"She's day-ud. Wrapped in plastic."
When hapless fisherman Pete Martell stumbled on the prom queen's
clammy body, blue and Baggied, on the riverbank, he could not have
guessed how far the shock waves would roll not just through the
fictional northwest town of Twin Peaks, but through an American TV
audience that stretches about as far as the Nielsens can see.
With the most buzzed-about plot line since J.R. got plugged in a
1980 Dallas cliff-hanger, this season's video phenomenon is ABC's
Twin Peaks, the sleekly sinister story of FBI special agent Dale
Cooper's investigation into the murder of Laura Palmer. Of course, as
the denizens of any backwater burg would know by now, Twin Peaks is
also a kind of Our Town through the Looking Glass, where doughnuts,
deer heads and even percolated fish portend the evil lurking beneath
a small-town veneer. It's brimming with off-the-wall characters a
dwarf who shows up in a dream, the mysterious Log Lady (see page 89)
who may or may not offer clues to the homicide. And it's crammed
with dialogue that's sometimes witty, sometimes opaque, sometimes
both (see page 87). So not only do aficionados want to solve the
murder (a solution may pop up in the season finale Wed., May 23, at
10 P.M.); they also have their hands full finding out what it all
Even if viewers require a freeze-frame VCR (or our Who's Who,
pages 84-85) to make sense of a convoluted plot that lost its
bearings long ago, Twin Peaks's probing drill bit has hit a
resounding nerve. ''I was totally charmed by the idea of this small
town being riddled by nasty secrets,'' says Patricia Aufderheide, an
assistant professor of communications at Washington, D.C.'s American
University, ''because that was my experience growing up in a small
Others see the series as a savior of TV. ''The cloying, horrid
normalcy of the Cosby generation has finally fed up those of us who
never bought it anyway,'' says L.A. disc jockey Boyd Britten.
''Hopefully we're going to have TV for people who like things just a
For the time being, at least, it would seem so. The show's stylish
surrealism is centrifuged in the brain of producer-director-writer
David Lynch, whose rococo past credits Eraserhead, The Elephant
Man, Dune and Blue Velvet may, as he insists, make Peaks look
normal by comparison. ''I still don't see what the great difference
is,'' Lynch has said. ''To me, it's a regular television show.''
And the Rockies are regular hills. ''It's like Peyton Place gone
nuts,'' says director John (Cry-Baby) Waters, who knows a thing or
two about weirdness himself. ''It's my favorite thing on TV.'' Kooky
comedian Julie Brown puts it more simply: ''Any show that ends an
episode with a vibrating dwarf is my kind of TV.''
In addition to its confounding plot line, the series plays like a
pop ; culture Hall of Fame, resonating against everything from The
Fugitive's one- armed man to Tibetan asceticism to the namesake 1944
thriller that starred Gene Tierney. ''I call the show a cultural
compost heap,'' says Peaks co- creator Mark Frost, a onetime writer
for Hill Street Blues. ''There are symbols and characters and
expressions from all the shows we saw growing up that echo and ping
down the hallways of Twin Peaks.'' Even local sheriff Harry Truman's
name is a double play, conjuring up not just the former U.S.
President, but also the 84-year-old man who met his end in the 1980
eruption of Mount St. Helens. In the month since the show first
landed on the airwaves, an estimated 30 million viewers have gotten
ensnared in Twin Peaks's sub-rosa complexity. ''I thought the dream
sequence was the strangest six minutes of TV America ever saw,'' says
a Philadelphia deejay who goes by the single name of Harvey. ''The
big debate the callers had was how the dialogue was done.'' (In fact,
the segments, which featured the dwarf and a Laura Palmer look-alike
speaking eerily distorted lines, were accomplished by having actors
actually speaking their lines in reverse during taping.)
On school campuses, kids who ought to be studying for finals are
instead camped out at Thursday-night viewing parties. In Denver, 200
fans turn out for a viewing party at the local Deadbeat Lounge, and
spend the post-show wee hours drinking ''Blue Velvets'' and watching
Eraserhead on a 30-foot video screen. Even the hallowed halls of the
U.S. Capitol have become Peaks territory. During one recent pre-press
conference issues briefing, says senatorial assistant press secretary
Deborah Brunton, ''the subject of Twin Peaks came up. We started
analyzing the dream sequence while the press corps all waited.''
