Sunday, June 7, 2009

Top TV Pilots of All-Time, #2

I've got about a dozen "honorable mentions" that could easily have fit on this list anywhere between #2 and #10, so this second to last selection feels somewhat arbitrary. Nonetheless...

#2 Twin Peaks (1990)

David Lynch is a frustrating talent to say the least. There are times when his work is undeniably brilliant and uncompromising, but then there are other times when you get the feeling that the joke is really on you. Sometimes his stories are so incoherent, so weird, and so challenging that one is left to wonder if even he knows what he's doing. And Lynch's staple---weird people doing weird things---is only interesting and entertaining to a point...a point Lynch often plows right on past. In his canon of mixed results, however, his foray into network television stands out as both one of his most representative and most accessible works to date.

Much like Lost, the pilot for Twin Peaks has a cinematic quality to it which makes it feel much less like watching television and much more like being treated to a free Hollywood movie. The cinematography on Twin Peaks remains some of the best the medium has ever seen, benefiting a great deal from shooting on-location in the pacific northwest. In a nutshell, Twin Peaks looked and felt like nothing we'd ever seen before, and that alone makes it worthy of such a high ranking on this list.

The discovery of a body in the opening scene sets off a serialized mystery which captivated viewers and garnered, at first, high ratings for ABC. "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" is probably the second most memorable television mystery behind "Who Shot J.R.?". I assure you the answer in Twin Peaks is far more interesting. With quirky characters to spare (hello, Log Lady!), creepy and confusing elements (hello, Red Room!), and a dancing dwarf who talks backwards (fuck me), Twin Peaks is a must view. The pilot has had some rights issues and is not readily available, but has each and every episode (sans pilot) available on their web site for free. The pilot, in a low-res spliced up form, can be found on YouTube...and I've embedded the first part below.

#2) Twin Peaks
#3) Lost
#4) South Park
#5) The Shield
#6) Hill Street Blues
#7) Mad Men
#8) Boomtown
#9) Battlestar Galactica
#10) Police Squad


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