“The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” (Book Review)

“The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” (Book Review)

During the height of its popularity, people debated the secrets of Twin Peaks all the time. It became the most popular show to create water cooler discussions, since there was always so much going on, so many strange things, and so many secrets.

One of the secrets of the show was the mysteries held within the diary that Laura Palmer kept, and left behind with her Meals on Wheels shut-in friend before she died.

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer was released between Seasons 1 and 2 of the show, and provided die-hard viewers with some major insight into one of the major characters of the show- even if she was never actually alive on it. The book became a New York Times best seller, and was penned by the daughter of series creator David Lynch, Jennifer Lynch.

laura3Instead of arguing about the merits of the writing- it does a good job to read mostly like a diary written by a teenage girl- it is more important to focus on the things that it revealed about Laura, as her secrets were beginning to become exposed on the show.

Laura was definitely the epitome of a character struggling with duality. She was a good girl gone bad, and The Secret Diary takes us through her fall from grace, as she discovers her raucous sexuality, and love of drugs, particularly cocaine. Laura is constantly conflicted about who she is. She is the teen queen of Twin Peaks, respected and loved by all, but she has a very dark side that she tries her best to cover up. She falls in with the wrong people, and makes poor decision after poor decision, always trying to escape her own dark side by doing things that ironically bring her closer to the dark side.

One of the interesting tidbits from the book are her involvement with BOB, the psychotic killer and representation of all evil, that haunts her, and taunts her, throughout her life. It is the interactions that she has with BOB that lead her to sleepless nights, which eventually lead her further into drugs and sex. For those who have watched Twin Peaks, and understand the role that BOB had in her death, it is an interesting case of foreshadowing, without revealing too much about how she is going to end up dead.

But she knows that she is, that she has started down a path that will provide no happy ending for her.

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer offers us some nice insight for the show. It creates a back story for the most secretive character in the town. Many of the things that emerge from the diary are seen or re-created in the film prequel to the series, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which chronicles the final week of Laura’s life prior to her murder. For those who would have read the book between the seasons, it also gives us a little information that is not revealed until season 2, which would have made people who read the book know things that others did not, such as the final location of her true diary. There are also clever tie-ins with the show, in that some pages of the diary are ripped out, as they are in the show. This is done so that not too much is revealed, such as the killer, or the twisted relationship that she had with her father. It is one of the more intelligent book tie-ins to go along with a television series: giving us enough to keep watching, but not so much that we have no reason to keep viewing. It is a good teaser.

laura2Laura is a messed-up girl. As we move forward through the series Twin Peaks, we realize how damaged and broken she was, that she was not the prom queen that everybody wanted to see in her. She was a tortured soul, and barely kept her life together for a long time before she died.

There are a couple of curious things that the book raises. How was Laura able to be such a good person, while hiding such a dark side? As in, how did she have enough time to tutor Johnny Horne, deliver Meals on Wheels, teach Josie Packard English, go to school, date Bobby Briggs, do a ton of cocaine, work at Horne’s department store, also work at One Eyed Jack’s, sleep with half the town of Twin Peaks, participate in forest orgies, maintain a friendship with Donna Hayward, and fall for James Hurley? This is the busies girl of all-time! Also, she tried very hard to hide her dark side from the outside world, trying to keep it contained. But judging by the amount of sex, partying, and drugs that she took part in, how is it that nobody ever revealed or spoke about her secrets? How could her wild life, which involved so many people from the town, still be unknown to everybody? These are the slight flaws that are raised by The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, simply because we now know so much more about her than we do from just watching the show.

This is definitely a quick read, and a pretty good one for true fans of the show. It allows us to see behind the character that really serves as the centerpiece of the show, since it is her death that brings everything together, and begins to unravel the secrets of the mysterious town.

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“Wrapped in Plastic. Twin Peaks.” (Book Review)

“Wrapped in Plastic. Twin Peaks.” (Book Review)

The day that Laura Palmer was found dead on the beach in the small Washington town of Twin Peaks, a cult-classic was unleashed.

Even though the series only lasted for a total of 30 episodes spread across two uneven seasons, Twin Peaks has remained a phenomenon, and consistently viewed as a show that was able to change the face of network television. 30 episodes have created a ton of fan websites, a yearly festival, magazines, books, and even after much desire from the public, who was both fans of the show when it initially aired, and those who have discovered it in the quarter-century since, there will be a new run of episode of Twin Peaks starting in 2016.

plastic2I have written a few items on the show on this blog, as well as more on my often-neglected Twin Peaks blog. If you want to read a review of another book related to the show, please check out https://gatsbyfuneral.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/reflections-an-oral-history-of-twin-peaks-book-review/.

