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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

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. 

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‘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
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
and the new Twin Peaks season, respectively. STC

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‘The X-Files’

Two years after David Duchovny
played Peaks‘ cross-dressing DEA agent Dennis/Denise Bryson, he was cast as a more straight-laced G-man obsessed with
the paranormal – and ended up becoming part of a Nineties pop-cultural touchstone. In many ways, The X-Files‘ first season
felt like a supersized Twin Peaks: not
one but two FBI agents investigating any number of strange happenings in quaint
small towns (much of which was shot in Vancouver, near the original TP environs). Although they never discover anything as surreal as the Black Lodge, they encountered monsters and aliens frightening
enough to make even square-jawed Agent Cooper flinch. In fact, the shows were similar
enough that Peaks fans quickly spread
of Mulder keeping a photo of Laura Palmer
above his desk in the first
season, though it was merely a lookalike … wrapped in plastic. KG

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