Still, the Most Loyal Fan title may belong to 23-year-old Mila
Roschwalb, who, waking up groggily after a tonsillectomy one Thursday
in a Maryland hospital, turned to her mother and croaked, ''Did I
miss Twin Peaks?''
Not even Lynch's inner circle is immune to the mania. At L.A.'s
Home Plate Bar, as many as 80 of the show's cast, crew and friends
have gathered for Thursday-night viewings. Two weeks ago, there was
nothing but silence as actors Michael Horse (Deputy ''Hawk'') and
Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran) watched the plot unfold. Then, as Agent
Cooper makes an inquiry about Twin Peaks real estate, Charlotte
Stewart (Mrs. Briggs) broke the tension. ''Oooh!'' she squealed,
clapping her hands together, ''Agent Cooper's moving to Twin
Just tracking Peaks's slippery story line is enough to confound
even fanatic viewers; the plot contains more herring than the North
Atlantic. Some diehards have successfully uncovered a 113-minute
European version that incorporated an 18-minute dream sequence and,
purportedly, the true identity of Laura's killer. ''I sent out a
systemwide computer message here that I had a synopsis and that I
knew who killed Laura Palmer,'' says Washington Post film critic Hal
Hinson. ''I copied it and put it out for everyone. They were all
snapped up immediately.'' Too bad. According to Mark Frost, the
foreign version was whipped up to meet a contractual obligation and
has no bearing on what U.S. viewers will eventually see.
Others may have to make do with Agent Dale Cooper's Tibet-inspired
intuitive techniques dreams or throwing rocks at targets that
might pinpoint the murderer which, according to one expert, may
actually not be as loony as they appear. ''It sounds weird, but there
really were people who thought about cases in their sleep,'' says
former special agent Herb Clough, a 30-year FBI veteran. ''The facts
in your subconscious really would all fit together.''
While viewers try to plumb Peaks's depths, studio executives are
using Cooper-style methods to decipher the Nielsens. So far, the huge
33 share for the pilot has fallen off to 18, but ABC Entertainment
president Robert A. Iger professes not to worry. ''Even if it loses a
little steam,'' he says, ''it's still a wave.'' That may portend a
In the meantime, the deepening plot leaves room for a lot of
creative conjecture from Peakies. Cast members' lips are sealed, but
Frost promises that, whether or not the series is renewed, viewers
will ''feel satisfied'' about its resolution. In the end, the best
prognostication comes from actor Dennis Hopper, who played a nitrous
oxide-sniffing psychopath in Lynch's Blue Velvet. The real
responsibility for bumping off Laura Palmer, says Hopper, falls on
one man: David Lynch. It seems that he, like Twin Peaks, is a real
Have you had a damn good cup of coffee lately? If so, then you,
like Agent Dale Cooper, have been slipping into ''Peakspeak.''
Herewith some of the more memorable or is that deathless?
dialogue from Twin Peaks's early episodes. What does it all mean? Ah,
only the dwarf in the dream knows . . .
''My air sacs have never felt so good.'' Ben Horne quoting a
Norwegian businessman visiting Twin Peaks
''Good day for a picnic.'' James Hurley to Donna Hayward at
school before the announcement of Laura's death
''Diane, I'm holding in my hand a box of small chocolate
bunnies.'' Cooper, dictating to his secretary
''Old habits die hard. Just about as hard as I want those eggs.''
Cooper to waitress
''Do your palms ever itch?'' Audrey Horne to Cooper
''I'm no pea-brained chambermaid looking for a tumble in a broom
closet.'' Catherine Martell to Benjamin Horne
''Don't drink that coffee. There was a fish in the percolator.''
