Station Control

A Walk Down Nostalgia Lane

by Benjamin Carr

Nostalgia can prove to be a strong draw, leading us down strange paths. We buy lava lamps and albums on vinyl. We get Star Wars prequels. We buy tie-dyed clothing and hang on to well-worn outfits for way too long. Those who make a living deciding which shows will air know this and therefore will keep going back to the well as long as we line up for a sip of nostalgia water.

TWIN PEAKS (Showtime)

Twenty five years ago, coffee-loving FBI Agent Dale Cooper solved the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, chased a monster into a parallel dimension and got trapped there. The saw mill burned down. The quirky town with the jazzy score and the '50s era outfits stopped telling us its stories after its movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.

Because it was perhaps the strangest show in television history, equal parts mystery, hip comedy, psychosexual nightmare and art project, Showtime jumped at the chance to produce it when creators David Lynch and Mark Frost said there was more story to tell. Four episodes of the new series have been made available, and not much about it makes sense so far, even by Twin Peaks standards.

The new show centers on Cooper's attempts to escape the Black Lodge, the red-curtained dimension that the wilder aspects of the original show featured, and to catch his evil doppelganger, possessed by the spirit of Killer Bob. Other members of the cast and other stars from Lynch projects have shown up, including Naomi Watts and David Duchovny. But the new season of Twin Peaks is impossible to decipher, more than a little maddening and perhaps exactly what we should have expected it to be.

DIRTY DANCING (ABC)

As far as disasters begat from nostalgia go, this ABC TV-movie musical retells the story of vacationing Baby and dance teacher Johnny's Catskills romance from the 1987 movie. But this one does it with less dancing. And less dirty. It is, in all fairness, a total mistake, unnecessary and inferior to its original product in every way.
The original movie, while not exactly a masterpiece, was at least a fun, engaging and sexy bit of cinema. Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze had tremendous chemistry and the dances in it felt legitimately daring. Also, it had Broadway veteran Jerry Orbach - as Baby's father - putting her in a corner and providing the story with some dramatic weight.

The new one manages no depth, no sexiness and - I repeat - very little dirty dancing. It feels less substantial than a Hallmark movie. Poor Abigail Breslin, a one-time Oscar nominee, does her best as the awkward lead character, and Cole Prattes has muscles and seems a decent dancer. But the two of them have zero chemistry. And the terrible choice to make the characters sing while dancing just means that they become mediocre at both. And then, worst of all, there is a new narrative framing device that ruins the original movie's ending.

FARGO (FX)

Meanwhile, FX has returned with the third season of its excellent drama set in the world of the classic Coen Brothers film. While the second season jumped back in time to the 1970s, the newest season returns us to the near-present. The events take place in 2010, and the show centers on a pair of wildly different brothers - both played by star Ewan McGregor - at odds with one another over a stamp.

Because this is Fargo, it quickly provides us with bloody, murderous twists this time involving an air conditioning, terrifying villains and nice, decent police officers trying to get to the bottom of all the crimes. Because creator Noah Hawley knows how to deliver this masterpiece anomaly of a show every single year, every episode has become more compelling and more twisted.

Fargo continually manages to deliver on their high expectations. It takes you from the original product as its jumping-off point, then it gives you more. Its makers commit to strong, smart choices. And they make a point of rewarding their audience.

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