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Posted at 1:52 PM ET, 04/ 8/2010

The 10 freakiest moments in 'Twin Peaks' history

By Jen Chaney

Agent Cooper, caught in a moment when he wasn't speaking to Diane via tape recorder. (File photo)

Twenty years ago, on this date in pop culture history, television introduced us to a dapper FBI agent, a lady who embraced logs and the dead body of a prom queen, wrapped in plastic.

"Twin Peaks" -- the series that finally gave TV permanent permission to be really, really weird -- debuted on ABC on April 8, 1990, drawing audiences into the world of a Washington mining mill town where flourescent lights invariably flickered, traffic lights always swayed ominously in the late-night wind and owls, obviously, were never what they seemed. "Peaks," which sprang from the minds of Mark Frost and -- as most odd things do -- David Lynch, quickly became the hippest, freakiest show on television, sending obsessed viewers scrambling to answer the question, "Who killed Laura Palmer?" and, for a brief period, making women everywhere desperate to resemble Sherilynn Fenn.

Unfortunately, "Peaks" burned out midway through its second season, after Palmer's murder was solved and the writers tried unsuccessfully to take the show onto a new path of crazy. (Did anyone ever care what was going on with Windom Earle? Honestly?) But we at Celebritology still adore it, and applaud it for having the guts to take the concept of broadcast television to newly bizarre heights.

In that spirit, as the show celebrates its 20th anniversary, we bring you the 10 freakiest moments from what was a reliably freaky show.

10. Audrey's Dance: While (allegedly) mourning the loss of classmate Laura Palmer, Audrey Horne (the aforementioned Fenn) chats with Laura's best friend Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle, back when she was semi-normal), then randomly stands up and starts dancing alone in the middle of the Double R Diner. Why does she do this? Who cares? It's intoxicating.

9. Agent Cooper's rock test: Is Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) one of the most sublime creations in all of television? The only correct answer to that query is yes. As part of his effort to solve Palmer's murder, Cooper uses a list of names, a glass bottle and a bucket of rocks (held, naturally, by Deputy Hawke while wearing a pair of oven mitts) to pare down his potential suspects. Adding to the weirdness: a lengthy speech about the plight of the Tibetan people, and Cooper's coffee spit take, followed by his trademark proclamation: "Damn good coffee ... and hot!"

8. David Duchovny as Det. Dennis/Denise Brayson: Duchovny joined the show after it had already jumped the shark. So at the time, adding a transvestite DEA agent to the "Twin Peaks" mix seemed like a desperate bid to remain quirky. Now? It's just odd seeing Agent Mulder in drag, and even odder in the clip below, brought to you entirely in Spanish!

7. The Giant hallucination: This sequence occurred in the first episode of season two, so viewers had already come to expect bizarro-ness from the crime-drama. Even so, the Giant's three cryptic clues -- "There's a man in a smiling bag," "The owls are not what they seem" and "Without chemicals, he points" -- make the mysteries on "Lost" seem mainstream and quaint.

6. Leland Palmer croons: Laura's father (played with a delicious darkness by Ray Wise) was almost always doing something mental. Dancing with his daughter's photo. Crying in the middle of business meetings. Struggling with homicidal tendencies. You know, the usual. But when his hair suddenly turned stark white and he launched into a round of "Mairzy Doats," it was a double-take moment that implanted a novelty song in viewers' heads for days.

5. Cooper's mirror-banging final moment: Since the official statute of spoiler limitations is a decade, max, I think it's okay for me to say this much about the ending of "Twin Peaks": Cooper plays with toothpaste and goes completely nutty. If you choose to watch the clip and see what I mean, don't blame me for giving away the ending.

4. Nadine Hurley: When it comes to freaky, it's hard to know where to start with Nadine. Maybe when she thought she was a teenager again, developed super-human strength and joined the high school wrestling team? Maybe, but I'm going with the first weird thing we learned about a decidedly odd woman: that her greatest goal in life was to create silent drape runners.

