The City of Absurdity   TWIN PEAKS

  Saturday Night Dead

Entertainment, March 8 1991
with many thanks to Jeffrey L. Schwartz

"We're in trouble, and we need help." With those words, spoken at a press conference on the set of the Great Northern Hotel, David Lynch acknowledged the grim news: Twin Peaks, the critically acclaimed, anemically rated prime- time soap he created with Mark Frost, is out of business, and only public support can save it from cancellation. On Feb. 15, ABC suspended Peaks from its lineup, and said that it would air this season's six remaining episodes at an unspecified date. Such a move usually portends doom for a series, so Lynch and Frost are entreating fans to write to entertainment chief Robert Iger and lobby ABC for a new time slot--preferably Wednesdays at 10 p.m., where Equal Justice now airs. "Our audience doesn't stay home on Saturdays," says Frost. "We'd like to be on a week night--that gives people a chance to talk about it the next day at the office."

Fans have reacted swiftly and, of course, eccentrically. In Washington, D.C., a rally sponsored by the ad-hoc committee COOP (Citizens Opposing the Offing of Peaks) drew over 200 people, many of them bearing owls, logs, eye patches, and cherry pies; according to organizer H. Keith Poston, several fans dressed in Saran Wrap as a sartorial tribute to the late Laura Palmer. Since then, COOP's ranks have swelled to 5000 in seven cities. Peaks' imperiled status has also roused Viewers for Quality Television, the organization that aided successful write-in efforts to save Cagney & Lacey and Designing Women. On Feb. 21, the group urged ABC to give the series "more time to spin its unique web" and offered to assist fans in a save-the-show campaign.

Last fall, Twin Peaks performed solidly on Saturdays--the episode that revealed Laura's murderer ranked 44th in the Nielsens--but when the mystery ended, producer-writer Harley Peyton admits, Peaks hit a mild creative slump ("We couldn't just have another homicidal maniac arrive in town the next day") and after several preemptions, ratings plummeted. When Peaks returns, a special may recap current plotlines, and Lynch will direct the season's final hour--a showdown between Cooper and psychotic ex-FBI agent Windom Earle ("Our cross between Hannibal Lecter and Soupy Sales," says Peyton) that ends with a "phenomenal cliff-hanger.

If ABC cancels Twin Peaks, Lynch and Frost may sell the series to another network or seek foreign financing; the show is already an enormous hit in England, Italy, and Spain. In any even, Lynch will remain busy. This spring, he'll co-write and direct On the Air, a "completely wacko" ABC comedy pilot about television's early days, and French businessman Francis Bouygues has agreed to provide $70 million for Lynch's next three films.

Lynch urges viewers to write to Iger (some fans have already sent him stale doughnuts) at 2040 Avenue of the Stars, Century City, Calif. 90067. "If this show is going to go on," he says, "people have got to write in. I'm sure Bob would love to hear from you."

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© Mike Hartmann