April 8th marked the 24th anniversary of Twin Peaks’ premiere. But as any good fan knows, this means it’s also been 25 years since Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) first visited the Black Lodge on March 26, 1989, when Sheryl Lee’s Laura Palmer whispered in his ear: “I’ll see you again in 25 years.”
For fans, it’s been a whirlwind of cherry pies and snapping fingers, but the anniversary is also a reminder of just how far David Lynch and Mark Frost’s influential show stretched. This wasn’t a little cult affair seen and quoted by few. Glimpses of the show can be seen far and wide in homages, parodies, and vague references from stage to screen, from adult comedy to children’s programming.
By this point, just about everyone has seen at least a little Twin Peaks through one of media’s many references, and here are some of the best.
There is no homage more jam-packed with Twin Peaks details than the “Dual Spires” episode of Psych. The episode not only offered up an enormous list of large and small nods to the show – including the title, locale, names, and even a white horse and a sick myna bird – but also a ton of the original show’s cast members. As the Psych pair are lured to Dual Spires to investigate the death of Paula Merral (an anagram for Laura Palmer), they meet Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, Sherilyn Fenn, Robyn Lively, Lenny von Dohlen, and Ray Wise (reprising his character on the show). They also spy one woman – the only one who actually reprises her original role – Catherine Coulson as The Log Lady.
The episode remains the closest fans have come to an actual reunion. On top of the many cameos and references to sift through, the show also managed to get Julee Cruise to record a special theme song for the episode.
Saturday Night Live
When Kyle MacLachlan was picked to kick off Saturday Night Live’s sixteenth season in 1990, Lorne Michaels’ crew threw him right into an absurd Twin Peaks sketch. His Agent Dale Cooper absolutely refuses to believe that Leo Johnson (as played by Chris Farley) is the killer – no matter how many times the truck driver confesses. Players included Phil Hartman’s spot-on Leland Palmer, Conan O’Brian as the deputy in the background, and Victoria Jackson as an even more adeptly tongue-knotting Audrey Horne.
Today, the sketch might be more notable for showcasing SNL’s on-going diversity problem. After boycotting an episode hosted by Andrew Dice Clay, Nora Dunn had been fired, leaving only Jackson and Jan Hooks as female castmembers. In the sketch, Cooper asks where the Log Lady is. Kevin Nealon responds: “There’s only two women left on Saturday Night Live, and we’ve used them both up!” – a joke that would come back when Kerry Washington hosted last year and had to rush to and fro to play a slew of black women. (In both cases, SNL added new castmembers pronto: Julia Sweeney and Sasheer Zamata.)
Not every nod to Twin Peaks comes from outside admirers. One came directly from David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, and in perfect Lynchian tradition, it messed with our perception, coming out before the show first aired.
After a nod to Wild at Heart with an intro from Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage, the recorded stage performance uses a mix of industry, dance, and surreal imagery to showcase many of the songs that Twin Peaks would make iconic. Julee Cruise appears on-stage lip-synching her songs, and Michael J. Anderson appears, patiently sawing a log in near- darkness and relaying the “dream of the broken-hearted.” The narrative didn’t replicate what audiences would see in Twin Peaks, but Lynch would revisit much of the same imagery.
Five years after David Lynch and company first asked who killed Laura Palmer, The Simpsons wondered “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” As Wiggum tries to figure out who the culprit is, he falls into the iconic, chevron-floored, red-draped waiting room of the Black Lodge. There’s a donut for him to eat, and Lisa Simpson emulates the Dancing Dwarf as Wiggum sifts through clues.
The first nod applied the Lynchian world to Springfield’s murder mystery, and it was followed by another reference two years later. This time, Twin Peaks explicitly entered the Simpsons world as Homer sits down and watches an episode where a Great Northern employee dances with a horse, under a tree where a street light hangs.
Twin Peaks homages haven’t only been for adults. In 2013, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated aired an episode called “Stand and Deliver,” where Scooby falls asleep in a library and finds himself in the Black Lodge. When the Man from Another Place enters and speaks, it sounds dead-on because it’s not an actor practicing their backwards-speak – actor Michael J. Anderson reprised his role.
That year the creatives had a bit of the Twin Peaks bug. Anderson also offered his voice for one other episode, and a second tribute would follow that year.
Scooby Doo wasn’t the only time the dark, adult world found itself in the least likely place – the thick of children’s programming. Following their long tradition of infusing art and literature into their Monsterpiece Theatre segments, Sesame Street dug into Twin Peaks in 1991 with “Twin Beaks.”
The Cookie Monster becomes “Agent Cookie” recording a report for Diane while enjoying the “darn fine pie” in Twin Beaks. He interviews the waitress, fellow patron David Finch, and the Log Bird, while receiving valuable direction from Laura, who whispers in his ear. Sadly, the log isn’t as helpful as it is in Catherine Coulson’s arms, and Cookie doesn’t quite clue in to the obvious answer to his mystery.
What really sticks out about Twin Peaks’ influence is how connective it is. It didn’t simply percolate like a fish in the minds of future creatives – it quickly fused with its contemporaries. Northern Exposure premiered just months after the arrival of Twin Peaks, two stories nestled in the forests of the cold north, and before the end of the first season, Team Alaska had spoofed their Washington counterpart.
Where other nods try to merge the weirdness into their narratives, the folks in Northern Exposure view it from a distance. They head to Snoqualmie Falls (where The Great Northern sits) as tourists, appreciating the beauty and getting pulled into the Badalamentiesque music that soon descends. They snap their fingers, fight urges for coffee and cherry pie, scour the landscape, and ask: “What’s that lady holding?” “It looks like a log to me.” They are outsiders watching from a distance, but even then, the town inspires them to muse about the philosophical.
If any show was dedicated to Twin Peaks, it’s Fringe. Instead of one homage, the show dug into the eerie world multiple times. Joan Chen (Josie Packard) appeared as a mistress of alternate-universe Walter Bishop in an episode that referenced a doctor named Silva (like Bob actor Frank Silva) who ordered cherry pie and coffee. In another, Bishop mentions that his strange red-blue glasses were a gift from “Dr. Jacoby from Washington State.”
On top of the random mention, the series offered a more subtle nod in the episode “Northwest Passage,” where Peter finds himself in Washington, eating pie at the local diner, traveling through Snoqualmie, and working with a local sheriff (Martha Plimpton) when a girl goes missing. Instead of glaringly explicit mentions, the film has fun with subtlety – a pie here, a Badalamentiesque bit of music there. It is only together that they make it clear the episode is an ode – unless, of course, you know that the original title for the series was “Northwest Passage.”
The Twin Peaks Reference That Doesn’t Exist
Contrary to popular opinion, Russ Tamblyn did not reprise his role as Dr. Jacoby when he took a moment to appear alongside his daughter Amber when she was on General Hospital in 2000. Though many have claimed he did (and IMDb actually lists that he did), his character was named Dr. Rose, as the Chicago Tribune reported, and this clip of Tamblyn’s scenes prove.
Honorable Mention: The castmembers of Twin Peaks using their quirky personas to record an idiosyncratic version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” for the radio.