Like all rational people we here at The Flyover believe Twin Peaks to the single greatest work of art in the history of mankind, not least of which because David Lynch and Mark Frost’s surreal small town murder mystery (due for a Showtime revival in 2016) is set in a vibrant and distinct locale that is not New York or Los Angeles. The series’ influence is apparent in virtually every great show oft-referenced in “Golden Age of Television” think pieces littering the internet, but plenty of others have written about that already. What we’re concerned about here is a sincerer indicator of canonization: imitation. In this series of posts we’ll be examining the many Twin Peaks rip-offs, across all media, that appeared in the groundbreaking show’s wake, eventually to be compiled into one definitive ranking.
Please note that the term “rip-off” is used (for the most part) affectionately, so don’t get your panties (or cherry stem) in a twist. Make your own suggestions or tell us how wrong or right you think we are in the comments if you feel like it.
PASADENA (FOX TV series, 2001)
This forgotten primetime soap that aired only a few episodes on FOX in 2001 is Twin Peaks transplanted to L.A.’s chi-chi inner suburb. It mutes Twin Peaks’ overtly surrealistic touches, focusing instead the conspiracy elements, centering on the investigation of one rich and connected family’s seamy influence on the titular city and the lengths they will go to to keep the sordid doings of the past covered up. Pasadena’s Horne family analogue is the Greeleys, whose power and riches are built on a vast and long-lived publishing empire. A death—not a murder, but the suicide of a stranger who claims to know something of the Greeleys’ sordid past—compels teenage Lily (Allison Lohman) to investigate her increasingly unhinged and nefarious-seeming mother. As in Twin Peaks, one of the irresistible storytelling hooks is that it’s the innocent teenagers—who command the least authority—with the staunchest sense of integrity who root out the truth while the adults conspire against them.
The show should have been a career high for Dana Delaney (as Lily’s mother, Catherine), who would later turn down Marcia Cross’s role in Desperate Housewives because the character was too similar to what she’d already done on Pasadena. It also has more provocative observations about wealth and class than you’d expect from a soapy FOX series, observations that creator Mike White would bring to a very different but equally great show, HBO’s Enlightened. By the time they filmed the 13th and final episode, White knew the series would be canceled and took the opportunity to provide a finale that provides closure to the series’ central mystery but that is nearly as haunting as Peaks’ “How’s Annie?” coda in its unabashed cynicism.
“Why didn’t they just take one of the fucking bones?!?!” This is something my wife and I yell at the screen and each other whenever a character in a TV show or movie fails to perform a simple and effortless action that, if it had been performed, would have easily and neatly averted catastrophe and conflict. It’s a reference to a midseason development in which Lily and her friend Henry discover but don’t bother to take a single piece of irrefutable evidence of the Greeleys’ wrongdoings before Catherine and her family dispose of it.
Propulsively plotted, Pasadena would be an ideal stream or DVD set for today’s binge and marathon culture, but it remains sadly (officially) unreleased. It is a great lost uncanonized TV should-be classic. We at The Flyover, however, have docked it one point on account of it being set in Los Angeles County.
TENTATIVE RANKING: Upper Tier