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Truly remarkable television
on July 13, 2003
In the spring of 1990, the ABC network treated it's viewers to a most unusual viewing experience; the David Lynch and Mark Frost creation "Twin Peaks". A hybrid murder/mystery, primetime soap opera, darkly funny comedy and super- natural thriller...Twin Peaks was all of these and yet at the same time none. It would use what on other shows would be clichés to create a richly woven tapestry so original, thought provoking and emotionally truthful that it re- defined what television at it's best could truly be. At times it was hilarious and absurd, other times it was heart-wrenching in it's honesty of human emotion and suffering, and still other times it was deeply chilling and disturbing with images you can't easily shake off days after...and sometimes it was all these things at once. There had never been anything even remotely like it on TV before and (so far) nothing like it since. It's influence can be seen in countless other programs...but only elements, no one has achieved the true artistry that "Twin Peaks" had. Being a mid-season replacement series, the whole of it's first season was only 7 episodes and had much of America asking the question "Who killed Laura Palmer?".
The series' was set in the fictional, northwestern town of Twin Peaks, where the murdered body of local homecoming queen, Laura Palmer is found on a beach wrapped in plastic. This event sets the stage for the arrival of FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and the subsequent investigation as to the identity of her killer. It is this investigation that will uncover the quiet trappings of this small mountain town to reveal dark secrets hidden within and and even darker things lurking without. He will encounter a remarkable cast of characters, all with their own personal agendas.
"Twin Peaks" was and still remains groundbreaking television of the first order. It was stylistically cinematic, each episode looks very much like an hour long feature film with an equally impressive soundtrack presentation. It was incredibly well written (with so many quotable lines the mind boggles at them all) with fabulous characters, a wonderful sense of humor and a shadowy (and sometimes very scary) sense of mystery. The large ensemble cast of MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Piper Laurie, Sherylynn Fenn, Laura Flynn Boyle, Peggy Lipton, Miquel Ferrer, Ray Wise, Joan Chen and far too many more to list here are all uniformly excellent in their respective rolls.
For "Twin Peaks"' debut on DVD, Artisan Home Entertainment has put together a very nice set featuring episodes 1 thru 7 (unfortunately the 2 hr. pilot is missing due to rights issues, originally owned by Warner Bros. it is now owned by Paramount). The packaging is a slick fold-out design with transparent slip case, much like the design of Fox's X-Files box sets. 4 discs are included.
With only 2 episodes per disc, these transfers are mastered at a very high bit rate and the results are stunning. Having been used to the soft, grainy picture afforded by the previous video versions of the series, I was quite unprepared for the unbelievable picture quality delivered on this release. These new high definition, re-mastered transfers are breathtaking, with colors rendered perfectly (the green opening titles nearly leap off the screen). Blacks are solid with excellent shadow detail, flesh tones are accurately reproduced and the show's red color schemes have never looked better (without a trace of bleeding). No digital artifacts are present and I never noticed any signs of edge enhancement, all in all an incredible job.
The same can be said for the sound presentation here, you can choose between Dolby digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 surround or (in a first for any television DVD product) DTS digital surround. These are very good mixes, the DTS surround being the best. The surround elements are reserved mostly to ambient sounds and Angelo Badalamenti's brilliant music, dialogue is placed mostly in the center and is clear and intelligible. This is television and not a Hollywood action spectacular so don't expect reference quality surround use, but a detailed sound mix perfectly suited to the show. Badalamenti's score is especially well presented here.
I would suggest to first time viewers to try and get hold of the pilot episode. Although it has an alternate ending filmed as a possible "closed" ending for European markets, it is actually an uncut version of Cooper's dream in episode 2. You can also purchase an import DVD of the pilot from Amazon.com which is the original broadcast version, the video and audio is not as pleasing as on the set reviewed here but still it is acceptably good. Artisan has included a booklet with the season 1 set explaining the events of the pilot but I would suggest viewing it if possible before viewing ep.1 thru 7. With each show being a day in the investigation, viewers will likely be lost without the events of the pilot to start from.
Overall a very impressive set from Artisan. If you missed this extraordinary show before, don't miss it this time. And please hurry up with Season 2.