I didn’t grow up with Twin Peaks. Neither did most fans of the show who I know, really — not the friend who dressed up as James, complete with leather jacket and guyliner, for Halloween; not the 20-something barista who slapped a “damn fine coffee” sticker on my local coffee shop’s tip jar. Like me, these friends and acquaintances found Agent Cooper through their laptops, not their televisions, and burned through the series in two weeks, not two years. In other words, we’re the new face of the Twin Peaks fan, and we’re a major reason why the show’s coming back in 2016.
Along with Arrested Development and Freaks and Geeks, Twin Peaks belongs to a particular pantheon of Gen Y cultural touchstones. Late, lamented, and lauded, they’re shows that were canceled before their time, under-appreciated by contemporary viewers or insufficiently visionary network execs. So we’ve claimed them for our own, making Audrey Horne collages the hipster dorm room equivalent of the basic bitch’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s poster.
Twin Peaks’ surge in popularity among those of us who weren’t even alive when it first aired is partly due to the defining difference between our viewing habits and those of our forebears. As live viewing has become just one of many ways we watch TV, the need for shows to actually be on the air in order to be trendy has diminished. It’s become common practice to put off seasons of even hit shows like Mad Men until they show up on Netflix, and Breaking Bad didn’t become, well, Breaking Bad until it had time to shore up a small army of dedicated streamers. So when Twin Peaks showed up on our stepbrother’s friend’s mom’s account at no extra charge, it didn’t matter that the show was pushing 25. It mattered that we didn’t have to catch a rerun by chance, or take the time to hunt down a physical copy.
The availability wouldn’t have mattered, obviously, if Twin Peaks wasn’t Twin Peaks. (Netflix and Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, after all, have seven Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters for every Gilmore Girls, and none of those are getting a Showtime revival.) David Lynch’s foray into primetime appealed to its 2010s audience for many of the same reasons it was a hit during its original run: the idiosyncrasies; the suspense (who killed Laura Palmer, sure, but more importantly, who the hell is Diane?!); the uncanny mix of wholesome and freakish that characterizes so much of Lynch’s oeuvre.
For a generation that came of age in the aughts’ saturated TV landscape, though, Twin Peaks resonated as much for its familiarity as its strangeness. Nothing’s exactly like it, but there’s a whole lot that comes close, whether it’s The X-Files or Top of the Lake. Writer Alice Bolin argues that Twin Peaks launched a genre she calls the “Dead Girl Show,” including series as disparate as Veronica Mars and True Detective; James Orbesen goes even further, claiming the series enabled “the entire Golden Age of TV,” including Breaking Bad. Even though we millennials (cringe) didn’t literally grow up on Twin Peaks, we certainly grew up in its shadow.
Recognizable and available, Twin Peaks is practically tailor-made for a generation that, unlike late-’80s audiences, isn’t surprised by weird, auteur-ish, innovative TV, but used to it. David Lynch may have been a decade ahead of The Sopranos, The Wire, or Deadwood (all, coincidentally, also created by people named David — CONSPIRACY!), but in 2014, he’s not even the only cinematic heavyweight on the small screen. Steven Soderbergh has The Knick; David Fincher dipped his toes in with House of Cards and is set to go all-in with Utopia; Jane Eyre director Cary Fukunaga’s not quite as famous, but he’s gotten almost as much credit for True Detective‘s first season as Nic Pizzolatto. Accustomed as we are to picking apart Mad Men one frenzied recap cycle at a time, it’s not surprising that young viewers jumped at a show as cryptic and well-crafted as Twin Peaks.
So when Showtime debuts the show’s (final) final season in 2016, the audience will have its fair share of people who’ve waited 25 long years for more of BOB and the Black Lodge. But there’s also a newer addition to Twin Peaks’ target demo, an addition that’s intensified the pressure for a Twin Peaks revival and made the business decision behind it all the more sound. Even though the new generation of Twin Peaks fan hasn’t been into it as long (a stupid, if persistent, measure of fandom), millennials are certainly the generation that kept the memory of Twin Peaks alive — via posters, via thinkpieces, and via many, many GIFs. You’re welcome.