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Twin Peaks: The First Season (1990) – DVD Review

Twin Peaks: The First Season DVD cover art


Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost
Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Madchen Amick, Lara Flynn Boyle, Piper Laurie, Sheryl Lee, and Ray Wise


  • Episodes 1-7 (missing the pilot episode)
  • Directors’ commentaries for individual episodes
  • Twin Peaks “directory” of characters and their connections
  • Talent bios and “video postcards”
  • Interview with series co-creator Mark Frost
  • Interviews with writers, actors, directors, and television experts
  • Rare archival material from Wrapped in Plastic, the Twin Peaks ‘zine
  • Optional Log Lady intros to each episode
  • Pop-up script and production notes for each episode

Released by: Artisan
Region: 1
Rating: NR, but not recommended for the young or the faint of heart.
Anamorphic: N/A; presented in original 1.33:1 aspect.

My Advice: Own it, for the love of all that is holy.

[ad#longpost]In 1990, David Lynch, already highly-acclaimed and loaded with surrealist street-cred, decided to try something different. Anyone familiar with Lynch’s work to that point might have been hard-pressed to imagine how one could be more “different” than Eraserhead and The Elephant Man, but he surprised most all of them when he announced his intention to break into television. The television medium, driven by advertising dollars and middle-American sensibilities, was not the kind of place one expected Lynch to exercise his high weirdness with much success.

The result of this brilliant (and mad) experiment was Twin Peaks, a series that may long stand as the pinnacle of small-screen filmmaking achievement. Both in terms of its visual merit and its storytelling, the show surpassed anything previously seen on television. With a sense of style drawn straight from the height of pulp crime noir storytelling, Lynch and co-creator Frost presented the tale of a small-town prom queen that went on to TV’s most famous (or infamous) corpse.

For those of you that haven’t ever seen the show (and it astounds me you’re still out there), Twin Peaks revolves (at least for this set of discs) around the murder of Laura Palmer–prom queen, cheerleader, cocaine addict, sex fiend, all-American girl. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (MacLachlan) is sent to investigate, due to some unusual similarities with another murder a few towns down the road and the possibility of a serial killer that this raises. What Cooper finds is a town that time forgot, where life moves along at a leisurely rural pace, and everybody in town has their own peculiar quirks and secrets. Over the course of investigating this murder, Cooper discovers fantastic cherry pie, good coffee, a woman that talks to lumber, an Air Force major that listens to stars, and a dark force that resides in the woods near Twin Peaks, warping people to its service, while knowing locals battle the darkness from behind the scenes.

Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks
Laura Palmer, wrapped in plastic

If all this sounds a bit weird, that’s okay. It is. Lynch is at his finest form here, and manages to still conform to some of the overdone TV series clichés in the process, just to let the crowd know that he’s aware of his new medium and its requirements and limitations. Nowhere is this more clear than in the cliffhanger that ends the first season. Everybody’s seen shows that use the big end-of-season cliffhanger to guarantee viewers for the following season’s premiere, and everybody’s seen them as contrived as can be. Lynch goes one further and provides a closer that leaves dozens of plot threads hanging in the air, people dead, people missing, fires burning, heart attacks, amnesia, and a host of other things all thrown about in the same night. It’s brilliantly over the top, and signature David Lynch. And most surprisingly, it lacks much of the feel of contrivance so common to TV cliffhangers.

Kyle MacLachlan as Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks

The DVD treatment here is phenomenal, one of the best I’ve ever seen for a TV series or movie. The only blemish on an otherwise stellar accomplishment is actually not the fault of Artisan at all, but of ridiculous legal posturing over the rights to the series. The set, while as comprehensive a look at the first season as one could imagine, doesn’t include the two-hour series pilot, which actually covers the discovery of Palmer’s body, the arrival of Cooper, an introduction to most of the cast, and a little teaser of information about the crime itself. Fortunately for completists, there is a European import DVD of the pilot movie available on Amazon, designed to play on any region’s DVD players. It’s just a shame that the details couldn’t be ironed out to include it in the set. (Update: Since this review, the Complete Series has become available which includes the pilot.)

Picture and sound are both absolutely crystal clear. And the extras list is daunting, to say the least. Several featurettes, from an interview with Mark Frost to a discussion with the real-life owner of the “Double R” diner (and baker of all the pies consumed in the show), no detail of the show or its filming escapes scrutiny. Nearly all the cast members are interviewed at one point or another in the various featurette documentaries (except Boyle, who I guess thought she was too famous to have to participate). The infamous “Man from Another Place” also provides a brief lesson in how to talk in the red-curtained room.

Twin Peaks

One of the neatest features is the Twin Peaks Directory, which allows you to browse through all the characters present in the first season, and see their relationships with other characters, as well as information on the actor that portrayed the character. This usually takes the form of a separate actor bio and selected filmography. In many instances, this actor info includes a “video postcard,” which amounts to a brief interview/conversation with the actor, ranging from a couple of minutes to nearly 15 minutes long. Sometimes these discussions are very tightly connected to the Twin Peaks world, but others are merely interesting looks into the thoughts and lives of the actors, over a decade after the series ended.

So if you were a fan of the series, a fan of Lynch, or just a fan of great television, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a finer addition to your collection than this.

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