The Obligatory Twin Peaks Post

2017 has been a year of more changes than I am comfortable with. I won’t go into the really obvious ones – you’re getting more than enough of that from the news and social media – and will, instead, go into what blogs are supposed to be about – the personal. And one of the most bizarre changes for me is that I now spend so much of my dwindling free time watching television.

I guess it could be argued that the TV I am watching is an entirely different beast from what is usually conjured up when that word is spoken aloud. Any given evening, my wife is downstairs watching more typical fare, like The Bachelorette, Dancing With the Stars, NCIS. She loves those shows, and that’s fine. She works hard, she deserves to be entertained. I have my little space upstairs, where I watch darker, stranger things (though I still have not watched that one. Limited time, folks).

The current obsessions are The Expanse, though I am severely limiting my watching there, as I know season 3 is almost a year away; American Gods, and, of course, the return of Twin Peaks.

I’m not one of the people who re-watched the original series and Fire Walk With Me in preparation for the return. I’ve watched the original so many times – I have multiple copies on VHS, laserdisc, DVD and now blu-ray – it is an old and familiar friend. I do feel badly about not dipping into the deleted and expanded scenes for Fire included in that blu-ray set, but as I said – limited time.

Showtime took the remarkable step of releasing the first four episodes practically simultaneously, so finally – one evening, after far too long a period of scrupulously avoiding anything on the interwebs that even looked like it might be about the show – I turned everything off except the TV, put on my headphones (Lynch soundscapes are important) and sat back for four hours of Lynch.

And got transfixed all over again.

Last week I said I expected something weirder from this iteration than most people were probably expecting, and wow, was I right. Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is still trapped in the Black Lodge, and his evil doppelganger is out committing heinous crimes and generally carrying on the work of Killer Bob under the guise of “Mr. C”.  Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) is tasked – via typically cryptic pronouncements from the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson)’s Log (A Log) – with finding the real Cooper. And yet all this is merely background for what is unfolding. For something called Twin Peaks, there is remarkably little actually happening in Twin Peaks.

In these first four episodes, we’ve had appearances of varying length by characters from the original series where possible, and this is where the series is picking up more than the expected resonances with me. This is something that smacked me upside the head when I first saw The Force Awakens – the return of characters I had known a goodly portion of my life, and they, like me, had aged since I’d last seen them. It’s a phenomenon I’ve also experienced in holiday get-togethers with my college crowd. “Yeah, I’m here for a gathering…” “Well, there’s a bunch of people at that table in back.” “Nah, that’s a bunch of old peopl… oh fuck.”

So it’s actually kind of comforting, in that sad inevitable way, to see it happen to fictional characters that you thought you’d never see again.

The first two episodes bring me back to something I’ve been saying for years – if David Lynch ever decided to hunker down and do a serious horror movie, we would all be screwed. There are always moments of terror in Lynch movies – Blue Velvet is a waking nightmare,  moments in Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire will give you the jibbilies – and there are segments in these eps, considered as a two-hour whole, that I will put up against any number of uninspired horror attempts of this decade (and easily ranking among the best). Lynch is one of the few directors who can employ the primal language of dreams correctly, to both good and horrifying effect. The man wrings existential dread out of Roy Orbison songs, for God’s sake.

The two eps also serve as notice that we are in Lynch’s world, bitches, when we meet the Evolution of the Arm, which feels like something Lynch thought was too weird to be put in Eraserhead. We find out that Cooper can’t escape the Red Room unless Mr. C comes back in, something the stars are almost in alignment for (but we will find out Mr. C has set up some sort of Cooperesque homunculus to stave that off). Then the evil doppelganger of the Evolution of the Arm shows up and ejects Cooper from the Red Room anyway.

The third episode involves Cooper’s arrival in the even weirder Purple Room, which is like the most terrifying MYST rip-off game ever. He will eventually work through the point-and-click puzzles – with the help of, oddly enough, what appears to be a grown-up backward-talking Ronette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine). The switcheroo with the homunculus takes place, leaving both Cooper and Mr. C in this world.

(And let me tell you, for several minutes before we found out about C’s fail-safe plan with the homonculus, I thought Lynch had just Lost Highway-ed us again)

However, this causes Mr. C to vomit up all the garmanbozia he’s been gathering for the last 25 years, and he gets captured by the police, alerting Cooper’s old FBI cronies. Meanwhile, as we saw in Fire Walk With Me, a mere two years in the Red Room had rendered Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) incomprehensible; Cooper has been wiped clean by 25 years in there and is walking though life blanker than Chance the Gardener, trying to occupy the life the homunculus had built, which seems to have its own dangers.

