Psych: Dual Spires
On April 8, 1990, I remember sitting in the living room with my parents and my brother, watching the pilot episode for Twin Peaks. I can’t remember how we heard about the show. TV Guide? ABC adverts? How did we find out about new programming before the internet?? Anyway, I sat far too close to the TV so that I could watch the show without being bothered by the reactions of my family. Yes, I did believe I could commune with the TV. No, I was not a normal child.
When the episode ended I could barely move. This was a show like nothing I had ever seen before. I was a kid weaned on the shows of Stephen J. Cannell and Glenn Gordon Caron. I liked The A-Team and The Greatest American Hero. I was a fangirl for 21 Jump Street (the Depp years) and could quote large portions of David Addison’s dialogue from Moonlighting. I wanted to grow up and work with Remington Steele. The tone and imagery of Twin Peaks was familiar from literature, but not from other TV shows. Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic; Ronnette Pulaski, covered in blood with rope hanging from wrists and ankles, stumbling over a train bridge trying to get away from ?; Agent Cooper finding a single letter under the fingernail of Laura Palmer, and then another letter under the nail of Ronnette Pulaski — I was both rapt and gobsmacked.
Twin Peaks was the show that changed the way I watched television. After the pilot episode, which I recorded on a VHS tape and rewatched multiple times, I realized that anything could be a clue. When it was time for the next episode, I, once again sitting too close to the screen, was ready with my pen and notepad. I took note of anything that needed to be deciphered or analyzed in some way. I built charts that detailed the relationship between the characters, laying out both their alibis and their lies. I was sure that the soap opera, Invitation to Love, that was randomly playing in the home of one of the characters, held the clue to Laura’s murder. Was this nerdy? Oh hell yes. Did it freak out my parents? Probably. But I was so in love with this bizarre and freaky show. It was an obsession that I would carry over to The X-Files, with my admiration for Agent Mulder being a natural progression from my adoration of Agent Cooper, and it provided me with the training I would need to be a hardcore LOST viewer (the only other show that ever forced me to resurrect the pen and notepad).
It was also the first show that forced me to understand that network overlords are fickle masters. That the intentions of the creator are sometimes transformed into something unrecognizable and completely at odds with their original vision by the uncreative people in power.
Yet even with the network interference, and the limited time the show aired, David Lynch and Mark Frost made an indelible impression on the television landscape. I have never been as terrified as the moment that we first see BOB crouched by Laura’s bed or, even worse, the moment in which he crawls over the couch and towards a screaming Maddie. Agent Cooper’s dream at the end of the third episode is quite possibly one of the most iconic sequences in the history of television, and I probably should have charted out the course of my career by writing possibilities on a chalkboard in the woods and throwing stones at bottles.
I know, you get it, I’m a fangirl speaking in hyperbole.
Psych is one of those shows that’s well-written, well-acted, and just a fun forty minutes to experience. The cast seems to be having a great time and the quick and witty banter is enviable. Plus, I’ve always loved that Shawn and Gus make pop culture references from my own formative years. It feels like being in on an inside joke. It’s not really a show that requires an abundance of analytical thought; it simply demands a willingness to be amused.
In lesser hands, combining an incredibly complicated drama with an entertaining comedy could result in an insulting parody or a feeble script. Luckily, the writing team of James Roday and Bill Callahan have written their love letter to the show, highlighting both the surreal and over-the-top moments. The thrust of the plot is that Gus and Shawn receive an anonymous email inviting them to the annual Cinnamon Festival in the unheard of town of Dual Spires. When they arrive at this eerily-small town, things become downright Twin Peaky. Well, Twin Peaky with touches of Psych. For example, the townspeople can’t stop staring at Gus. He mentions to Shawn that he thinks everyone is staring at him like they’ve never seen a black man. Shawn chides him, per usual. A small girl rides up on her bike (have I mentioned everyone rides bikes?), looks at Gus, and asks, “Hey Mister, are you Frederick Douglass?” So totally wrong and yet so funny.
Honestly, I’m not sure the rest of the plot matters. We still get a goofy Psych episode with a kind-of random, yet enjoyable, plot, but really, once in Dual Spires the episode becomes a “spot-the-echo” game. At first I tried to keep a running list of the ways in which Psych was emulating Twin Peaks, but quickly realized that there were simply so many references that my task was Sisyphean.
The title credits were redone to mimic the opening credits to Twin Peaks, and the “I Know You Know” song was performed by Julee Cruise, who sung most of the haunting songs in the original.
Dana Ashbrook, who played Bobby Briggs, who was secretly dating Shelly Johnson, who helped run the Double R Diner, was now playing Bob Barker, who owned The Sawmill Diner, which he ran with his wife, Michelle, played by Robyn Lively, who portrayed the black widow of Twin Peaks, Lana Budding Milford.
Lenny von Dohlen, who played agoraphobic Harold Smith, was now playing Sheriff Andrew Jackson, a play on Twin Peaks Sheriff Harry Truman.
Sherilyn Fenn, who played sultry high schooler Audrey Horne, was now playing sultry librarian Maudette Hornsby.
The list goes on, and on, and on. . . .it was like a nerd-gasm of pop culture references. So much so that I didn’t really pay attention to the murder plot, choosing instead to spend my time trying to catch every mirror of the original show. And while I listed some of the more obvious ones, Roday’s knowledge of the show runs deeps, so in a bicycle chase scene, the background music is Chris Isaak’s song, “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing.” In any other show that would be a moment chosen because of song lyrics or tone, but Chris Isaak played Special Agent Chester Desmond in the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Fantastic!
The closing scenes of the episode are a relentless barrage of elements from Twin Peaks — everything that couldn’t get crammed into the rest of the plot. It’s worth a rewatch just to see how many things are replicated.
I think the show fairly successfully yoked together a typical Psych episode with an homage, but it really was so heavily invested in providing Twin Peaks references that I can’t imagine what the show was like for someone who wasn’t a Peaks fan. That said, if you are a fan of Lynch’s crazed vision and are not a regular Psych viewer, I heartily recommend heading over to Hulu and watching the episode online. It’s worth it just to see most of the cast reunited and enjoying themselves — especially Dana Ashbrook, Sherilyn Fenn, and Sheryl Lee. (Ray Wise too, of course, but he *always* looks like he’s enjoying himself and, as an actor, he seems to be just about everywhere!)
After watching, my hope is that ten or fifteen years down the line some show decides to reunite the cast of LOST. I’ll be there with my pen and notepad.
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