The other day, a co-worker was remarking that she really misses "Twin Peaks" -- a statement that took me somewhat aback. It's been a long, long time since I heard anyone say that.
"Twin Peaks" started out as hot as a TV show can get. It was not only a success in the ratings and with the critics but was a national phenomenon.The question "Who killed Laura Palmer" entered the national lexicon.
But, almost as quickly as it hit, it missed. As the show wore on -- particularly in its second season -- it became obvious that executive producer/creator/director David Lynch and his team had absolutely no idea where to take it. In some episodes, there was basically no plot at all. In others, the plot was muddled, confusing and just plain boring.
Even big fans of the show (including yours truly) became disaffected. Personally, I went from being one of "Twin Peaks' " biggest boosters to something much less than that -- as evidenced by this bit of vitriol that was published in mid-June 1991 shortly after the show got the ax:
I'm glad "Twin Peaks" was canceled. I'm extremely glad "Twin Peaks" was canceled.
As a matter of fact, if ABC were to air any more episodes it would be guilty of torturing an already long-suffering audience.
I'm sick of logs, cherry pie and fine coffee. I'm sick of murders and evil spirits named Bob.
I'm sick of the White Lodge, the Black Lodge, dwarfs, giants and UFO investigations. I'm sick of weird camera angles, strange lighting, bizarre characters and self-indulgent production.
And I want plot. PLOT, I tell you, PLOT PLOT PLOT. Atmosphere is great, but it's no substitute for understandable action.
Not that "Peaks" didn't start out to be a great show. And not that there weren't an awful lot of fun, fascinating stops along the way.
But somewhere along the line, producers/creators David Lynch and Mark Frost lost touch with reality. Innovation is great, but being innovative alone wasn't enough.
Lynch and Frost had a great show going -- and they blew it. Each week seemed to bring a renewed effort to drive viewers away. At that they succeeded.
So the news that Lynch, who has directed theatrical films like "Blue Velvet," "Dune" and "Eraserhead," is plotting a return to the scene of the crime -- ABC -- must be met with some trepidation. Lynch is taking another shot at creating, producing and writing a television series.
The series, titled "Mullholland Drive," is under consideration by ABC programmers at the moment. The pilot has not yet been shot, and even if it is, there's no guarantee it will be picked up by the network for the fall or as a midseason replacement series.
However, ABC executives seem quite enthusiastic about the pilot script for the proposed new series.
"It is vintage David Lynch -- very reminiscent of 'Twin Peaks,' " said ABC Entertainment president Jamie Tarses. "It was a blast to read."
There aren't a lot of details about "Mulholland Drive" at this point, but we do know that it's a contemporary drama set in and around Los Angeles with an ensemble cast of characters. And it's about "their relationships and their dreams and their turmoils," according to ABC Entertainment President Jamie Tarses.
It is not, however, a show about the entertainment business that dominates Los Angeles.
"There are a couple of characters who do have involvement in show business, but it is not by any stretch a show-business series," Tarses said.
(No casting has been announced, but there are reports that country singer Billy Ray Cyrus may be playing one of the parts.) And, while ABC's top programmers weren't in those positions the last time Lynch did a show for the network, they insist they haven't forgotten what happened the last time around when "Twin Peaks" started out as a national sensation and almost as quickly crashed and burned.
"It's crossed our minds," Tarses deadpanned.
ABC Entertainment chairman Stu Bloomberg said network programmers are "absolutely" thinking about what a complete disaster "Twin Peaks" turned into. "And you know what? So is David," he said.
This time around, Lynch has promised that he's given more thought to what will come after the first few episodes. And he's working with former Utahn Joyce Eliason, who has experience writing both continuing series and TV movies.
And Lynch has committed to directing the pilot himself -- although how much he'll direct if the show goes to series remains to be seen.
"He has it really mapped out," Bloomberg said. "I mean, 'Twin Peaks' was obviously very close to his heart, but he said, 'There are things that, if I had it to do over again, I would do them differently. I know what the strengths of that show were and the weaknesses as it continued. I want to do this show, and I want to sort of correct the mistakes that I've made."
We'll see. Lynch still has to come up with a pilot that ABC executives like enough to put on the air. And then he has to produce a series that he can sustain.
Critics -- at least this one -- are going to be a bit more skeptical this time around.
ONE TO WATCH FOR: Fans of the late, lamented "thirtysomething" take note -- the creators and producers of that show are developing a new series for ABC.
Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz -- who have been working mainly for the big screen since "thirtysomething" went off the air in 1991 after a four-year run -- are working on a pilot titled "Once Again."
"They are sort of in some of the territory of 'thirtysomething,' " said ABC Entertainment chairman Stu Bloomberg. "This is about two people, a man and a woman, who are divorced and who come together with their families and get a second chance."
The two leads -- who were married to other people before coming together -- will be played by Sela Ward ("Sisters") and Bill Campbell ("The Rocketeer").
If "Once Again" actually makes it onto ABC's schedule (and we won't know about that until sometime in May), this could be one to watch for.