The 14 stages of responding to David Lynch quitting Showtime's Twin Peaks reboot
In a battle of business versus art, can anyone really win?
On Sunday, in a maddening reversal of plans first announced last October, David Lynch said he would not direct all nine episodes of Showtime's revival of the cult mystery drama Twin Peaks. "After 1 year and 4 months of negotiations, I left because not enough money was offered to do the script the way I felt it needed to be done," wrote Lynch on both Facebook and Twitter. "This weekend I started to call actors to let them know I would not be directing. Twin Peaks may still be very much alive at Showtime. I love the world of Twin Peaks and wish things could have worked out differently."
This is very, very bad news. This is an attempt to catalog my response to it.
1. Ugh, seriously? Come on. It's been 25 years. Can't the universe just give us this one?
2. This is all about money? What are you doing, Showtime? Homeland is on its last legs, The Affair is a total mess, and Ray Donovan is as bland as its title. You need this — way more than David Lynch, who can always go right back to art and music and transcendental meditation. How much is he asking for, anyway? Is it really worth what you'll lose by letting him walk away?
3. In retrospect, the whole "Twin Peaks is coming back!" story went public way too fast. Even in the best-case scenario, the new series wasn't slated to premiere until sometime in 2016. Why did Showtime announce this before all the contracts were signed? Why did Lynch and Mark Frost spend days teasing the possibility of a Twin Peaks reboot, culminating in a cutesy teaser confirming the project? It's dumb to taunt viewers with any project that might not actually happen, but it's incredibly dumb to taunt viewers with a project as long-awaited and buzzy as a Twin Peaks revival.
4. It's very, very weird to see a project this big fall apart in real time. Showtime was obviously caught off-guard by Lynch's extremely public divorce, responding with a counter-statement attempting to minimize the damage. "We were saddened to read David Lynch's statement today, since we believed we were working towards solutions with David and his reps on the few remaining deal points," the network said. "Showtime also loves the world of Twin Peaks, and we continue to hold out hope that we can bring it back in all its glory with both of its extraordinary creators, David Lynch and Mark Frost, at its helm."
5. Bad as all this seems, there's just enough reason to hold out hope. Showtime's statement clearly indicates that it is still at the negotiating table. Showtime's official website still lists Twin Peaks as an upcoming series, and cites Lynch as the show's director. Is it possible that this is just a high-stakes game of contractual brinksmanship between the network and the filmmaker, with Lynch using public opinion as a weapon?
6. If so, it's a massive power play, and Lynch is virtually guaranteed to come out on top. In a trial that pits "passionate creator of beloved cult TV series" versus "tight-fisted network that won't spend enough to do Twin Peaks right," fans will side with Lynch every time.
7. It's also striking to see how many of Twin Peaks' cast members were surprised by Lynch's announcement — and how they seem, uniformly, to have taken his side. Mädchen Amick (Shelly Johnson) shared a Change.org petition urging Twin Peaks fans to either give Lynch what he wants or let another network tackle the project. Peggy Lipton (Norma Jennings) tweeted directly at Lynch: "i am sad!!this can't be happening!!!" Harry Goaz (Deputy Andy Brennan) tweeted, rather cryptically, "The owls are not what they seem." If Lynch can't be wooed back to the table, how many original cast members will depart with him?
8. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that every other person associated with the Twin Peaks revival decides to stick with it sans Lynch. There's still no point in making this if Lynch isn't involved, right? As the conventional narrative goes, the dramatic dip in quality during Twin Peaks' original run came as Lynch stepped away from the creative side of the series (he was frustrated with network constraints and focused on his 1990 film Wild at Heart). Twin Peaks didn't work without Lynch before. Why should it work this time?
9. You can even make a plausible argument that Twin Peaks only became a modern cultural phenomenon — leading, eventually, to this unlikely stab at resurrection — because of Lynch. His eleventh-hour return to the series resulted in a famously weird series finale, which he semi-improvised from a script by Mark Frost, Harley Peyton, and Robert Engels. Twin Peaks' final episode is a surreal masterpiece with a killer cliffhanger — the kind of knockout punch that keeps viewers desperate for a continuation, even after 25 years have passed.
10. In general, you can't argue with Lynch's artistic integrity. After his disastrous experience with 1984's Dune, Lynch famously demanded strict creative control over all his projects, resulting in masterpieces like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. If he stepped away from the Twin Peaks revival, he must have a good reason, right?
11. On the other hand: Isn't it possible that everyone is blowing the importance of Lynch's directorial involvement out of proportion? Lynch has always been the flashiest name on Twin Peaks' creative roster, but Mark Frost — co-creator, executive producer, writer, and director — doesn't get nearly enough credit. Twin Peaks ran for 29 episodes, and Lynch is credited as director on just six episodes, and as co-writer on four. And it's not like the Twin Peaks revival wouldn't bear some of his imprint — he and Mark Frost have already completed co-written scripts for all nine episodes. Should we really close the book on the entire Twin Peaks revival just because Lynch is stepping away from the director's chair?
12. And if Lynch is truly out, would it really be so awful if another passionate, dedicated director took on the project? J.J. Abrams, a lifelong Star Wars fan, is taking the reins of that franchise from George Lucas for Star Wars: Episode VII. Ridley Scott, the director of 1982's cultishly beloved sci-fi noir Blade Runner, has vacated the directorial chair on the long-awaited sequel to up-and-coming auteur Denis Villeneuve. An entire generation of young directors has grown up adoring Twin Peaks, and internalizing the lessons of its many strengths. New talent could also take Twin Peaks to strange new places, infusing it with energy and ideas it would never otherwise have had.
13. If we're going to embrace this new media landscape where everything from Arrested Development to Wet Hot American Summer to Coach to Full House is deemed worthy of a reboot, we're going to need to get comfortable with the very real possibility that not everyone who worked on the thing we originally loved will return when it comes back around again. As disappointing as it is to see a director as talented as Lynch step away from his most enduring creation — and to lose nine hours of new footage from someone who hasn't helmed anything in nearly a decade — this may soon become the new normal for these long-awaited "dream projects" that suddenly become reality.
14. Business and art may seem to be at odds, but at the best of times, they're in symbiosis. Whatever the future of Showtime's Twin Peaks revival, it's unfortunate to see a project that seemed to represent the best of both sides get tangled up in conflict. Whatever happens next, everyone can agree that it would be better if Showtime's Twin Peaks turned into something more than a cautionary tale.