Would Twin Peaks have fared better on FOX?


White Lodge
Aug 4, 2022
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Was recently watching an episode of Dark Side of the 90s where they discussed 90210 at length. Apparently 90210 did great ratings during the first Gulf War due to the fact that they were never pre-empted, as FOX had no news division at the time. That reminded me of TP's problems during the Gulf War... Obviously Peaks was having issues before the war, but it got me wondering how TP would've fared on FOX as opposed to ABC. I mean, just a couple years later X-Files thrived on that network. Perhaps we could've gotten more than 2 seasons had TP been on FOX? Or maybe even no network pressure to reveal the killer?
Yes. It's noticeable that the Dark Shadows remake series of the same era was regularly pre-empted on NBC because of the Gulf War and only lasted 12 episodes as a result (annoying, because it was a series that had potential after a shaky start!)

I agree Fox might have been a better home for Twin Peaks in some ways, but I wonder how the series would have fared in terms of budget. I seem to recall Fox's budgets were quite tight and it didn't have the national coverage of the other networks at that point. The series would likely have had to be scaled back and I imagine, like The X-Files, filming would have had to have been done entirely in Canada, which would have impacted casting, choice of producers, directors, crew and so on.

As has been said elsewhere by a couple of us in other discussions, Twin Peaks was never realistically going to manage being a 22-episodes-a-year series lasting for at least seven seasons. We'd be looking at at least 110 more episodes after season 2. Season one - being a mid-season replacement - is, in effect, an eight-part movie - and was a hit because of that tightly focused small number of episodes - which is followed by effectively a nine-part sequel, then a rather flabby, shapeless, directionless weekly show for the rest of season two. I'm afraid most of the 13 final episodes of season two is what anything further would likely have looked like.

So, regardless of network, I think the series would have struggled in the long term. If it could have been eight episodes a year, I imagine it would have been amazing: imagine ending season two on episode 7 (the first part of the season being double length) with Maddy's murder. Then season three could have been a Fire Walk With Me flashback season, before returning to the present or future for season four, leading to Cooper's entrapment in the Black Lodge and season five about his escape...

So, yes, Twin Peaks might have found a home on Fox, but imagine the series being much scaled back in terms of locations and characters and limits on how much time many production team members and actors could spend in Canada. The X-Files managed very well in Canada, but it was reliant on Canadian - and Canada-based - producers, directors, crew members and actors. I wonder how much of Twin Peaks David Lynch would have been allowed to direct. Would Tina Rathborne, Caleb Deschanel, Lesli Linka-Glatter, Mark Frost or Diane Keaton been allowed to direct episodes? The Canadian-filmed 1980s third season of The Twilight Zone had the situation where the production team was based in the USA and couldn't go on location, meaning they were writing scripts and organising shoots from a thousand miles away.

In the end, I think Twin Peaks was a series that was lucky to last as long as it did. It had 16 really great episodes, one rushed episode to end the murder storyline, 12 very shaky weekly episodes and a headscratchingly effed-up masterpiece of insanity that still makes me smile to think managed to get away with being broadcast on network TV!! ABC, NBC or Fox: ultimately, I think Twin Peaks would have self-destructed. It never really belonged on a regular network. It was a binge-watching streaming miniseries before such a thing existed.
I think the Gulf War thing has been largely debunked by original series viewers like Audrey Horne on the old dugpa boards (as well as my reading many threads on the VERY old Usenet group from that period). That is to say, news updates may have cut into the show in some markets/time zones during the three Desert Storm-era episodes that aired in February 1991 (in Audrey’s market, only the opening credits were cut into), which was undeniably a frustrating but semi-common occurrence in that era, but no episode was ever preempted on a national level due to news coverage. And in any event, by that point the ratings were already in the toilet, probably largely due to ABC moving the show to Saturdays but also a confluence of other factors (killer reveal, Lynch/Peaks fatigue/frustration/oversaturation which started to show in the fandom even in S1, etc.).

TP could have potentially been an interesting fit on Fox in that era with their more risk-taking content. Keep in mind, Fox was still VERY small in 1990-1991. They still didn’t even have a presence in many major markets in the USA, and I think they were only programming four days a week at that point. Playing the hypothetical further backward in time, when TP was first sold as a pilot in 1988, Fox was way smaller still, and I doubt it ever would have been seriously considered by a filmmaker of Lynch’s statute as a venue. It had been around for a year, and no one even knew if it would last (attempts to create a fourth major network had bombed in decades prior), and I think they only had two days a week of programming at that point.

That smallness of Fox could have played to Peaks’s advantage if it had ended up there: the expectation for ratings numbers would have been much lower and maybe it theoretically could have coasted by for years. Who knows. But as Dom says, I don’t think the operation L/F had in place would have ever sustained the quality of the show regardless. Lynch was too disinterested, Frost moved on too fast to direct a film, Peyton and Engels were too inexperienced to run a show, etc. It wasn’t a well-oiled machine. As Michael Horse has said, it was destined to burn brightly and die young.
I do think the opening credits for TP would've been way different on early 90's FOX. Instead of ambient music with calming footage of waterfalls, I imagine FOX Peaks opening with up tempo music and glamour shots of the principal cast.
Yeah, my recollection of Fox was it was kinda the sleazebag channel, and all due respect, I say that as an admirer of Married with Children.

I'm drawing a blank on the exodus of the original series; was it shopped around to other networks at all?

Re: Canada, it's kinda funny that it wouldn't disrupt anything re: visuals. FWWM has a scene there (shot there?) and it's a canonically nearby country. In fact, maybe it would've been a better fit than sunny California, all other complications considered.
It’s a fun thought. I agree that Canada would have probably doubled for the Washington exteriors way more effectively. It undoubtedly would have affected some crew/cast availability, but maybe not THAT much...most of the young cast were pretty green and likely would have followed the work, and hell, Ontkean is from Vancouver!
It’s a fun thought. I agree that Canada would have probably doubled for the Washington exteriors way more effectively. It undoubtedly would have affected some crew/cast availability, but maybe not THAT much...most of the young cast were pretty green and likely would have followed the work, and hell, Ontkean is from Vancouver!
True. A lot of the American actors wouldn't have been able to be cast at all, though, so we'd likely have had a substantial young Canadian cast in order to facilitate having the bigger names from the USA in the older age group.

Somewhere like Vancouver would have been a better place to shoot the series in many ways, because it better matched Snoqualmie. The move to San Fernando Valley in the first regular TV episode is quite jarring. I was 15 when the series arrived in the UK (where it aired on Tuesday night and repeated on Saturday night.) I rewatched the pilot on Saturday night and saw the first regular episode on Tuesday night. It was a kind of an 'uncanny valley' thing: everyone looked slightly different and the lighting was different indoors to match the look of the non-stock scenes outside. I didn't know about things like shooting locations back then or that there was a substantial gap between making the pilot and the series (which is why the younger actors all looked older, had different hairstyles and so on!)

My guess is that a 1990 Fox Twin Peaks would have had to reshoot the pilot with a substantially different cast, scale back the number of characters and locations and very possibly solve the Laura Palmer murder in the pilot, with Cooper becoming some sort of appointed investigator into crime and weirdness in the town and across the border. David Lynch would likely not have gone for it.