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25 Years After 'Twin Peaks,' The Odd Genius Of David Lynch Remains


Twenty-five years ago, television audiences watching the final episodes of "Twin Peaks" heard this.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As Laura Palmer, unintelligible).

MARTIN: That is super creepy and the voice of murder victim Laura Palmer backwards, promising to return. This Sunday, "Twin Peaks" finally does return with new episodes on SHOWTIME. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says one thing that has remained constant is the odd genius of co-creator David Lynch.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: David Lynch is the director known for delivering quirky, jarring images in film and TV, like dream sequences with backwards talking and a cool dancing little person. But ask if he does that stuff because he likes deliberately unsettling people and you get a folksy reply.

DAVID LYNCH: No. I just like to translate the ideas. Sometimes the ideas are unsettling, and sometimes they're funny. Sometimes they're sad. Sometimes they're kind of euphoric or whatever, but it's the ideas that drive the boat.

DEGGANS: Lynch's plain-spoken manner hides a taste for sometimes provocative artistry. And when he brought that sensibility to the story of a young girl named Laura Palmer murdered in a seemingly idyllic small town in Washington state, "Twin Peaks" was born. So why create a new version of "Twin Peaks," which takes place 25 years later?

LYNCH: You know, the show left with the message I'll you again in 25 years. But I never really thought about going back. But I did think about the characters and the world. And I love those characters, and I love that world.


DEGGANS: Lynch created the world of "Twin Peaks" back in 1990 with TV writer Mark Frost for ABC. Kyle MacLachlan plays straight arrow FBI Agent Dale Cooper, driving into town to solve Laura Palmer's murder, dictating notes to his office assistant, Diane, along the way.


KYLE MACLACHLAN: (As Special Agent Dale Cooper) Diane, 11:30 a.m., February 24, entering the town of Twin Peaks, five miles south of the Canadian border, 12 miles west of the state line - I've never seen so many trees in my life.

DEGGANS: "Twin Peaks" broke every rule of television, mixing noirish mystery touches with soap opera and supernatural horror. Lynch says he wasn't consciously trying to reinvent television.

LYNCH: I saw "Twin Peaks" as a film. That was the difference. You know, it was just like - just exactly like making a film, translating the ideas to the medium of film and then showing it, though, instead of in a theater, showing it on a television.

DEGGANS: Ideas are important to Lynch, who began his artistic life as a painter. His concepts for "Twin Peaks" often told the story through surreal scenes, letting the viewer sort it out, which was kind of the fun of the show. Lynch and SHOWTIME have released few details about the 18 new episodes. When asked about "Twin Peaks" at a press conference in January, SHOWTIME President David Nevins promised one thing.


DAVID NEVINS: I think that the version of "Twin Peaks" you're going to see is the pure heroine version of David Lynch. And I'm very excited to be putting that out.

DEGGANS: Lynch has a simple reason for keeping mum on details.

LYNCH: I want to have that magical thing of - you know, I always talk about the curtains opening, the lights going down and you get to go into a world and you get to discover it and have this experience, and nothing should pollute that.

DEGGANS: Lynch hasn't made a theatrical release in about a decade. He says he got depressed as the industry turned away from art films. But he hasn't ruled out creating more TV, welcome news for fans who hope one of cinema's most distinctive voices can breathe new life into one of television's most influential series. I'm Eric Deggans.


Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.