Wrapped in Plastic. Twin Peaks provides us with another view on the series, and one that is incredibly well done in a very short amount of space. As a part of the Pop Classics collection (which also includes books on Showgirls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), this story of Twin Peaks is done in a great way that provides more information for the Peak Freak out there, as well as the casual viewer, or one just getting into the show. There is much repeated information in here, if you are a die-hard fan and follower of the show, but it still provides enough insight to keep it interesting, over its very brief 101 pages.

Something I especially enjoyed about the book was the nods to the humour in the show. So many things that are written about Twin Peaks focus on the darkness, on the strangeness, and on the the murder of Laura Palmer, and then the following decent of the show from the heights of pop culture after the murdered was revealed. But so many people forget that there were so many moments in the series that were very humorous, and they no longer deserve to be neglected. Author Andy Burns does a great job of reminding us of those funny moments, and how it added so much to the show, as well as giving us a break from the messy lives of the people that inhabited the small town.

plastic3Wrapped in Plastic also does a strong job of citing the influence that Twin Peaks has had on modern television. We often hear about how influential it was, but Burns goes to the point where he describes the impact that this show had on other major dramas of our time, from The Sopranos to The X-FilesNorthern Exposure to Psych. It really brings everything all together, and after reading the book, it gave me a new appreciation of how important this series really was in changing the way that networks viewed the shows they were airing, and how people were watching them, and what they were willing to deal with.

Burns takes us quickly through the development of the series, the casting, and the magic of David Lynch and Mark Frost in creating the show, along with notes on several of the episodes in the series. He writes like he truly loves the show, which is great, because let’s be honest…the vast majority of the readers of this book are also going to be fans of the show, and want to read about it by someone who loved it too. He also focuses a fair amount of his time on the development of the themes in the series, such as the duality of the characters, demonstrated primarily by the role of the Black Lodge, and the dopplegangers that are found within. I found this quite interesting, especially when many more connections were made to the prequel film, Fire Walk With Me, as it offered me some views that I had not thought of before.

While Wrapped in Plastic is not as in-depth and intensive as something like Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, it still manages to get to quite a bit. With the book being so short, I had no trouble reading it in one sitting, in a little over an hour. This speaks not only to the brevity of this work, but to the readability of it. It is very interesting, and it is always great to be taken back into the town of Twin Peaks, and into the lives of the characters in it. And Burns does a great job of doing that, exploring the relationships between the characters, pointing out his observations, along with generally maintained theories about the show.

For those die-hard fans of Twin Peaks, who are clamoring for something to keep them occupied until the much anticipated Mark Frost novel, The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks comes out at the end of the year, and then the 2016 episodes, Wrapped in Plastic is a fantastic place to get back into the world of our favorite town. It does well to be nostalgic, so fans can remember the lofty heights of the show, even remembering its demise with some affection, and it does well to look forward, to see how the fingerprints of Twin Peaks are all over our current television landscape.

“Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks” (Book Review)

“Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks” (Book Review)

Author Brad Dukes has put together an amazing compilation of interviews that took place over the span of a few years, and has managed to piece it together into a compelling narrative that describes to fans the creation and execution of one of the greatest cult TV shows of all-time, Twin Peaks.

In his novel, Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, he managed to gather most of the important people that made this seminal 1990’s drama possible, and charts its rise to the peak of popular culture, and its quick fall from grace, and the legacy that the show has maintained 25 years later.

reflections2One major strength of this book is that Dukes himself rarely interjects into the story that is being told by the cast, crew, directors, and writers of the series that he interviewed. He allows them to tell the story, from their first person experiences, and this really allows us, obviously the fans of Twin Peaks, to enter into the universe of the small Washington town, where everybody has secrets. The only notable absence from Dukes’ impressive list of interviews is David Lynch, who served as one of the creators of the show, and directed many of its most famous episodes, with his weird style and twists that can only be described as Lynchian. Everybody else was gathered, from the central actors (such as Kyle MacLachlan and Sherilyn Fenn), to the other creator, Mark Frost, and what they have provided is an insightful and honest look at the series.

