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Thread: From 'Twin Peaks' to 'American Gods': Welcome to the Golden Age of Weird TV

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    Elite Member Waterslide's Avatar
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    Default From 'Twin Peaks' to 'American Gods': Welcome to the Golden Age of Weird TV

    I thought this was interesting article and since it mentions quite a few different shows, I thought it didn't really belong in any one of those specific threads. I think there's only one or two of these I've never watched, so this is right up my alley.

    From 'Twin Peaks' to 'American Gods': Welcome to the Golden Age of Weird TV

    How small-screen disruptors and gamechanging showrunners have helped turn trippy-as-hell television into the new normal
    From 'Twin Peaks' to 'American Gods' – how small-screen disruptors and gamechanging showrunners have helped usher in a Golden Age of Weird WTF TV. Starz

    By Brian Tallerico
    23 hours ago
    More News

    David Lynch on 'Twin Peaks' Revival: 'The Woods Are Full of Mystery''American Gods': How Neil Gaiman's Cult Novel Became Peak Weird TV5 Things We Learned From 'Legion,' Season 1'The OA': Behind the Scenes of Netflix's Mysterious New Hit Series'Fargo' Season 3: Noah Hawley and Cast on Sex, Lies & Stamp CollectionsAll Stories

    An FBI agent communicates with an eyeless woman on some cosmic, supernatural plain while a brain on a stalk issues cryptic orders. A living Goddess swallows a grown man into her vagina while in the middle of sexual intercourse. An international-waters orgy climaxes with a priest nearly forced to fornicate with a fake lioness, not long after tying up a man who claims to be God. A lounge-lizard who lives in a luxury igloo (technically, he resides in some sort of psychic limbo) swills cocktails and sprouts beat poetry. And don't even get us started about the afterlife-dwelling assassin who has to remove a key from his doppelganger's heart in order to start nuclear Armageddon.
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    20 TV Shows Most Influenced by 'Twin Peaks'From surreal murder mysteries and quirky small-town sitcoms to 'The X-Files' – these series owe David Lynch's cult show a serious debt

    These unforgettably bizarre moments from TV history didn't come from over a decade-plus of television programming – they all took place over the last few months or so, and all during the primetime slots. In 2017, an adventurous viewer can dip into the possessed FBI agents and otherworldly portals of Showtime's revived Twin Peaks, tour a schizophrenic superhero's fractured mindset on FX's Legion, journey to the afterlife with an everyman messiah on HBO's The Leftovers or witness a God in a dapper suit lead a 18th-century slave-ship rebellion on Starz's American Gods. And that may just be the tip of the WTFTV iceberg, which begs the question: What's going on with television right now? And are we in the middle of the medium's Golden Age of Weird?

    "We are at peak 'Peak TV' right now," says showrunner Bryan Fuller, the man behind the baroque horrorshow Hannibal and the virtually indescribable adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. "And the market is over-crowded with hundreds of dramas spread out over network, cable and streaming - formal experimentation is a necessary mutation of the format. There's a much greater appetite for coloring outside of the lines now more than ever before, because niche has become a quantifiable demographic. We are narratively peacock-ing, shaking our tail-feathers in an attempt to catch the audience's eye when they have plenty of birds to watch."

    It's not a coincidence that David Lynch's narratively peacock-ing "Peyton Place on acid" is making its comeback now, since you can trace much of the current landscape back to the original Twin Peaks. And though the Blue Velvet filmmaker had a collaborator in Hill Street Blues veteran Mark Frost, it was Lynch's on-brand, offbeat sensibility – the fever-dreamy interludes, the hallucinogenic nightmare sequences, the oddball humor, the Eisenhower-era throwback moments tinged with darkness – that distinguished the ABC show from everything else on the dial. We were used to seeing out-there moments on the big screen; the idea of catching a backwards-talking little person in a red suit, dropping cryptic hints about gum and breaking into a dance ("Let's rock!"), on the small screen felt like an impossibility. And the fact that audiences not only embraced Lynch's avant-garde soap opera but turned it into a massive hit felt nothing short of revolutionary.
    Nae Yuuki and Kyle MacLachlan in a scene from from Showtime's 'Twin Peaks: The Return.' Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIMEAs the Nineties progressed into the Prestige TV era, more creators were willing to explore the edges and see what they could get away with in a traditional TV format, from the talking-fish consiglieres of The Sopranos to the ghostly visions of Six Feet Under, the envelope-pushing extraterrestrial oddities of The X-Files to the flashback/flash-forward structure of Lost. What these shows shared, above all else, was the confident voice of someone willing to take risks. If Lynch could do that on television, so could David Chase, Chris Carter, Vince Gilligan, Alan Ball, Carlton Cuse – and so on.