This is where we stand now. That bit of largess on Showtime’s part puts us in the odd position of having a skip week and then grumbling, “What, only one episode this week?” But let’s not be facile about this. I was owned, body and soul, as those first few chords of Angelo Badalamenti’s theme played, and I will be back for more on Sunday.

Now, where’s my On The Air reboot?

No need to feel left out. Buy that Twin Peaks Box Set on Amazon

 

Scourge My Hard Drive

Well, I really need to. The alternate title to this is “Why Don’t I Even Like TV Anymore?”

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“This is relevant to my interests.”

By all indications, we are living in a new Golden Age of Television. This is not measured by the yardstick of “Big Bang Theory” or “Two and a Half Men” – I have had no truck with sitcoms since Barney Miller went off the air. Certainly not Reality TV, which is an abomination before God. No, I’m talking about episodic drama. Which I’m also not watching.

I’m not watching it – perhaps – because it’s waiting for me for a hard drive. If not in my home office, in the cloud somewhere. I’ve tried, dammit. Even acclaimed dramas with limited run times. I just can’t get excited about them.

My limit seems to be five episodes, if that. I am currently one episode into The Wire and Game of Thrones. This qualifies me for Blasphemer status in some circles. The members of the five episode club are Penny Dreadful, True Detective and the first season of Hannibal.

The first cry against me is going to involve Penny Dreadful and True Detective only lasting eight episodes each, which is a typical evening’s fare for the average Netflix binge watcher. It’s probably obvious that I don’t binge watch, either. That would certainly solve a lot of problems, if I did.

16PENNY-tmagArticlePenny Dreadful nearly didn’t make it past the first episode for me. There was something about the last line of that episode – “My name is Victor Frankenstein,” that really turned me off. Do I need another fan fiction version of genre icons thrown together? There was enough that was intriguing to eventually bring me back to see if I was right about a couple of plot points – I was – and Timothy Dalton and Eva Green were fantastic. I appreciate this version of Frankenstein’s monster, which was written by somebody who actually for God’s sake read the book. Still. It is going to take an act of will for me to go back for those final three hours.

I understand Universal is trying to do a Marvel-type shared universe thing for its 30s horror properties. Has anybody mentioned to them it’s already been done? (I know we’ve already tried to point them toward House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula…)

Matthew-McConaugheyThe act of will is going to be even greater for True Detective. Much as I liked McConaughey and Harrelson, the soap opera elements seemed like mere filler, and the only thing that kept me coming back were the Robert W. Chambers references, wondering where they were going. Then we found out our heroes hadn’t really caught the serial killer, and I thought, Oh, yeah, it was that guy in the scene that was noticeably truncated. I have not yet been seduced back to find out if I was right, or what even was the event that finally broke up our dynamic duo. It was probably something soap opera related.

The problem with Hannibal is that it got picked up for a second season. Which resides on my hard drive. I’m mainly stunned it airs on a major broadcast network. Then again, I remember all the hand wringing over gore in the cinema back in the 80s and I wonder if any of those folks swallowed their tongues the first time they saw an episode of CSI in prime time.

Thus the blank look whenever anybody asks me if I’ve seen Breaking Bad. My list of sins of omission against popular entertainment is vast, and that is one of them.

I am made of time only in the metaphorical sense.

11631677_mDeadline_03272013Since my life seems to be composed of ongoing multiple deadlines, it is unlikely this state of affairs will change anytime soon, or ever. I have a hell of a lot of movies to watch, and they generally weigh in at about two hours, and then that’s it. Done. Finito. I can deal with that. I can schedule time for that. I can schedule brain time for that. This stuff is srs biznss for me; I can’t have something playing in the background and then say I’ve watched it. Because I haven’t. I engage. This is my side of the storytelling bargain – I agreed to be told the story, and that involves paying attention while it’s being told.

I admit that last thing may have become something of a lost art.

Anyway. I’ve met the first major deadline of this week, and by way of celebration (and clearing the mental boards for the next deadline) I’m here muttering into the ether. There’s no easy solution for any of this; I’ve just been meaning to vent about it for a while. Now, before I settle down to writing, I think I’ll watch last night’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., because it just ain’t the Internet without a hint of hypocrisy.