5 shows influenced by Twin Peaks
When it first aired in April of 1990, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks was like nothing viewers had ever seen on TV before. It was unique, it looked and felt like a feature film, its cast was huge and lovable, and its central mystery felt real and genuinely spooky. Viewers mourned Laura Palmer along with the townsfolk that had known the prom queen their whole lives. Viewers sat on the edge of their seats as Special Agent Dale Cooper and Sheriff Harry S. Truman, the show’s leads, searched high and low for her killer. The show was a cultural phenomenon and one that has earned its cult status nearly thirty years later. After a two-season run, a prequel film, and a sequel series, it’s fair to say that the show was almost certainly a huge influence on must-see prestige TV from that point forward. Some took things a bit further, though — there are a few shows like Twin Peaks that went beyond influence and went straight to copying specific elements from the show.
Despite being a comedy, Northern Exposure is probably the most unabashed Twin Peaks knockoff to ever hit the airwaves. Right down to taking the title that Twin Peaks had originally planned to go by, the show takes place up in the Pacific Northwest and showcases a town of weirdos and strange happenings that are part of what made Twin Peaks so appealing in the first place. It’s like if you took the second season of Frost and Lynch’s series, amped up the weird townsfolk, and took away the supernatural elements.
Weird phenomena from beyond the beyond, murders in the woods, and FBI agents in cool trench coats would find themselves at home in both Twin Peaks and The X-Files, especially if you’re David Duchovny. The actor had roles on both shows and both deal with seemingly unsolvable mysteries and unconventional characters and secret divisions of the FBI. It’s like the inverse of Northern Exposure — you take away the strange citizens of the town of Twin Peaks, crank up the supernatural elements, keep the FBI agents, and you’ve got an average episode of The X-Files.
Before they’d created Stranger Things, The Duffer Brothers worked on a short-lived FOX series called Wayward Pines. Starring a rotating cast of characters played by Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Tim Griffin, and Jason Patric, the series focuses on missing Secret Service agents in the supernatural town of Wayward Pines, Idaho. It’s more X-Files than Northern Exposure, but the Twin Peaks influence is clear: a small town named after the Pacific Northwest landscape, strange residents, and supernatural elements all around.
On the air from 2011 to 2014, AMC and Netflix’s The Killing takes Twin Peaks’s concept of a prolonged investigation into the death of a young girl and turns it into something much darker and more serious than the first two seasons of Twin Peaks ever managed to be. It’s got Twin Peaks’s rainy Washington backdrop and two similarly engrossing investigators at the forefront, but the show diverges in many ways — mainly, no supernatural elements. Still, like Twin Peaks, the show lasted just three seasons (the third of which aired on a different network).
Based on the Archie comics universe, this hit CW series borrows more than a few things from Twin Peaks. For starters, Madchen Amick plays an important role in both shows. On Twin Peaks, she plays Shelly — a rebellious and well-intentioned high school-aged girl caught up in a triangle between her abusive husband and her bad boy crush. On Riverdale, Amick plays Alice Cooper, the mother of high schooler Betty Cooper (who might as well be Shelly’s sister). In addition to this, the show follows a group of high schoolers in a seemingly timeless town where nothing is as it seems. It’s like they took the high schoolers from the B-plots of Twin Peaks — characters like Bobby, Shelly, James, Donna, and Audrey — and gave them their own show.
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