“Twin Peaks” celebrated its 30th birthday this spring, but that’s not why it’s been on my mind the last few weeks. I’ve been thinking about the original incarnation of “Twin Peaks” because thanks to responsible mask usage, I can’t see people’s mouths anymore — and “Twin Peaks” is among the most orally fixated shows ever.
Some shows are hand shows — “Pose,” “Wentworth” — all fidgety fingers or slow caresses or ominous pointing. Lots of teen shows are shoulder shows, like “My So-Called Life,” where the way someone puts on a backpack is as illuminating as a soliloquy, and characters nudge into each other while walking abreast in a hallway, or shrug and shrug and shrug until an authority figure takes them by the yoke and sets them straight. “Mad Men” is an eyebrow show, where people are living and dying on Don’s furrows and Joan’s tweezed arches. Most shows don’t have a physicality motif at all, either because it requires too codified an aesthetic or because the characters (and performers) are not meant to behave like one another.
But everyone, everyone on “Twin Peaks” is pouting, pursing, flirtatiously nibbling, chewing on a pencil, putting on lipstick. People maniacally smack their lips like a fat villain dreaming of eating a turkey leg in a cartoon, or they grimace so ferociously you can see the skin on their chest move. It’s one reason the show can feel so primal; just look at these lusty, hungry beasts.
If you’ve never watched “Twin Peaks,” don’t let the volume of discourse convince you that it’s some massive endeavor. There are only 30 episodes in the original series, and only about 20 are good. (The revival third season, which aired its 18 episodes in 2017, is a separate beast.) If you have watched it, then you also know that one of the show’s signatures is the way it separates things from their wholes, snipping out elements of soaps, cop shows, mysteries, revenge fantasies and supernatural tales so they seem different and maybe grotesque without their usual context. We can do that as viewers, too, sectioning off elements to see them in new ways. A rewatch that focuses only on the parts about self-documentation: the recordings, videos, diaries, letters. A sweaters-only journey. Just the scenes with singing or dancing.
I’m lucky to live among fellow mask-wearers, and I feel sustained and encouraged by the mutuality. I also miss some nonverbal modes of expression, and watching an episode of “Twin Peaks” feels like parking myself in front of a SAD lamp during the winter. Maybe you need some artificial sunlight, too.
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