    But it's arguably the creators who were still in elementary school when Lynch first burst through the traditional TV ceiling who are now leading this new, daring weird TV brigade. Showrunners like Fuller, Noah Hawley (Legion and Fargo, which isn't above dropping unexplained UFOs into its Minnesota Nice mix), Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story), Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers), Lily and Lana Wachowski (Sense8) and Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling (The OA) are no longer working from the standard TV outlines for a season, or a three-act episode; they're now defining their shows through the anything-goes visions fueling writer rooms. And thanks to the breadth of cable channels and streaming services in need of fresh content, there's never been a better opportunity for these TV-making "freaks" to fly their flags.
    "Everyone is making all these shows and the only way to distinguish yourself is to make something different and better, which makes TV the artist's market," Hawley says. "Hulu didn't really have a definition as a creator until The Handmaid's Tale – and now it has a real identity as 'The network that brings you Handmaid's Tale.' It was the same with AMC when they had Mad Men; look at what Transparent did for Amazon. One show can rebrand a provider as a serious heavyweight. So, what you're seeing is people are being encouraged to take risks, and so you're seeing these shows."
    "If everything is weird than nothing is weird – if it were all surreal ugliness then it wouldn't be interesting. You have to be able to balance that."-Noah Hawley, Legion showrunner
    There is a direct correlation between the sheer number of outlets in 2017 and the willingness for companies willing to let creative types travel to the outer limits in order to stand out. As Daniel Fienberg, TV critic for The Hollywood Reporter, notes, "Streaming and the overall expanded marketplace for scripted television have created something of an arms race when it comes to securing the talents of the handful of hot showrunners or creative talents. And in the process of attempting to secure these writer-producers (who are also increasingly directors), it's necessary to give them the keys to the car. We're seeing an awful lot of free rein – and these shows are how the Noah Hawleys and Damon Lindelofs and David Lynchs manifest freedom."
    Thanks to premium-cable channels and original-content providers like Netflix, the traditional restraints of network TV have become outdated and the model for what's considered a success on TV has changed. The latter's ability to help unique shows like The OA and Sense8 find receptive audiences has rippled through their competition – now everyone wants to be the network/channel/service that's got the hot new show everyone is talking about. Streaming services don't need to worry about ratings (Netflix does not make its viewer numbers for their shows public) so long as subscribers keep coming in, while cable networks are taking into account time-shifted viewing more and more. Couple that with less concern about low numbers even from ad-supported TV, and Hawley equates it to having "a lot more rope with which to hang ourselves."

    What's important to keep in mind about these shows is that none of these "weird" choices are arbitrary. The fractured stories of Sense8, the unreliable perspective of Legion, the mix-and-match mythology approach of American Gods – they may challenge viewers ideas about linear narratives or even basic 1+1= 2 logic, but all of them are tethered to something relatable in terms of genre and engaging audiences' hearts and minds. "If everything is weird than nothing is weird," says Hawley. "That was what so great about Twin Peaks in its first season – you have this sort of gee-whiz normal life, into which begins to creep this really surreal ugliness. But if it were all surreal ugliness then it wouldn't be interesting. You have to be able to balance that."
    Jemaine Clement and Bill Irwin get weird in a scene from FX's 'Legion.' Michelle Faye/FX"There will be always be more of those trying to find the new spin on the hoary old cliché," Fuller says. "And talented writers are going to continue to find those new spins and make us forget the hoary old cliché and relish the whirl, because ultimately that's what a large portion of the viewing audience wants: something familiar with a little turn, or a lotta turn."
    "You always hear the stories about Picasso," Hawley muses. "In order to be able to do the very abstract work he did, first he had to know how to draw the human body. He had to be very good at the literal in order to make the leap." Hawley also compares the new wave of surreal television to jazz, noting that "in order to improvise jazz, you have to know what the tune is and then deconstruct it."
    The question then becomes: How much weird TV is too much? Even Hawley admits that even he feels like there "may be a little fatigue that's setting in," amplified by the fact that the 5pm Trump news-dump can sometimes feel more surreal than anything the Black Lodge has to offer. "As they say, it's hard to turn a battleship," he says. "So, as people are caught up in world events, new shows are continuing to be dumped and it's hard to keep up. I think that there will always be a demand for something that captures the zeitgeist, for a show that feels like it was made for this moment specifically. There are a lot of storytellers who will continue to get big audiences [but] there has to be a contraction. You just can't absorb all of it."
    RELATED


    Rob Sheffield on Why 'Twin Peaks' Was Made for the Binge-TV EraDavid Lynch gets the band back together and returns with a show that was made for our current WTF moment

    So how will that contraction impact the state of Weird TV in the future? Will Starz be defined by American Gods' warring deities and Gillian Anderson dressing up as David Bowie's Alladin Sane? Will Showtime run with the massive amount of street cred generated by Lynch's rebooted Twin Peaks and become the new premium-cable home for surrealism? (The initial less-than-boffo viewership stats suggest it's unlikely, but let's wait and see.) Will we see anything like The Leftovers again any time soon? It seems plausible that TV can't maintain such a high degree of overall formal experimentalism on a long-term basis, and one should never forget that there's still a lot mindless junk to contrast against this new wave of "weird TV."




