Reaching the "Twin Peaks" of weirdness
par Matt Roush

Killer surfaces as show´s ratings sink

At long last, Twin Peaks told us who killed Laura Palmer: Daddy done it.

A violently disturbing revelation, too, as we found that Laura´s loopy pop Leland (Ray Wise) was the "human host" of malevolent spirit Bob. In the brutal climax, directed by David Lynch, Leland / Bob attacks and maybe kills Laura´s cousin Maddy (played by Sheryl Lee). And what about Laura´s mother, left crawling on the floor? It was a sensational payoff, but for many, another nagging question lingers: Who´s left to know?

The cult following for this creepy soap has steadily dwindled in the ratings, now averaging a mere 14% of the audience on Saturday nights. Many bolted from the draggy pacing of the season´s early episodes, gave up because it was too weird or not weird enough, turned off when its touchstones (coffee, etc.) resurfaced or complained when they disappeared (like the soap-within-the-soap Invitation to Love).

"I´m sure these things are frustrating to some, but to me, it´s kind of the way life is ... the ebb and flow, the way things vary in their importance to you from day to day," muses executive producer Mark Frost. He believes ABC is happy enough about the type of viewers it attracts to leave it alone.

And ABC publicly maintains there´s no problem, even as analysts and skeptics hoot about networks narrowcasting themselves out of existence. Let them hoot. The owls are not what they seem (or so they say on Peaks). Devotees remain seduced by the eerie hilarity this show somehow maintains, despite its consistencies and irritating languors. It sustains a mood of unsettling mystery in a medium that settles for the slick and pat.

From Nadine´s superhuman and super-funky bout of amnesia and Leo Johnson´s sinister coma to the larger puzzles, Peaks remains unlike anything else on television.

As for the numbers, "It´s part of a cultural sickness where we presume that bigger is better. Sheer numbers and the contemplation of them might be interesting, but doesn´t necessarily confer on the object being considered any greater value," says Frost, sounding like someone who might change his tune if the rating improved. Twin Peaks has changed how some view TV and its possibilities. If it can also subtly shift the way we view the ratings horse race, even better.


Catherine was there all along

By Matt Roush
USA Today

VAN NUYS, Calif. -

Now we know where Emmy-nominated Piper Laurie has been on Twin Peaks all season. Beneath facial hair and Japanese drag, assuming the persona of fictional actor "Fumio Yamaguchi" while her name was taken off the credits. "We talked about bringing Catherine (her character) back in disguise, and Piper suggested a Japanese businessman," says executive producer Mark Frost. "The best part was we decided we wanted to fool the whole cast and crew," says Laurie, 58, who came to the set each day made up, with an interpreter and clutching Japanese magazines. "On the set, I had a manner that was very off-putting. Kyle (MacLachlan, who plays agent Cooper) wouldn´t even acknowledge my presence."

She didn´t sleep the night before her first day as Fumio. "It was like I´d never acted." Her co-workers knew something was up. "People thought it was David Lynch, except he´s too tall. Then it was, 'I think it´s Isabella (Rossellini, Lynch´s girlfriend).'

"I know Jack Nance (who plays her husband, Pete Martell) didn´t know. He had two long scenes with me... I just assumed he knew, but then I heard he went into (supervising producer) Gregg Fienberg´s office and said, 'About that actor. Boy, he´s weird!'" she says, mimicking Nance.

Laurie, who´s also filming the movie Other People´s Money opposite Gregory Peck, is glad the subterfuge is over. "This whole thing has caused me so much problems in my personal relationships. At first, everyone was so concerned (that she´d been dropped), but now... people don´t mention it anymore."

Her nephew threw a Peaks party for the season opener and was embarrassed when "Aunt Sissy" didn´t appear. A concerned Roddy McDowall called. "All I could say was, it´s all right, keep watching. It´s been very strange."


Fooled by a coup de 'Peaks'

"Am I interupting anything?" piped Piper Laurie as she entered the Twin Peaks production office in the middle of an interview. Heck no, thought, smeeling a scoop, not seeing a dupe. Not 20 minutes before, I had suffered through an agonizing and non-illuminating phone interview with "Fumio Yamaguchi," a new Peaks actor who had by then only appeared in one brief scene. With a mock interpreter - actually the show´s unit publicist - helping me and Fumio understand each other, and with a fake bio of his credits at my side, I figured I´d blown that story.

Enter Piper, who tossed me a few vague clues about her return to the show before lapsing into her froggy Fumio voice. I´d been set up. I´d been Twin piqued.

(To my credit, notes I´d taken during her / his first appearance on Twin Peaks read, "Vaguely feminine .... Is it Catherine?") This was her final Fumio triumph. At my expense. Bravo.

Matt Roush
USA Today, Monday, November 12, 1990