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'Twin Peaks' revives mystery 27 years after debut

Last Updated May 19, 2017 at 5:00 am PDT

Director/writer David Lynch and co-writer Mark Frost created a sensation in 1990 when “Twin Peaks” premiered on ABC. Set in a fictitious, Washington state mill town supposedly five miles from the Canadian border, the series was part soap opera, part nightmare.

It was a simple story at first: an FBI agent (played by Kyle MacLachlan) came to town to investigate the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). He famously fell for the “damn fine cup of coffee” and pie at the local diner.

The two-hour premiere was a sensational hit, right from the opening strains of Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score. Creepy dream sequences featuring strobe lights, dancing little people, and backwards dialogue had viewers buzzing the next day.

Less memorable were the baffling storylines. When Palmer’s murder remained unresolved at the end of the first seven-episode season, “Twin Peaks” had peaked, and ratings went downhill.

Still, TV producers such as David Chase (“The Sopranos”) cite it as a major influence.

Flash forward 27 years. The U.S. cable network Showtime offers a return to “Twin Peaks,” which premieres Sunday in Canada on CraveTV. Not only are many cast members back, including MacLachlan, Madchen Amick and Miguel Ferrer, they’re joined by Robert Forster as well as Laura Dern. Canadian Michael Cera also sneaks into a few scenes as part of an enormous ensemble cast.

Lynch directed all 18 episodes, shot over a year ago. Showtime CEO and president David Nevins has seen them all and declared the new take “the pure heroin version of David Lynch.”

To which the director cheekily replied: “I hear heroin is a very popular drug these days.”

Lynch spoke to TV reporters earlier this year at the winter TCA press tour in Pasadena, Calif. Now 71, Lynch spent 10 minutes ducking questions about the new “Twin Peaks.” Asked how he and Frost collaborated, Lynch spun a fairy tale about rounding a mountain, entering a deep forest and then going through the woods until “the trees began to thin.” This led to a town where “mysteries lead to other mysteries.”

Asked to clarify, he said they worked the script out over Skype.

Here’s what’s known about the new story: Agent Cooper returns to the town of Twin Peaks 25 years later. The town has changed, although it is also the same.

And that’s about all we know. Lynch was asked about three actors not back for this sequel: Michael Ontkean, Lara Flynn Boyle and Joan Chen. Were they not asked back or did they decline? Bit of both, said Lynch. Ontkean, for one, has retired from acting.

Asked why Dern is in this new incarnation, Lynch declared: “I love Laura Dern.”

He also loved the original pilot of the series, saying, “that, for me, set the tone, and made the world and the characters for me.”

“I felt really good about that mood and that story, those characters,” he added. “Just fell in love, deep, deep love.”

There were reports the director was not always in love with Showtime while working on the sequel, dropping out at one point.

“I would rather not discuss that,” he told reporters, saying he ultimately had a great working relationship with the network and was “very, very happy being at Showtime.”

The actors were equally tight-lipped about this return to Twin Peaks. Forster says Lynch gave the cast one instruction before they took the stage to promote the series: “Get on that panel but don’t tell them anything.”

— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.