3. Ronette's dream: Those who know their "Peaks" will recall that Bob -- the demonic figure who haunted many an episode -- was played by the late Frank Silva, a set dresser who got the role after accidentally walking into a scene. Every time Bob appeared on the show, it was disturbing. But when Ronette Polaski woke up from a coma and had visions of Bob and a screaming Laura, it made for perhaps the scariest moment ever shown on broadcast television. Watch at your own peril:

2. The Log Lady: Few writer/producers would decide to open their series with a few words from a woman holding a log. But thankfully, Lynch and Frost aren't like other people. And hence, the Log Lady was born. Her bizarreness speaks for itself:

1. The Dream Sequence: The dream sequence marked the official moment when, if you didn't know already, it became abundantly clear: "Twin Peaks" is the certified, stamp-branded, no-kidding-around freakiest show ever. ("That gum you like is going to come back in style?" What??) This clue-filled glimpse into Agent Cooper's subconscious became the signature moment of "Twin Peaks," and was subsequently parodied everywhere from "Saturday Night Live" to "The Simpsons." Twenty years later, it remains a work of incomprehensible, sublimely strange genius. Watch all seven minutes -- sadly, minus Angelo Badalamenti's music, because of rights issues -- below.

By Jen Chaney  | April 8, 2010; 1:52 PM ET
Categories:  Pop Culture  
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Sas, was Dale Cooper's middle initial B?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | April 8, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

SNL did a hilarious spoof of Twin Peaks when Kyle MacLachlen hosted -- you can watch it here:

Posted by: FantasticToe | April 8, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

My list would have included

- A grieving Leland Palmer doing the "antler dance"


- Audrey's father trying to seduce her at the casino

Posted by: mdreader01 | April 8, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Cooper: "Who's the lady with the log?"

Truman: "We call her the Log Lady."

Posted by: tacopete | April 8, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

No, Nosy, not even close. DB would never do a spit take with coffee. Bourbon, yes. Coffee, no.

The big question is how David Lynch got the funding and clearance to produce anything after making that travesty otherwise known as Dune. Even Lynch didn't want to be associated with it (See the Alan Smithee edition).

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | April 8, 2010 11:58 PM | Report abuse

How can you leave out the revelation that Leland=BOB and his killing of Maddie? To this day that shot of BOB leering out of the mirror back at Leland scares the living tar out of me. I think Stephen King (STEPHEN KING!) said that was one of the scariest things he'd ever seen and he was right.

Posted by: hac51 | April 9, 2010 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Wow, just when you thought that dream sequence couldn't get any creepier, remove the music & it's creepier than I ever expected.

Every time I get frustrated with Lost I try to remember this show & how little sense it made towards the end.

Adding all season to my Netflix queue!!

Posted by: wadejg | April 9, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Thank you SO very much fot this Liz. 20 years ago, when I lived in my country of origin, I read an article about a weird show in the States that was a big hit. I was puzzled even then. 2 years ago I gave my husband (aka myself) the Twin Peaks DVD's for X'mas and, together with a friend, we watched it all. One night we had a 5 epidoses marathon! What a freaky delight it was! And the nightmares it gave us...


Posted by: evigusano | April 9, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Mining town? 20 years has done more to your memory then mine :) Twin Peaks is, of course, a logging town, as anyone who has ever seen it's opening credits can attest. Not to mention it's series long subplot involving....a mill :)

Posted by: Ixian | April 9, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Also - and I hate to nitpick - but the famous log lady was an actual character in the show during its run, and she never introduced it while on ABC. The introductions she does were filmed much later, when Lynch sold the broadcast rights to Bravo around 1996. They were never part of the show as it was originally aired, although I can see how anyone who only saw the Bravo versions would think so.

Posted by: Ixian | April 9, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

To lxian -- I have no idea what possessed me to write mining ... maybe the stories about the tragedy in West Virginia? I meant to say mill town ... thanks for the catch. (And yes, I know the Log Lady was a character. Didn't mean to imply she wasn't.)

And hac51, I am so with you on the Bob reveal. I originally had it on my list, but opted to leave it out only because I was afraid I'd get blasted by the eight people who still don't know who killed Laura Palmer. Thanks for mentioning. As a result of that scene, I cannot even hear Missoula mentioned without thinking: "You're going back to Missoula ... MONTANA!" So. Creepy.

Posted by: Jen_Chaney | April 9, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

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