me off, so I never saw that.

I had quite the crush on Dale Cooper.

My dad watched it too, and used to enjoy referring to the Sherriff as Hairy, which is how the accents made Harry sound to us.

My friend Isabel did a good impression of Bob.

When I was 19 I went Greyhounding in the States and when I got to Seattle did the Twin Peaks/Northern Exposure bus tour, which drove you past the diner, stopped at the waterfall in the title sequence, and would have given us a view of the Twin Peaks if it had been less cloudy. (That bit of the tour was a bit disappointing, to be honest. Going to Roslyn, where they shot Northern Exposure, was better, even though I hadn't seen NE at the time.)

A bit of me would like to watch TP again, but I can't help wonder if it wouldn't have the same magic and astonishment this time.
posted by penguin pie at 1:12 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I watched Twin Peaks with a group of friends -- we were all out fresh of college and would meet up to watch it, as we did for other shows like The Simpsons.

I really enjoyed the first season, although I dropped off before the end of the second season. After watching the pilot, I recall mentioning it in a letter to a friend (as in, a handwritten letter that I put in an envelope and dropped in a mailbox. It seems so archaic now.)

One of the strangest things about watching Twin Peaks on broadcast TV was the commercial breaks. I recall Cadillac being one of the sponsors on the pilot, and the abrupt transition from watching this incredibly odd, baffling TV show to watching an upbeat, slickly produced, completely earnest car ad was pretty jarring.
posted by zombiedance at 2:07 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I loved Twin Peaks. I was 19 years old, and enthralled, but also so terrified at some points watching it that I used to sit with the TV remote in my hand, ready to turn to a different channel if it got too much for me... the suspense and dread were unbearable. That moment when you saw Bob in the mirror and realised who the murderer was... oh my god. I watched the whole thing on DVD again a few months ago and still thought that season one was brilliant, but season two... it was such a disappointment but most of it was painfully unwatchable. I fast forwarded through it.

I saw Fire Walk With Me on TV shortly after it came out and really admired it, especially the sense of mounting panic, it was so unusual to see that depicted.

And Dale Cooper was a fantastic character. He was a really really good man, capable, kind-hearted, brave, a hero, but also interesting and sexy. I was young, and all about the darkness and the tragedy, and Twin Peaks was the first time I remember seeing such a charismatic good character.
posted by prune at 3:38 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I remember "Who Killed Laura Palmer" T-shirts being on sale at the mall, and being very popular as well.

I still have my Laura Palmer Homecoming Queen picture t-shirt.
posted by Lucinda at 4:19 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Recently rewatched TP with a bunch of friends and was stunned at how the first season holds up, and is as good as anything I've ever seen on TV. And this was a NETWORK show -- if it were around today, it'd be on cable.

I remember what an event every episode was. We would always be talking about it the next day. I watched the Bob-reveal episode at a friend's apartment, in a very sketchy neighborhood, and was completely freaked out by having to walk to my car alone afterwards and drive home in the dark. That was one of the scariest things I've ever seen on TV.

The second season did blow, with the strongest woman in the world thing and the interminable storylines with James being a gigolo and Leo being whatever he was being, but it picked up again towards the end.

We went to see "Fire Walk With Me" in the theater when it came out and I remember the theater being disappointingly nearly empty. Our spirits picked up when a woman came in carrying a life-sized cutout of Agent Cooper and propped it up in the aisle next to her. It felt... right.
posted by OolooKitty at 8:20 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I still have the Agent Cooper diary things on cassette, even though I haven't had a cassette player in years. Can't let that go.
posted by OolooKitty at 8:21 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Twin Peaks debuted when I was a junior in high school. My mom, sister, and I all watched it together, and then my friends and I would discuss it at school. There really was nothing like it, and I also think this would be on cable, not network TV, if it was made today.

And I still have The Secret Diary Of Laura Palmer.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:00 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in college, living in the dorms, and we'd have huge group viewing parties. Where we'd dress up as the characters. It was amazing appointment TV.

Said college was in Seattle, so a few of us also took a road trip up to North Bend and took a boatload of pictures of ourselves at every possible photo op. The diner, the police station, the railroad cars, even the spot on the road where the soundtrack album cover photo was taken. Good times.

(The phrase "wraaaped in plaaaastic" is also still part of my vocabulary.)
posted by themissy at 7:42 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

My experience of watching it chimes withe everyone else's, pretty much - it was huge, and the day after an episode was on, it was discussed endlessly at school (and being a boys school, the discussion was equal parts theorising and lusting after Sherilyn Fenn). For some reason our parents were always out on whatever night it aired it the UK (Tuesday?) so my sister and I would semi-ritualistically get high before watching it - Bob on acid is not a terribly sensible idea, especially in a spooky old house in the middle of nowhere.

One thing to add: five years after it first aired, I went to university and it was still being obsessed over by lots of folk, and used as a sort of shibboleth: if someone was seriously into Twin Peaks, it was a fair bet you were going to get along. And all this late night Log Lady theorising was based on memory - the VHS box set didn't even come out until 1995.
posted by jack_mo at 8:27 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Awesome replies from everyone. Thanks so much for the perspective. I have a lot of marking-as-best and favoriting to do.
posted by codacorolla at 2:48 PM on August 4, 2012

Response by poster: I have to say, it's also crazy how much television, spoilers, mass culture, and just information in general has changed. The Bowie story from up thread would never have happened because you'd have however many thousand people able to pull up the spoiler on their smartphone.
posted by codacorolla at 2:56 PM on August 4, 2012

I must be some sort of cultural freak: I disliked it, and found it purposely-confusing and pretentious. Nothing against all the folks who enjoyed it; it just wasn't my cup of tea.
posted by easily confused at 1:09 PM on September 28, 2012

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