Sunday, December 10, 2017
TV and Media

Showtime's 'Twin Peaks' revival is the latest reboot poised for success. Here's why

The owls are not what they seem, and neither are the dozens of remakes, reboots and revivals that have hit our TV screens in the past decade.

The latest rebirth of a beloved classic comes in the form of Twin Peaks, a surreal David Lynch-Mark Frost phenomenon that all started with the death of prom queen Laura Palmer and the words, "She's dead ... wrapped in plastic."

The reboot of the crime procedural and semiparanormal drama premieres May 21 on Showtime. The series is just the next in a long, continuing line of revivals that have taken over our televisions.

But Twin Peaks' revival is shaping up to be a smash hit, a series that succeeds not just as a revival but as a prestige show bringing in new fans to the sleepy Pacific Northwestern town.

Nostalgia is so hot right now, but it's hard to say when the desire for sentimentality started appearing on TV. It seems to hit speculative fiction franchises the hardest. Viewers have been treated to revivals of The X-Files, Doctor Who, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Battlestar Galactica and The Exorcist, among others in the past decade.

Throw Westworld into that mix, too. And don't forget Star Trek, a franchise that has spawned five TV iterations and 13 films. That's not counting the upcoming series Star Trek: Discovery on CBS.

Nostalgia may be en vogue, but speculative fiction is at the top of everyone's bestseller list.

Where does our faithful Agent Dale Cooper fit into all this? The Lynchian sensation hits that sweet spot of being part melodrama, part paranormal fiction. Twin Peaks garnered 34 million viewers for its pilot episode in 1990 and spawned a cult following that's still going strong today. A reboot was an inevitability.

The show's revival is gearing up to include all the trappings of a successful speculative fiction reboot, starting with its inclusion of original creators Frost and Lynch and much of the original cast.

Would Twin Peaks even be Twin Peaks without Frost and Lynch? Would a reboot of this cult classic produce the same eerie vibes without the surreal touch of its original creators and the stellar cast?

Another director with a different cast could get close, but might not properly hook an audience.

Twin Peaks is one of those shows that relies on its creators and cast to make it what it is. The same could be said for shows like The X-Files and Mystery Science Theater 3000. They're both decades-old shows made or broken by their characters and settings.

You can't properly riff on a terrible B-movie without trusty robots Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot. And the truth may still be out there, but who can properly uncover it other than special agents Mulder and Scully? Despite mixed reviews, the six-episode X-Files revival last year had superb ratings, with 21.4 million viewers for the premiere and a little over 13 million overall.

Successful revivals can also give series proper endings or build on their worlds.

TNT gave Dallas a proper continuation when it premiered the revival of the 1978 series in 2012. Netflix brought back beloved characters Rory and Lorelai in its revival of Gilmore Girls. Its cliffhanger finale even set up a chance for more seasons.

Doctor Who has been churning out more Time Lords, battling more aliens and saving more worlds since its revival in 2005 on BBC America. Battlestar Galactica's reboot in 2004 garnered critical acclaim and assembled a new generation of space opera fans.

Last fall, Fox debuted The Exorcist series to the excitement of no one except this reporter. It took the world of the quintessential horror flick, modernized it, set up a new family to be terrorized by a demon and tied it all back to the original in a neat, if low-rated, package.

Then there's Westworld, HBO's darling fall sci-fi drama. It took the world of the original films Westworld and Futureworld and ran with it, spawning countless think pieces and podcasts dissecting its Inception-like story lines.

The revival of Twin Peaks has all the proper pieces for success. It brings back Lynch, Frost and almost all of its original cast, including Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Sherilyn Fenn, Madchen Amick, James Marshall, Peggy Lipton, Wendy Robie and Everett McGill.

We don't know if these actors are playing their original characters, and we certainly don't know who newcomers Laura Dern, Naomi Watts, Michael Cera, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Roth will portray.

We know the series is set in the same sleepy town where postmodern lunacy collided with ancient evil and ran amok. We know MacLachlan returns as Dale Cooper, the kooky special agent with a penchant for damn fine coffee and pie. And we know Lynch and Frost are ready to mess with our heads again, dunking us into a part-soap opera, part-psychological thriller that is just perfect for the era of peak prestige TV.

Its new home on Showtime could mean more creative freedoms when it comes to violence, language and nudity. It could also mean more grandiose landscape shots of the chilly Pacific Northwest and a new soulful soundtrack of mournful jazz and dreamy blues tunes.

But Lynch and his cast and crew aren't talking Twin Peaks other than saying that the revival is a feature film in 18 episodes. Showtime didn't make any previews available to reviewers. The coyness is both infuriating and thrilling. For others, it's what makes Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks. You never know what's around the corner inside the Great Northern Hotel or what other dimensions await in the Black Lodge and the White Lodge.

Its secrets are best kept wrapped in plastic.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at ctatham@tampabay.com. Follow @chelseatatham.

     
 
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