When Twin Peaks hit the airwaves in 1990, it changed the landscape of what television was and what it could be. Creators David Lynch and Mark Frost pushed boundaries with their genre-bending murder mystery and captivated unsuspecting audiences during its initial run 30 years ago.
Since then, a number of shows have demonstrated the influence Twin Peaks has had in writer’s rooms over the past three decades. Some taking smaller influences, like combining multiple genres, while others lift entire scenes and imagery. If you enjoyed Twin Peaks, here are a few shows that give off a serious Black Lodge vibe.
When Lost began, viewers expected to tune in every week to see the events that unfold on a deserted island after a plane crash. What they got was much more strange and complex than was expected, and fans of sci-fi fantasy rooted in reality were thrilled. Just like Twin Peaks beginning with a murder mystery and evolving into a supernatural event, Lost became a genre-bending masterpiece, taking viewers everywhere but the expected. The idea of superficial characterization versus more complex revelations as the series continues is also quite similar in structure to Twin Peaks — albeit Lost was able to achieve this over a much longer period.
Besides the cast crossover of Mädchen Amick who stars in both series, Riverdale is essentially Twin Peaks 2.0. From the completely unsupervised teens taking a murder mystery into their own hands to the constant diner congregations, to the dark and disturbing imagery, Riverdale borrows plenty from the classic show. A number of scenes are even direct lifts from Twin Peaks, giving TP fans a fun Easter egg hunt with nearly every episode. The cast and crew of Riverdale have also explicitly stated that their show has been heavily influenced by Twin Peaks, shutting down any criticism of plagiarism.
Another series with a cast member crossover, David Duchovny appeared in Twin Peaks years before starring in the paranormal thriller X-Files. The concept of an FBI agent investigating strange occurrences in a small town was doubled in X-Files with Mulder and Scully. The supernatural events of Twin Peaks were strange in a different way than the out-of-this-world happenings of X-Files, but television viewers were definitely prepped for alien encounters after experiencing The Black Lodge.
While Twin Peaks may not have invented the idea of strange occurrences in small towns, the show definitely demonstrated how versatile this backdrop could be. Picket Fences blends drama, legal and medical mystery, and the quirky comedy genres to create something quite ahead of its time. Picket Fences even contains a cameo from The Man From Another Place (Michael J. Anderson), which is about as Twin Peaks as it gets.
Taking the concept of FBI agents investigating a murder in another direction, True Detective (particularly Season 1) is like Twin Peaks’ more serious little brother. If Twin Peaks removed any quirkiness or direct supernatural elements, True Detective would be born — but what True Detective lacks in quirkiness, it makes up for in surrealist imagery. When two agents begin investigating a young girl’s murder, they find themselves questioning their own philosophical and religious beliefs, leading them down a mysterious and very strange path and journey into themselves.
In terms of content and the examination of good and evil, Mr. Robot echoes a Twin Peaks-style duality. Each show was produced in very different eras, and, therefore, the content of the shows are distinctly varied. However, the comparisons lie in the blurred lines between right and wrong, good and evil and the internal struggles of the characters. Elliot Anderson’s issues with his mental health, including his paranoia and delusion, are much more direct and obvious than Agent Cooper’s deteriorating mental health was able to be back in the early 90s.
Another show following the unusual events in small-town America, Northern Exposure‘s similarity to Twin Peaks is largely seen in the idea of a displaced, big-city character finding themselves in a small, strange town. Northern Exposure is what Twin Peaks would have been if it were a comedy, with a more upbeat atmosphere than the David Lynch series. The transplantation of a New York City physician to Anchorage, Alaska mirrors Agent Cooper’s introduction to Twin Peaks, Washington, with both men navigating a quirky small town filled with secrets.
Yet another show about a small, secretive American town born in the shadow of Twin Peaks, Wayward Pines is seen as a direct derivative of TP. This show has plenty of strange elements, like the concept of an entire town held hostage by an oppressive Sheriff and an electrified fence, but they are more rooted in reality than the concept of body-snatching murderers and supernatural beings. Wayward Pines had a lot of potential with M. Night Shyamalan as a producer and an impressive cast (including Terrance Howard, Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Melissa Leo, Juliette Lewis and plenty more), but the show fell somewhat short. However, overall, Wayward Pines is a decent cure for any serious Twin Peaks cravings.
The Netflix series has drawn comparisons to many of its predecessors, including The Goonies, Stand By Me, E.T. and X-Files — but with its small-town setting and the premise of a missing child, Stranger Things definitely draws inspiration from Twin Peaks. The shows are largely similar in terms of tone and aesthetic, with ST playing up the nostalgia that TP came by honestly. They are also similar in their genre-blending, taking a show that seems to start as a mystery/drama before turning into a more supernatural experience. Stranger Things may be the least influenced by Twin Peaks compared to the other shows on this list, but there’s no question that the creators of Stranger Things would have been far more hesitant to create a show as nuanced and weird if there weren’t plenty of trailblazers to come before it.
KEEP READING: ABC, CBS, NBC & Lady Gaga Team For Television Event
Here are some of the shows inspired by David Lynch's Twin Peaks, from Lost to Wayward Pines.