Pete Martell, to Cooper and Truman
''If you ever pull a stunt like that again, you'll be scrubbing
bidets in a Bulgarian convent.'' Benjamin Horne to daughter Audrey
''I just know I'm going to get lost in those woods again
tonight.'' Laura Palmer
''We had those Vikings by the horns. What happened?'' Jerry
Horne, after the Norwegian businessmen departed
''Damn good coffee. And hot!'' Cooper
''I had subconsciously gained knowledge of a deductive technique
involving mind-body coordination operating hand in hand with the
deepest levels of intuition.'' Cooper, awakening from a dream
''I've got one man too many in my life, and I'm married to him.''
''This must be where pies go when they die.'' Cooper
BOX: A WOMAN OF MYSTERY LOGROLLS TO FAME
Catherine Coulson is a little stumped. She doesn't comprehend the
fascination with her Twin Peaks character. So what if she's never
seen without a piece of wood, or that she's been known to chat with
the timber in her arms? ''I don't see her as being unusual,''
declares Coulson. ''A log is such a solid thing to carry.''
Coulson, 44, plays David Lynch's oddest cameo character by far,
the mysterious Log Lady, an off-kilter Twin Peaks denizen named for
the hunk of ponderosa pine she forever cradles. Two early, fleeting
Log Lady appearances mischievously flipping off the lights at
the town meeting in the pilot, then insisting to Sheriff Truman and
Agent Cooper in the first episode that the log ''knows'' who killed
Laura Palmer stoked a minicult and made the mystical widow of a
woodsman killed in a fire the subject of wide conjecture. (Her
mystique branches out a bit this week, when Cooper interrogates the
lady and the log.)
Coulson's sudden fame is as curious as her character, since she's
the only cast member who is not a professional actor. She normally
works as a camera operator, having abandoned her theatrical calling
long ago. But not before planting the seedlings for the Log Lady. In
1972, playing a bit part in Eraserhead (she portrayed the title
character's neighbor), Coulson somehow inspired director Lynch: ''He
said, 'When you put on your glasses, I just saw a log in your arms.
Someday I'll do a series and you'll play a girl with a log.' ''
Despite the burning curiosity she has aroused, the Los
Angeles-based Coulson isn't ''quitting my day job.'' For now, she and
husband Marc Sirinsky, a writer, are trying to cope with the demands
of her TV fame. Even their 3-year- old daughter, Zoey, has gotten
into the act, asking, ''Mommy, if you're the Log Lady, can I be the
BOX: QUIET SNOQUALMIE IS NOTHING LIKE ITS EVIL TWIN
Snoqualmie, Wash., Police Chief Don Isley, the real-life
counterpart of Twin Peaks Sheriff Harry S. Truman, is thinking about
putting a bucket of rocks next to his desk. If they don't help him in
cracking cases, as they do Special Agent Cooper, they might get rid
of the pack of reporters who've been camping in his office since the
show began. Says Isley, who fell asleep watching the two-hour pilot:
''Twin Peaks is a big topic in town.''
It is indeed, and most people in Snoqualmie, where the show is
filmed, admit to being puzzled or offended by it. The truth is, the
real Snoqualmie (pop. 1,500) is closer to Lake Wobegon than Peyton
Place. There hasn't been a juicy crime here in recent memory. The
townsfolk say they tune in to Twin Peaks to watch familiar landmarks
flicker by. The show's murder scene took place in Snoqualmie's
graveyard, and each episode begins with a shot of the magnificent
Snoqualmie Falls. Also famous, at least locally, are the pies served
up at the Mar-T Cafe just down the road in North Bend. They've taken
on celebrity status since agent Cooper started drooling into his tape
recorder over the cherry & variety. ''It embarrasses me to death,''
says baker Garnet Cross, 72. ''I've been making the pies all my life,
and now I'm afraid I'll do something wrong.''
Big Edd Larson, owner of Big Edd's Family Dining, seems to have no
such anxieties. He alone among the local merchants has tried to
capitalize on the Twin Peaks mania. ''Twin Peaks burger, $2.85,''
reads the banner outside his restaurant. Yet Edd, who also coaches a
Little League team, says he's too busy to watch Twins Peaks
regularly. That doesn't stop him from participating in what's
becoming a national pastime: speculating on who killed Laura Palmer.
''I tell everyone I know,'' says Big Edd. ''But I don't.''