Interrogating Timelessness: Twin Peaks as "Classic" Television

Curator's Note

CBS Home Entertainment’s trailer for the Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery Blu-Ray box set employs a number of strategies to market the release to potential consumer-fans which, in many ways, may appear normative. Nostalgia for Twin Peaks (ABC, 1990–1991) is suggested by reminding audiences of its core characters and off-beat tone (and, in doing this, eerily replaying the marketing of its DVD release in 2010) whilst strong appeals to authorship are observable by appearing to have David Lynch personally introduce the collection’s “lost” footage from prequel movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992). Alongside these, a reading of Twin Peaks as “classic” television is also encouraged as a discourse of innovation is mobilised which positions the series as “groundbreaking” at both its initial time of transmission and in the context of the present. Twin Peaks is acknowledged as reconfiguring the aesthetic possibilities of prime time television drama during the early 1990s but the trailer also imparts that this is “happening again” via its easy adaptability to the Blu-ray format. Conceptual and aesthetic distinctions between television and film, analogue and digital, therefore appear to become eroded in favour of positing continuity between “then” and “now”. This suggests the forward-thinking of Lynch, Frost and everyone involved in making Twin Peaks which attaches a “timeless” quality to the show. In other words, Twin Peaks continues to resonate in an era characterised by ideas concerning digitisation, upgrading and converging media due to the way it defied industrial norms during the early 1990s.

In my In Focus piece, I suggest the need to critically interrogate such narratives and discourses surrounding Twin Peaks’ classification as “classic” television which accredit its continuing reputation to “timeless” attributes inhering within the series as such accounts suggest fixed concepts of value existing within television culture. These claims overlook how Twin Peaks’ enduring reputation is continually (and discursively) reworked and reframed in accordance with the technological and aesthetic preferences of different groups invested within the series. CBS’s trailer suggests that it was the visionary foresightedness of Twin Peaks’ producers which makes Blu-ray a natural contemporary home for the series. However, as scholars we cannot overlook the historical shifts which these discourses negate. These include shifting aesthetic preferences amongst audiences, the availability of consumer technologies, and how contemporary discourses of “cinematic” television are socially- and culturally- defined against other, typically popular, forms and genres.

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