Last week, it was widely reported that NBC was quietly working on a plan to continue David Lynch and Mark Frost's 1990-1991 cult series Twin Peaks. That story turned out to be false — but it earned so much buzz that NBC is actually considering doing it for real. "I called everybody when I got the email," said NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke at the Television Critics Association tour on Tuesday. "When it came up we all looked at each other and said, 'That's a good idea.' We were all kind of like, 'Hmm, we like Twin Peaks!' So, I'll send some emails today, and see what I can get to come up."
Jennifer Salke, this is the article you've been looking for.
As a rule, I'm against the relatively recent trend of trying to resurrect old, beloved TV shows. I'm perfectly happy with the Party Down finale, and I think of Serenity as an entertaining but unnecessary continuation of Firefly. I was — and remain — opposed to the upcoming continuation of Arrested Development (though I sincerely hope that Netflix proves me wrong in May.)
But there is no TV series more deserving of a resurrection than Twin Peaks, and there's no better time to do it than right now. As a TV critic and lifelong Twin Peaks fanatic, I've spent years putting an abnormal amount of thought into continuing the series — and this is how it should be done.
Before we begin, a quick refresher: Twin Peaks — which was primarily about FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper's attempt to solve the murder of teenager Laura Palmer, but was also about the many residents of an offbeat small town in Washington, and a malevolent spirit called BOB — ended unceremoniously on June 10, 1991, with a bizarre, riveting finale that was less an episode and more a series of cliffhangers. Audrey Horne and Pete Martell were caught in an explosion at a bank. Agent Cooper was trapped in the vaguely purgatorial "Black Lodge," while his identical doppelganger, which had been possessed by BOB, went free. The only silver lining: The promise of Laura Palmer, whose murder seems to have sent her to the Black Lodge, that she would see Cooper "in 25 years."
In my dream scenario, the first episode of the new Twin Peaks would air on June 10, 2016 — 25 years to the day after the series originally ended. (Given the understanding that TV schedules aren't nearly as cutesy as I want them to be, and my own desire to see Twin Peaks on the air again as soon as possible, I say anytime over the next five years is close enough.)
In the 25 years that have passed since Twin Peaks ended, BOB has used Agent Cooper's doppelganger as a means to spread his influence nationwide. He has deliberately botched the criminal investigations Cooper was assigned to solve, allowing murderers across the country to go free, and committed a series of his own murders as well — including the "Diane" Agent Cooper spoke to on his tape recorder so often, who would have figured out that the imposter wasn't really Cooper. But BOB knows his time is running out: The "25 years" to which Laura Palmer alluded in the Season 2 finale is one of the ironclad rules of the Black Lodge, and the "Agent Cooper" doppelganger (Kyle MacLachlan) will be sent back to the Black Lodge as soon as the real Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan, again) is freed. BOB returns to Twin Peaks as Agent Cooper re-emerges, chooses a new vessel, and begins committing a series of a murders that eerily recall the killings in the original series — positioning the real Agent Cooper as Suspect No. 1 in the eyes of the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department.
Agent Cooper would emerge from the purgatorial Black Lodge forever changed. He'd have to be; he's just spent the past 25 years sitting in an upholstered red chair, fully aware that his doppelganger is unleashing anarchy upon the world and helpless to do anything about it. We don't need to see Agent Cooper growling, "Does it look like I give a damn?" when someone asks if he'd like his coffee black, and the quirky detours into dating, whittling, and local real estate would be gone. This Agent Cooper would emerge from the Black Lodge with a singular purpose: Eliminate BOB and his brand of evil from the world once and for all.
Of course, Cooper would need a partner: Someone who's spent the past 25 years in the real world, and who could help him navigate a place that has become all but unrecognizable between 1991 and 2016. So he calls his staunchest ally — Sheriff Harry S. Truman — and asks him to meet at the Double R Diner for a cup of coffee and a slice of cherry pie. But Harry isn't the same man; in fact, he isn't even a sheriff anymore. We saw Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) hit the bottle pretty hard after the death of love interest Josie Packard (Joan Chen), and the bizarre events he endured in the Season 2 finale pushed him over the edge for good. Shortly after "Agent Cooper" left Twin Peaks, Sheriff Truman retired from the force and took up a new gig as a full-time alcoholic. By the time Twin Peaks resumes, Truman has convinced himself that the strange events in Glastonberry Grove never happened — and it takes the re-emergence of the real Agent Cooper to renew his desire to avenge Josie's death.
The alcoholic, unstable Truman was forced out of office years ago by his former allies in the department, who now work under the new sheriff: Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), who fulfilled his father's "vision" by marrying Shelly Johnson and "living a life of deep harmony and joy" as the man whose primary responsibility is keeping the peace in Twin Peaks. Bobby would be the unlikely new hero of the new Twin Peaks: Atoning for his hell-raising past — drug-dealing, an adulterous affair — forgiving himself for his role in Laura's deterioration, following in the footsteps of Harry in the original series, and serving as both adversary and ally to Agent Cooper.
Audrey Horne (Sherilynn Fenn), Agent Cooper's admirer, never left Twin Peaks. Instead, Audrey has officially taken over management of the Great Northern Hotel, working under Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) after severing her relationship with her father Ben (Richard Beymer). She's also a wheelchair user due to the blast in the bank vault, which permanently killed her dreams of escaping the town. (As a bonus, this also hearkens back to Twin Peaks' obsession with doubles, recalling Donna Hayward's wheelchair-using mother, who had an affair with Audrey's father).
As for the rest of the show's sprawling cast, in brief: Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham) is back in the monastery, deeply scarred from her experience in the Black Lodge; the widowed Catherine Martell is the town's most successful businesswoman; Shelly Briggs (Madchen Amick) owns and runs the Double R Diner, which she took over when Norma Jennings moved away; Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle) lives a peaceful, quiet life in town; Big Ed (Everett McGill) still runs the Gas Farm; and Deputies Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz) and Hawk (Michael Horse) work alongside Sheriff Briggs, lending the expertise they gained during the Laura Palmer murder investigation. There's a widespread, unspoken understanding that no one ever mention the universally hated James (James Marshall).
A final major rule I'd insist on playing by: No recasting characters, including those played by actors who have passed away since Twin Peaks went off the air. (Moira Kelly's disastrous turn as Donna in 1992's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is more than enough reason not to try.) BOB (Frank Silva) can be played by a series of "vessels" that he possesses. Pete Martell (Jack Nance) died in the bank vault blast. From a storytelling perspective, the biggest loss is Maj. Garland Briggs (Don S. Davis), who seemed best-positioned to help the real Agent Cooper escape the Black Lodge. But the character's inability to save the real Cooper from the Lodge — right up to his own death — would help to illustrate the utter futility of Cooper's situation, and the malevolent brilliance of BOB's master plan, which had really been about capturing Agent Cooper from the very beginning of the series.
The time has never been riper for a new Twin Peaks, which could serve as the long-awaited continuation for a legion of fans and earn a host of new ones by setting a bold new standard for crime dramas on contemporary network television. There's no reason that most of Twin Peaks' massive ensemble cast can't be reassembled today; the vast majority are still working actors, and none of them rose to the heights that would make a recurring role on a network series — particularly one as beloved as Twin Peaks — an unappealing offer. All it would take is the cooperation of series creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, and a network bold enough to pick up where Twin Peaks left off.
Your move, NBC.