Home TV TV Lists

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

When Twin Peaks signed off on June 10th, 1991, it left behind a lot of unanswered questions, a legion of devoted fans – and a serious impact on the medium. Ever since then, showrunners and writing rooms have looked to David Lynch and Mark Frost’s “Peyton Place on acid” series for examples on how to push the boundaries of small-screen serial storytelling. It’s cast a long, long shadow, and you could argue that almost every other TV show that’s hit the airwaves since then – especially in the premium-cable “Prestige” age – has been influenced by the groundbreaking show. We’re not living in the Peak TV era so much as the Peaks TV era.

There have been a handful of mysteries, melodramas and quirky comedies, however, that owe a bigger or more obvious debt to this story of secret lives and curdled small-town Americana than most. We’ve singled out 20 TV shows – some old, some new, some niche, some network hits – that have borrowed elements of Twin Peaks and run with them. It may be the “Dead Girl” catalyst that’s turned into a television trope, or it might be the oddball denizens that populate an out-of-the-way woodsy burg. It could even just be a weird-as-hell vibe that a series shares with Lynch and Frost’s lysergic primetime soap. But all of these well-known series have certainly built off the weird, the wonderful and often WTF Peaks foundation. 

twin peaks showtime, best TV shows of 2017, shows influenced by twin peaks, twin peaks sopranos, twin peaks new episodes, david lynch twin peaks, true detective, x-files

‘The Sopranos’

Creator David Chase has spoken at length about Twin Peaks as a primary influence
on his show, specifically David Lynch and Mark Frost’s vivid evocation of place and
how they expanded the possibilities for small-screen storytelling. But the more
specific connection between the two shows comes in their surrealist dream
sequences, which reflect the fear and anxiety that trouble the waking lives of
their characters – and hint at the dark machinations that threaten their future.
Without the backwards-talking dwarf in the Red Room, there might not have been
Big Pussy as a talking fish. ST

twin peaks showtime, best TV shows of 2017, shows influenced by twin peaks, twin peaks sopranos, twin peaks new episodes, david lynch twin peaks, true detective, x-files

‘Top of the Lake’

It should be said upfront that Jane Campion, the creator of this New Zealand-based murder mystery, Top of the Lake, has an idiosyncratic, independent sensibility of her own (see The Piano, Sweetie). But Twin Peaks has long been a useful road map for directors breaking into television, and the resemblance between the two series is uncanny: Both are warped whodunnits set in a remote mountain community, both are about the violation of young women, and both cast actors in their most eccentric roles – like Holly Hunter, who turns up here as an androgynous Swiss guru offering restorative therapy to middle-aged women. Trade Elisabeth Moss’ big-city detective for Kyle MacLachlan’s FBI agent and it’s practically a one-to-one exchange. ST

twin peaks showtime, best TV shows of 2017, shows influenced by twin peaks, twin peaks sopranos, twin peaks new episodes, david lynch twin peaks, true detective, x-files

‘True Detective’

The discovery of a female corpse sends two homicide detectives on a surreal hunt for a mad man. Sound familiar? The astonishing first season of HBO’s crime anthology borrowed plenty of Peaks‘ menacing atmosphere, especially once Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) uncover an increasingly bizarre underworld of small-town corruption and sexual degradation involving an enigmatic “Yellow King.” The series also gave the world the phrase, “Time is a flat circle,” muttered by McConaughey’s existentially wrung-out investigator – which sounds like something a contemplative Agent Cooper might have muttered to himself over a slice of pie and a cup of black coffee at the Double R Diner. GM

twin peaks showtime, best TV shows of 2017, shows influenced by twin peaks, twin peaks sopranos, twin peaks new episodes, david lynch twin peaks, true detective, x-files

‘Veronica Mars’

The first season of Rob Thomas’ teen noir centered on the death of Lilly Kane, the daughter of a local billionaire murdered in the fictional beach town of Neptune, California. The corrupt local sheriff declares the case closed, but Lilly’s best friend, high schooler-turned-gumshoe Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), smells a rat. The show owes plenty to Twin Peaks: It’s noir aesthetic; its unorthodox detective protagonist giving us the play-by-play of her investigation; and most of all, a small town full of shady figures whose moral decay – and shadowy culture of sexual assault – goes all the way to the core. Bonus: Amanda Seyfried, who played Lilly, is also in cast of the Showtime Peaks reboot. JS

twin peaks showtime, best TV shows of 2017, shows influenced by twin peaks, twin peaks sopranos, twin peaks new episodes, david lynch twin peaks, true detective, x-files

‘Wayward Pines’

A U.S. Secret Service agent (Matt
Dillon) sets out to investigate the deaths of two fellow agents in a remote
Northwestern town where everyone acts superficially nice. It appears, however, that the residents of Wayward Pines, Idaho all
have something to hide – not unlike the denizens of another quaint little locale a quarter century before them. (Even the title sounds vaguely Peaks-ish.) Based on novels by Blake Crouch, Fox’s
show revealed itself to be sci-fi–inflected show with a twist; not for nothing is M. Night Shyamalan credited as a producer. Still, the Wholeseome-Town-USA-with-a-secret vibe? Pure Lynch. KG

twin peaks showtime, best TV shows of 2017, shows influenced by twin peaks, twin peaks sopranos, twin peaks new episodes, david lynch twin peaks, true detective, x-files

‘Wild Palms’

Cinematic provocateur Oliver Stone spent the bulk of the Nineties crafting
frenetic swipes at society’s sore spots, from JFK to Natural Born
Killers.
But he still found the time to collaborate with author Bruce
Wagner for this feverishly surreal send-up of Scientology, virtual
reality and the L.A. dream machine. Airing on four back-to-back nights
on ABC two years after Twin Peaks‘ finale, the show shared its
predecessor’s fixation on stunning brunettes (Dana Delaney, Bebe
Newirth and a wig-wearing Kim Cattrall); rife with dream imagery, and dark
glamour, it seems due for a cult reappraisal any second now. Co-stars
Robert Loggia and Jim Belushi would go on to star in Lynch’s Lost
Highway
and the new Twin Peaks season, respectively. STC