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.
WAYWARD PINES (FOX TV series, 2015)
Based on a series of novels by Blake Crouch that, according to varying sources, either began as Twin Peaks fan fiction or is merely heavily “inspired” by Twin Peaks, this show has wooded Pacific Northwest atmosphere in spades and small-town conspiracies aplenty. What it lacks is any of Peaks’ subtlety or ethereal qualities. Sure, Peaks pissed off plenty of viewers who accused Frost and Lynch of “making it up as they go along” (also known as “writing”), but I’ll take its wonky, inconsistent, spiritual mythology over Pines’ lame sci-fi twists (ideal for TV series helmer M. Night Shyamalan).
As a setting, Wayward Pines, Idaho, lacks any character beyond a general tone of foreboding and the characters that dwell within it are without charm or intrigue. When the show tries for Peaks-style idiosyncrasy, they lean too heavily on facile quirks like Sheriff Pope’s penchant for ice cream. (It doesn’t help that Terrence Howard delivers his lines with all the panache and energy of a guy reciting cue cards.) The townspeople are so one-dimensional and needlessly, openly malicious as to sap the narrative of any tension. Given that it’s overwhelmingly obvious that something is “not right” with the town of Wayward Pines, there’s nothing more for protagonist Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) to do than spend a lot of time wandering around and saying “Look” and “Listen,” before explaining himself: “Look, I’m just trying to get back to my family.” “Listen, I need to find out what’s going on!”
It would be too complimentary to call Pines an homage, though this shot of neon light reflected in a puddle is a clear attempt to mine some of Peaks’ indelible imagery.
Wayward Pines is worse than a rip-off. It’s a wannabe.
TENTATIVE RANKING: Low Tier