Shiny Shelf


Twin Peaks: The First Season Special Edition DVD

By Jim Smith on 08 November 2002

‘Twin Peaks’ remains one of the greatest achievements of US Network television. In its time nothing could touch it for sheer quality, and despite the leap in the standard of Network drama over the decade between ‘Peaks’ and now, there’s still very, very little that even comes close. Not in terms of consistency, not in terms of the respect it gives its audience and not in terms of the sheer physical style and technical elegance of the episodes as filmed.

What ‘Twin Peaks’ showed, and what ‘ER’ and ‘The West Wing’ have gone on to further demonstrate, is that primetime soap opera needn’t be dross. That both the story model and the fascinations of the ongoing, open-ended drama could be utilised in a way that doesn’t give you something as unforgivably terrible as modern ‘EastEnders’. That soap, in the right hands, can be not simply creative, but beautifully and distinctively so.

Those hands in this case are those of David Lynch, the three time Oscar nominated, Palme D’or winning director, and Mark Frost an equally distinguished TV screenwriter with ‘Hill Street Blues’ on his resume. As co-writers and Executive Producers of the Lynch-shot pilot, and storyliners of the whole season these eight episodes are very much their baby; its direction and shape is very much under their control. Although others came in to screenwrite and lense some episodes Lynch and Frost also took charge of writing and directing a further episode each and this ensures that the run as a whole is palpably theirs.

Those directors who did come in to the show, by the way, were very much marked with a Lynch/Frost seal of approval – Duwayne Dunham, for example, had edited Lynch’s masterpiece, ‘Blue Velvet’.

The result is that both Lynch’s aesthetic sense and his feelings about the pain and beauty of Americana infect every frame, even those lensed by others. Frost’s instinctive understanding of pace overides Lynch’s characteristic snail’s-pace approach to narrative. It’s as perfect a collaborative partnership as Lennon & McCartney, and in its own way this is the TV equivalent of ‘A Day In The Life’.

Kyle MacLachlan stars as Dale Cooper, an FBI agent sent into the eponymous Washington State town to investigate the murder of one Laura Palmer – prom Queen, cheerleader and a corpse with a past full of dark and disturbing secrets.

The people he meets are played by the kind of actors previously damned to appear in bad television. Ray Wise, Piper Laurie, Don S Davis et al. Here they get to do the same things they always did, but with more conviction and better dialogue and in a far flung setting. ‘Twin Peaks’ appeal may ultimately lie in its peculiar mix of the unusual and the ordinary; its odd juxtaposition of strong, almost brutal, human emotions and decidely strange comic situations, its appropriation of the furniture of trash as components of its pursuit of art.

Incidentally, Lynch’s episode (1.2) may actually be the single best hour of American television ever shown. A grandiose statement, yes, but not one to dismiss without careful consideration even though it does come from me.

This UK issue of the US boxset from last year scores over the R1 issue in one important respect. It contains the series 90 minute debut episode (aka ‘The Pilot’) which was left out of the R1 for legal reasons too tedious to go into here, but n most other respects it is identical. The major differences are that the R2 lacks the R1’s sparkling, sternum-rattling DTS 5.1 mix option and that the extra 90 minutes of programme means that the episodes and features have been redistributed across the discs. (Both R1 and R2 sets have four DVDs in them). The more technically minded among you may notice a slight difference in picture quality caused by such cramming, but in fairness that’s really only because the R1’s set’s picture quality was so eyeball-searingly good.

In terms of bang for your buck you get around 400 minutes of some of the most involving and complex drama TV you’ll ever see, backed up by one of the most excessive and impressive sets of ‘extras’ ever granted to a TV DVD release. You get ‘postcards from the cast’ (read: witty little interview vignettes) you get interviews with Frost and a commentary from a key production figure on every episode except ‘The Pilot’. You get Lynch-script introductions to every episode read in character by the Log Lady (Pegg Lipton) and all sorts of other beautifully designed bits and bobs besides. It is, I kid you not, better put together than the ‘Buffy’ boxes. An essential purchase.


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