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Is TV Ready for David Lynch? : The director of 'Blue Velvet' and 'Eraserhead' brings his unique vision to the prime-time soap opera 'Twin Peaks'

February 18, 1990|STEVE WEINSTEIN

"I still never thought it would happen," Lynch said, "but all of a sudden I found myself really falling into the world of 'Twin Peaks' and really loving it."

Lynch co-wrote the pilot and the next two episodes with Frost and directed the pilot and one subsequent episode. Frost wrote two more on his own and supervised the production of all eight shows. Several film directors, including Tim Hunter ("River's Edge") and Caleb Deschanel ("Crusoe"), directed episodes. Besides MacLachlan, the cast includes Jack Nance, Michael Ontkean, Piper Laurie, Joan Chen, Peggy Lipton of "The Mod Squad" and Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn of "West Side Story."

Though he gives detailed comments on the scripts and rough cuts of all the episodes, Lynch said that except for the two shows he actually directed, he is not involved with the series on a day-to-day basis. If "Twin Peaks" is picked up for the fall, Lynch is likely to maintain that same peripheral role, directing an occasional episode when he can fit it into his busy film schedule.

Lynch, who also directed a program called "The Cowboy and the Frenchman" for French television in 1988, said that he had avoided television work because of horror stories he'd heard about network interference. But he said he hasn't encountered any of that so far. ABC personnel watched dailies and read scripts, but they have not tampered with his ideas or his film making, he said.

Alfred Schneider, vice president of policy and standards at ABC, said that the network had concerns about how Lynch was going to shoot the dead girl's naked body when it washes ashore, but Lynch decided to wrap the body in plastic and show only her face.

"I watched 'Blue Velvet,' and there are obviously things in there that you couldn't show on television," Schneider said. "But we went over the ground rules with them at the beginning and we've had no problem with anything that they've done. There's nothing in the show that we feel is gratuitous in terms of sex or violence, nothing that is inappropriate for a 10 p.m. show."

Lynch, who with Frost recently signed with the Fox network to produce a pilot for a documentary-styled series that will chronicle contemporary American events and people, gloated that working with ABC on "Twin Peaks" "has been peachy keen with me. If television is this way, I really like to do television."

What he especially likes about the TV serial format is that he doesn't have to rush the stories to a quick conclusion. The murder that opens "Twin Peaks" remains unsolved at the end of the first episode; the mystery thickens through all eight installments and may not even be resolved then.

When it is pointed out to Lynch that television shows almost always catch the bad guy at the end of each episode, that the audience likes its criminals behind bars before they go to bed, that it gives them a sense of "closure," his soft-spoken patter erupts in disgust.

"Closure. I keep hearing that word. It's the theater of the absurd. Everybody knows that on television they'll see the end of the story in the last 15 minutes of the thing. It's like a drug. To me, that's the beauty of 'Twin Peaks.' We throw in some curve balls. As soon as a show has a sense of closure, it gives you an excuse to forget you've seen the damn thing."

And Lynch isn't about to give anyone any excuses to forget this.

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