Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Best Damn TV Show of 2017 or: How David Lynch is Still One of the Best Damn Filmmakers Working Today

I first fell in love with the cinema of David Lynch at the tender age of nineteen. It was the Fall of 1986, and this was when I first saw that sexy beast of a film called Blue Velvet. Over the previous year or two, thanks to the booming new home video market, and the likes of Kurosawa, Fellini, Chaplin, Bergman, and other art films and filmmakers falling into my lap, I had transitioned from casual moviegoer to budding cinephile. Lynch and his Blue Velvet, which I was lucky enough to get to see in a darkened theatre, on the big screen, made that budding cinephile explode with cinema-loving glee. Granted, it was a somewhat uncomfortable cinema-loving glee, as that is the emotion Lynch most aspires to, but glee nonetheless.

Lo these past thirty some years since, this budding film freak has transformed into a downright expert on the history and technique of cinema. As far as my love of Lynch goes, it has more than merely deepened over the decades. Going back and discovering Eraserhead and The Elephant Man and the criminally undervalued Dune. I was working as a projectionist in a now long defunct local movie theatre, in 1990, when Lynch's brilliant batshitcrazy Wild at Heart came out. I think I watched that film at least a dozen times over its two week run. I remember also getting in an argument with the local newspaper's film critic (back when local papers still had film critics) about the film. She hated it!? Sacre bleu! Anyhoo, next came ABC's Twin Peaks, and Lynch went to a whole other level of batshitcrazy brilliance.

With Twin Peaks being an episodic television series, Lynch was able to go deeper and further down his own perverse rabbit hole. Sure, network television may have limited some of the more openly perverse things in said rabbit hole, but the long form format of an entire season (or two) of storytelling, allowed for a wider and deeper swath of good old fashioned Lynchian melodrama. To this day, even with the present being a truly golden age in TV making, I would still list Twin Peaks as one of the best shows to ever appear on the small screen. And now, after 25 years, a big screen prequel to Twin Peaks (Fire Walk With Me), and several movies made in the meantime (17 years in, Mulholland Dr. is still the best film of this century so far), and with the majority of the original cast back (where have you gone Lara Flynn Boyle?), Lynch brings his Twin Peaks back to episodic television.

Now on Showtime (as well as Hulu and Amazon), Twin Peaks: The Return, picks up the aforementioned batshitcrazy Lynchian nightmare narrative, right where we left it so many years ago. Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is stuck in the Black Lodge, while his doppelganger (also MacLachlan, in long hair and extra crispy tanned skin), possessed by the ghost of Bob, is out causing trouble in the so-called real world. It is Cooper's redemption, and his way back to the real world, that is the crux of the new series. And MacLachlan is just the tip of the iceberg, as most of the cast has returned, from Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer to Russ Tamblyn as the mysterious Doc Jacoby, doing strange things in the woods. We even get to briefly see Catherine Coulson as Margaret, The Log Lady, who filmed her scenes in the weeks leading up to her death back in 2015 (leave it to Lynch to bring the dead back to life). We also get a slew of newcomers to the show, including Naomi Watts, Michael Cera, Jim Belushi, and Laura Dern. Even Lauren Tewes, aka Julie McCoy of Love Boat fame, is set to appear at some point.

I gotta tell ya, everything about this new series (or is it season three?), from the episode one opening (I truly got goosebumps when that theme music first clicked on) through to the full four episodes aired so far, says it is every bit as good, and every bit as uncomfortably Lynchian, as the original. Everything from the acting (or one might say non-acting) to the super lo-fi special effects in and around the Black Lodge (these scenes, including the fascinating first ten minutes or so of episode three, some of the best minutes in television today, are like the most brilliant student film ever made, or at least since Lynch himself was a student filmmaker) to those uncomfortable weird silences and eerie music, Twin Peaks: The Return is easily the best show on what we call TV these days. It is surely going to take one hell of  a show in the second half of the year, to topple this one from atop my inevitable Best of 2017 list (I'm lookin' at you Stranger Things, season two).

To say I can't wait for the next episode (and all of the ones after that) is quite the understatement. I may just explode in the meantime, and this being a Lynchian mindset I am in right now, that may not just be figuratively speaking. But alas, the wait just makes the outcome all that much more satisfying. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.