    But what's more likely is that weird is simply going to be a part of the new small-screen landscape that doesn't go away. Barring the occasional Alfred Hitchock Presents outlier, television has long been a writer's medium, and this recent embrace of the visionary auteur within it is a natural progression of the form. "As TV shifts into smaller batch programming and more artisanal approaches to production," Fienberg says, "there's more and more opportunity for a Hawley or a Lynch or a [Mr. Robot's Sam] Esmail, even, to wear every hat, or even for more non-creator writers to direct – and that allows for a greater through-line of vision from the writers room to the screen."
    How We Ended Up in the Golden Age of Weird WTF TV - Rolling Stone
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    Elite Member Trixie's Avatar
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    I've watched the first 4 episodes of the Twin Peaks reboot and it's very much WTF TV. We'll see if I can get through all 18. (If I'd never watched the original series and movie, I probably wouldn't bother)

    Also watching Fargo, I think it's the weakest of the 3 seasons. It definitely didn't pull me in like the last one, but I'm still in.

    Haven't seen the rest mentioned. I tried to get into The Leftovers when it first started, but for whatever reason didn't stick with it.
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    Elite Member Waterslide's Avatar
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    I got through about 20 minutes of the Twin Peaks reboot and was WTF'ed out. I was going to give it another try, but based on that 20 minutes I do agree that if you haven't seen the show, you probably will not be sticking with it. I haven't seen much of it, but if they were trying to outweird themselves, I don't think that was a necessary move.

    I caught up with Fargo while at work doing other stuff, and again, I absolutely agree this season is the weakest. I don't feel one way or the other about any of the characters this season and since I'm watching it with earbuds, I'd really like them to knock it off with the puking episodes.

    I have not yet decided whether to invest my time in The Leftovers or Legion, though if I didn't have ten zillion other shows to watch, I would probably watch them.
    You know, a dozen press agents working overtime can do terrible things to the human spirit. ~Cecil B. DeMille
    Gross, put it away. You could dress beautifully but you gotta be Miss Granny Panty Whore.
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    I've suffered through the first three episodes of the Twin Peaks reboot because Bloke is a fan and his way-too-helpful mother has been recording it for him to watch after Sunday dinner at her house. It's fuckery, pure and simple fuckery. I've given up even rolling my eyes at it and spent most of the third episode trying to discretely doze through it.
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    Sound like I could write a good tv show now if that's what people are watching now. I just need to write when I wake up in the morning because that stuff sounds a lot like what my dreams are.

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    I am so glad that Twin Peaks is back on, it's one of my favorite TV shows. Though you really need to watch Fire Walk With Me and the older episodes to gain a better understanding. At the moment, so much is going on and Lynch has introduced new characters so I am curious to see how the show evolves.
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    yeah, it was a big wtf for us. we only kept watching it just to see how crazy it was gonna get and we still keep saying we're gonna watch the next episode but still haven't.

    i read a review about the first two parts just to have it interpreted for me. i didn't pick up any of that shit, even after it was explained in a review. i was thinking there's no way this writer could've figured this out without having prior knowledge of what the premise of this show is about. and he was even saying, "obviously, it was a take on how humans would act without ever having existed before....." or some shit like that. yea right, obviously my ass.

    and the quick, jerky camera tweaks made me feel like i was trippin, like i was watching a gif.

    but i did like seeing david duchovney and loved seeing michael sera. it was so weird.
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    American Gods is like the weirdest thing I ever saw. On TV. Incomprehensible. When the first episode was over I was like "WTF did I just watch???"

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    i haven't watched american gods yet but i hear there's a lot of penis so i'm definitely gonna check it out.

    and i love the original twin peaks enough to give the reboot a try but i'm also hesitant because most reboots suck. at least lynch is super involved in this one, which makes me think it might actually be good.
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    ^^Bloke is a huuuuuge Lynch fan (which is why I have to suffer through TP:TR every Sunday) and even he is finding it pretty incomprehensible and "weird, even for David Lynch". Give it a try if you want but don't expect to be wowed in a good way.
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    Elite Member Kittylady's Avatar
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    Is anyone still sticking with this? I couldn't find a reason to get out of watching it on Sunday and all I can say is:

    I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me. Hunter S Thompson

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    I love American Gods. I never watched the original Twin Peaks so I have no interest in the new one. I haven't heard of Legion, what's it about?
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    Elite Member Trixie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kittylady View Post
    Is anyone still sticking with this? I couldn't find a reason to get out of watching it on Sunday and all I can say is:

    Twin Peaks? I have 10 episodes on my dvr now, not sure if I'll get through them or delete. dvr is getting full.
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    Elite Member Kittylady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trixie View Post
    Twin Peaks? I have 10 episodes on my dvr now, not sure if I'll get through them or delete. dvr is getting full.
    Give it a try if you want, just don't expect anything to make any fucking sense whatsoever.
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    Nothing beats the original Twin Peaks. Ever. Period.

    Major water cooler talk at work in those days!
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