It is interesting to see how everything was conceived, and surprisingly sold to the network, before it went on its magical first season run that took the TV viewing nation by storm. Twin Peaks, and the central questions of finding out “Who killed Laura Palmer?” became front page gossip and the ultimate water cooler talk. People hosted Twin Peaks parties every week, and the actors (and more specifically, actresses) of the show gained instant fame- including the rare (at the time) non-musician cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

The show was a massive hit, but the network stepped in a little too much during the second season, changing Twin Peaks from a Thursday night hit, to a show buried on Saturday nights. Numerous of the interviewees state that the network was never really on board with the show, and they didn’t really know what they had. The time slot change was a huge blow for the show, but not as bad as them desperately wanting the writers and producers to reveal Laura’s killer as soon as possible. While the series was absolutely incredible through the reveal of the murderer, the rest of the second season began to lose its way, veering into the territory of slapstick comedy at times, and introducing many new characters and story lines that were never able to grab the audience in the same way as the Laura Palmer murder did.

reflections3It is extremely interesting to hear everyone involved in the show, and their dismay with the way the second season went. Some of the actors hated what was happening to their characters, and hearing them not believing in their stories is a little sad, regardless of the honesty. There were should have been storylines that were quashed for one reason or another (to which Fenn is pretty honest…the lack of Lara Flynn Boyle being interviewed for the book was notable, as there is not a second side of that story for her to explain), and a growing rift and disconnect between the original creators, Frost and Lynch. The show was more frequently left in the hands of other producers, and a new batch of writers, who were trying to recreate the genius of the first season, and often failing miserably.

Eventually, Twin Peaks was able to save parts of its second season with the introduction of the Windom Earle story, as he served as a nemesis from Agent Cooper’s past that brought tension, murder, and mayhem back into the sleepy town. But we were still never as captured as we had been with Laura, and the characters that were created, written, and acted so beautifully in the first season of the show. Ratings declined, and despite an avant-garde and shocking finale to the second season, the show was cancelled.

And now it lives on as a cult classic (that will be returning to the air in 2016 with new episodes). Reflections is not the only book that has been written about this show, but it is one of the better ones, if only because it really does tell us the oral story of how everything happened on the show, and how it changed the lives of the people involved. Brad Dukes did an excellent job of conducting the interviews, and piecing them together in a way that makes us feel like we are reading a story. There are great details and tidbits about most of the episodes, and for true Peak Freaks, this book is an absolute must-read. There is the retelling of the stories we have heard before, and the revelation of stories that had not come out previously. All of it is in this book, and it is very insightful.

For now, while we anxiously await the new season in 2016, and the upcoming Mark Frost novel, The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks, in 2015, Reflections allows us to go back in time, and view the creation of an amazing show, through the eyes of those who lived and created it.

A great read.

Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 1

Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 1

I’ve written a fair amount about Veronica Mars, because I just love it. I’ve written about the movie trailer, the film itself, and have even read the first novel in what is a possible VM book series, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line.

Going back to where it all began, season 1 of the cult TV show is simply an awesome watch. Over the course of the season, we see the development of the characters that would play roles throughout the series, and we would see Kristen Bell become Veronica, to the point where she is one of the best female TV characters of the last decade.

And seeing as how Veronica Mars has been a recent addition to the Netflix lineup, it seemed an appropriate time to write about it. While I have gone through the entire series three times prior, seeing it on Netflix drew me back in for another complete viewing.

veronica2After Laura Palmer, and well before Rosie Larson, we wanted to know who killed Lilly Kane.

The premise of the first season is to introduce the once popular, but now pariah character of Veronica Mars, daughter to the former sheriff of Neptune, California, where the social divide is great between the haves and the have nots. Veronica used to run with the popular group, date the son of a billionaire, and be well respected among her peers at school. But that all changed after her best friend, Lilly, was murdered. Her father, Keith Mars, tried to pin the murder on Jake Kane, Lilly’s father, which essentially ostracized both of them from the high end people of Neptune. Veronica stuck with her father, not believing that the murder was solved, as the new sheriff would have everyone believe. Sure, there was a man behind bars, but something never fit right with the Mars family. Now, no longer sheriff, Keith is a private detective in town, and Veronica helps him on some of his cases. Often of the more sordid variety, such as cheating husbands.

But Veronica wants to know who really killed her best friend. Not to get back in with the cool people at school, but for her peace, Lilly’s peace, and her father’s vindication.

