So apparently it’s cool that I’m from the Snoqualmie Valley. At least that’s the response I get when I tell people in my NYU film classes that I am from is where Twin Peaks was filmed—and is once again being used as the backdrop for the cult-classic.
Disclaimer: I’ve only seen one episode. Back in 10th grade I watched the pilot with a friend of mine just so we could enjoy a brief claim to fame as the camera panned through the halls of Mount Si High School. I remember pointing out my cooking classroom, which I could still clearly recognize despite the paint change and remodels that had been made to the school since.
I’m disappointed that I left for college before filming got into full swing because [as a film student] I would be a huge nerd about something like this. I see plenty of filming around New York —on my way to class a couple of weeks back I walked by three different projects, including Ghostbusters, being filmed —but there’s something fascinating about the idea of our quiet Valley being transformed into an iconic fictional town.
Mark Frost and David Lynch’s, Twin Peaks, has come to gain a lot of fame and maintains a strong and active fan base to this day, despite the show coming to an end in 1991 after only a two-season run. So much so that it is coming back to Showtime, as anyone in the Snoqualmie Valley is probably well aware of at this point.
The show initially got very high ratings and was gaining national and international critical success, but as viewers started to drop during the second season, the network insisted the show be brought to its end. But that didn’t stop it from making lists such as TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time,” “Cancelled Too Soon,” and the pilot made their list “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” list.
Let’s Call it ‘The Lynch’ Genre
Much of the show’s success is attributed to creator and director David Lynch—whom students and professors in my classes could talk about this guy for hours if you’d let them. His work is hard to fit into any established genre. What many appreciate about this show, and much of his other work, is that he explores the idea of secrets and lies in small towns—he shows the more questionable acts that lie beneath the surface of small town respectability.
The one word that always comes up in descriptions of Twin Peaks from my teachers and fellow students alike is “surreal.” There are supernatural elements that exist beyond the realms of reality and leave an unsettling feeling to the story. Along with these I’ve heard people describe Twin Peaks as having unusual humor, genuine explorations of morality, and even some elements of melodrama.
Twin Peaks may simply have to exist as its own genre.
The show was initially thought to have no chance of succeeding before it aired—and perhaps technically from a longevity standpoint, it didn’t. After all, it only ran two seasons.
Yet somehow, this show is one of the biggest cult-classics of all time. It is constantly referenced in other shows—including Psych, The Simpsons, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, etc. — and in movies such as Clueless and Titanic (Rose’s famouline “I’d rather be his whore than your wife” is originally from Twin Peaks).
For a show that was pronounced dead before it ever premiered, it has stood that test of time and proved once again that which I have always believed—there is no better place for creative storytelling than in the medium of television.
Twin Peaks Viewing Tips from an Expert
Also, a tip from my favorite professor: if you’re going to watch Twin Peaks for the first time, watch it with someone who has seen it before, at least at first. It isn’t a show that’s easy to understand and its unique approach to storytelling may leave you feeling confused at first. It’ll be good to have someone with an enthusiasm and better understanding to keep you going. (This is always a good tip. That’s how I got through the first few episodes of my now-favorite show The West Wing.)
There are many reasons I’m glad to be from the Snoqualmie Valley, but this is definitely something that is moving towards the top of the list. It’s fun to interact with people who are passionate about film and television and share this connection to a show that so many people hold near and dear to their heart.
Now I should probably actually watch the show sometime in between classes.
[About the Author: Paige McCall is a Mount Si High School graduate currently study screenwriting at New York University’s Film and TV institute.]