How Twin Peaks Inspired an Entire Generation of TV Shows

From The X-Files to Riverdale, the influence of David Lynch's Twin Peaks can be felt across a wide range of modern TV shows

Twin Peaks made its return to TV last night, a little over twenty-five years since it confused us all. Who killed Laura Palmer might have been the central mystery of the show, but in the end, that barely became the focus. Instead, the weird and wonderful multi-dimensional, paranormal world which David Lynch had created, along with the characters that inhabited that place, became the driving force behind Twin Peaks.

At the time, Twin Peaks was ground-breaking, like nothing ever seen before, and really, we’ve not seen anything exactly like it since. Lynch is a visionary; an all-encompassing director not afraid to use sound, or silence, stillness, or speed, the beautiful, or grotesque, to tell a weird and wonderful story.

Many have learned from him, tried to emulate his style or even to recreate what he has. Arguably, though, there’s only one Lynch, and to try and copy what he has achieved would be folly. However, his influence, and in particular the influence of Twin Peaks, has inspired a whole generation of TV shows. We might not have visited the town for twenty-five years, but Twin Peaks has never really left.

The X-Files season 10 - Mulder and Scully

When Twin Peaks first came to air in 1990, American TV was filled with police procedurals shows and soap operas. The idea of a film director working on a TV show was patently absurd, and yet now, the variety of shows on our screens is vast and studded with directors, actors, and producers that have made their way over from the big screen. The X-Files came to air just two years after the end of Twin Peaks, and fans immediately picked up on the influence that the show had experienced.

Fresh from playing Denise Bryson, Agent Cooper’s transgender colleague in Twin Peaks, David Duchovny then took the role of FBI Agent, Fox Mulder. Both characters were as eccentric as the other, though in different ways. The X-Files took the start that Twin Peaks had made with paranormal activity becoming part of a wider narrative, and ran with it. They delved right into the supernatural, and audiences loved it. Like Twin Peaks, X-Files formed a strong and passionate fanbase who remained long after the show had ceased to air. Their patience has been rewarded with a revival, and another series now in the works, and Duchovny will also return to Twin Peaks as Denise

Overlapping with The X-Files came The Sopranos. Darkly humorous, The Sopranos focused on New Jersey Mob Bosses. In theory, the show existed a world away from Twin Peaks and its town Sheriffs; however, The Sopranos drew heavily on the more surreal aspects of Twin Peaks, frequently showing Tony’s bizarre dream sequences. Both shows used these surrealist moments to reflect on the inner anxieties the central characters were facing in their waking lives, though their thoughts would often manifest themselves in the strangest of ways. For Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks, this was via a red, backward taking dwarf. For Tony, it was seeing Big Pussy as a talking fish. Sopranos creator, David Chase, has often spoken about the influence Twin Peaks has had on his work, and claims that anyone making TV who says they weren’t influenced by Lynch’s work is lying.

Another hugely successful show that cites Twin Peaks as a heavy influence, is Lost. Choosing to focus on the parallel universe/ alternate timeline concepts that Lynch delivered in Twin Peaks, Lost had us all lost at various points during its six-season run. Lost also chose to focus on a central mystery as its main theme; again, something that became less important to the show as the seasons went on and the characters and storyline evolved.

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