The first season of Veronica Mars has the long, over-arching story line of who killed Lilly. But in between, there are smaller arcs, as well as episode one offs, all of which are fun and interesting little mysteries, filled with wit, humour, and the perfect amount of seriousness, all while exploring topics of class division, popularity, and the typical teen issues. Veronica deals with small cases, like mysterious dog disappearances, to bigger things, like drug smuggling, and her own drugging and rape at a school party.

Veronica has a chip on her shoulder, and she is determined to get revenge on people who have wronged her, and wronged the people that she cares about. While her behavior can be morally questionable at times, Veronica always has justice at heart, which makes her an intriguing character.

She has a veneer of sarcasm that is able to protect a hurt girl, who has many wrongs in her life. Aside from the fall from popular grace, she has had to deal with an alcoholic mother who eventually abandons her family, questions about her own paternity, the scorn of the people from her past, and the struggles to balance her unique job and her studies, where she is a top student without the money to go to an elite school. She needs to earn everything she gets, and she is faced with tough decisions all the way through the first season.

But she is tough, which is why we love her. There is nary a situation that doesn’t warrant a quip from her, and the writers of the show gave Bell some great material to work with. But it is Bell that really makes this character come alive, and she gives Veronica the edge and humour that make her so lovable, and an easy character to cheer for.

The first season is full of twists and turns, both within the small story lines, as well as the big one. There are plenty of laughs, and plenty of strong secondary characters that make the show go round. Particularly strong is the relationship between Keith and his daughter, as they are serious about their work, but also seem to have the perfect father-daughter relationship, in that they can confide in one another, and do so quite hilariously at times.

Regardless of your taste in TV, Veronica Mars should be considered as a must see series. It never got the viewers it should have during its time on TV, but warrants a watching now. It is non-stop entertainment, with clever writing full of allusions that will make the knowledgeable pop culture junkie happy. Even having gone through the series several times, I still find myself enjoying the show, the quips, and being more knowing and involved in the mystery.

Twin Peaks: “Just You and I”

Twin Peaks: “Just You and I”

I am an absolute massive fan of the 90’s cult TV series Twin Peaks. A yearly tradition of mine is to re-watch the entire series from beginning to finish, and then wonder about it for the rest of the year, until I watch it again. It is one of the most mysterious, intriguing, and weird shows that has ever been on television. It is absolutely incredible.

For those who have never watched Twin Peaks, it is amazing to watch it now and realize that there was a time when a show this odd could have been a massive prime time hit. It combines so many interesting elements, and plays on the traditional soap opera so well. The fact that David Lynch could have a prime time hit is something to sit back and wonder at.

For fans of the show, there are so many story lines that could be written about (and hopefully I can write about them at some point), but the one I will now discuss takes place in Season 2, Episode 2. It is one of the weirdest moments in a show that is based on a series of weird moments.

It is James, Donna, and Maddie singing “Just You and I.”

While sitting around Donna’s living room, for no apparent reason, the trio sing a song that we can only guess was written by James. He sings in a high voice, leaning awkwardly from a chair towards a low microphone, while faking playing the guitar, and the girls sing soft backup girls. While singing, James looks at Maddy, a spitting image for the departed Laura Palmer, and Donna loses it, feeling that James is still in love with Laura, or in turn, has fallen for Maddy, Laura’s cousin from out of town.

Plot purpose aside, the scene sticks out like a sore thumb. The song is so bad, that it’s kind of good, but then goes all the way back to being terrible again.

It is hard not to love.

For a show with so many stories taking place at the same time, the one that involves James Hurley is one that deteriorates into perhaps the worst one in the show, and this moment of the song seems to be the incident that begins the downfall of his tale. He was never a beloved character in my mind, always far too emotional and weak to be among the other great fictional people in the show. James always came across as a meek, biker wannabe, who was far too fragile to be involved with the likes of Laura Palmer, or any of the other goings on of the twisted town of Twin Peaks. I was glad when he left town, and always sit through his awkward character arc when he moves in with some random woman in another town.

In a series as perfectly weird as Twin Peaks, we the viewers come to accept many things that would not fly in another series. Prophecies from giants, dancing midgets in the Black Lodge, a wacky doctor in love with his patient, gallons of coffee, a woman who speaks to her log. All of these things are perfectly Twin Peaks.

However, “Just You and I” is an awkward moment that really seems to have no place in the show.

But I love it anyway.