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Thursday, April 5, 2007 - Page updated at 01:01 AM

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DVDs

Reliving Season 2 of "Twin Peaks" — finally

McClatchy Newspapers

Fifteen years after David Lynch and Mark Frost's "Twin Peaks" left the airwaves, the big mystery isn't "Who killed Laura Palmer?"

Instead, it's "Why isn't this whole show on DVD yet?"

Now that all-time classics like "Celebrity Mole: Hawaii" and "Saved by the Bell" are getting the box-set treatment, all 22 episodes of the second season of "Twin Peaks" are finally available on Paramount Home Video.

Unfortunately for completists, the first season is now out of print, and the full original pilot has never seen a legitimate U.S. video release in any form. The rumor mill contends that a comprehensive retrospective is in the works, but the studio didn't answer multiple requests for comment.

The new DVDs' picture and sound quality could scarcely be better. Color and detail are flawless, and an entirely new Dolby Digital surround-sound mix (no DTS here) is seductive and appropriately moody.

But the discs offer a sprinkling of meager extras: Some new interviews with cast and crew, and low-quality dubs of the Log Lady's introductions for syndication. The packaging — three tiny snap cases in a flimsy slipcover — feels positively cheap, especially compared to Artisan Entertainment's gorgeous first-season set.

Story-wise, the wheels fall off the "Twin Peaks" bus early on in Season 2. Seven episodes in, Laura Palmer's murderer is revealed. The subsequent scene is horrifying and brutal, the shock palpable.

But soon afterward, the show has nowhere else to go. Robbed of their central story line, episodes veer off into the banal and inanely bizarre. By the time a pregnant Lucy dances acrobatically in the "Miss Twin Peaks" pageant and Nadine Hurley mentally transforms into a moonstruck teenager with superhuman strength, the series' original blend of comic soap-opera and serious thriller has lost its organic center.

That is a real pity, because when the show works, it's absolutely enthralling. Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn and Joan Chen all cut their TV teeth on "Twin Peaks," and established faces like Piper Laurie and Richard Beymer got the chance to chew scenery with gusto.

"Twin Peaks" broke plenty of new ground during its short run in 1990 and '91. The plot ostensibly centered on a small-town murder mystery, but Lynch brought heavy doses of his absurdist and dreamlike sensibilities to the characters and storytelling, creating a hermetic world that remains unique on the small screen.

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The matter-of-fact dialog and artful non sequiturs (like the characters' obsessions with cherry pie and coffee) spawned a whole new genre of painfully forced "quirky" dramedy.

When Lynch takes the director's chair, the imagery and tension rank with the best of his film work. It's fascinating to see some of the themes he's explored more cryptically since — particularly characters with dual identities — in a traditionally linear TV story line. His finale, at 49 minutes, is deeply disturbing and brings the series to an end with an appropriately dark and sardonically satisfying closing image.

But too many other episodes meander pointlessly. "Twin Peaks" was the original genre show with an overarching mystery — and absolutely zero idea where to go with it.

Lynch and Frost's TV experiment owes its still-high profile not only to a masterful prequel feature film, but also to its brief time on the air. Fans initially blamed the series' demise on ABC's shifting timeslots and lack of promotion, but the show collapsed under the weight of its trappings. By pulling the plug after 30 installments, the network ironically preserved the reputation of "Twin Peaks" for the ages.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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