Rarely has the DVD boxed-set format posed a trickier challenge than in Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition. This 10-disc chunk of David Lynch retails for $108.99, a pricey prospect, and one made even more dicey considering it includes the series' second season, which even a director calls not ''nearly as interesting.'' More concisely, an actor says, it ''sucked.''
Of course, the bonus feature I quoted, ''Secrets From Another Place: Creating Twin Peaks,'' is one of the reasons to recommend the Gold Box. There are numerous fascinatingly frank mini-docs here, including interviews with many Peaks participants; together, they offer one of the best available portraits of how a TV hit can go off the rails.
Wait: I have to back up, don't I? Peaks debuted in 1990 as a grand TV experiment. Co-created by Lynch, the serene weirdie who'd released the movie masterpiece Blue Velvet four years prior, the eerie evening soap opera/murder mystery posed a question that would haunt the nation for its first season: Who killed Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee)? Laura was a small-town homecoming queen whose corpse was found washed ashore ''wrapped in plastic.''
To refresh my memory and to learn something new, I headed straight for the very valuable 90-minute European version of the pilot, which offers an alternate ''closed ending'' to the tale. Lynch shot a version of Peaks to play overseas as a stand-alone video; it solves the mystery while deepening the strangeness of the show. Which was pretty strange to begin with. Remember, this was the series that featured a character called the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson), who, well, carried around a log. (You can watch individual episodes here with short intros by the Log Lady.)
And Kyle MacLachlan, now on Desperate Housewives, became a household name as FBI agent Dale Cooper, who arrived in the Northwest town of Twin Peaks indulging in his obsessions with cherry pie and good, strong coffee. Cooper was the sort of Lynch meta-character who'd stop another character walking down a hall to say, ''Sheriff, let me stop you in the hallway for just a second...''Twin Peaks was among the first TV shows reviewed in Entertainment Weekly. At the time, I praised its ''calm, deliberate eccentricity'' and gave its premiere episode a rare A+. I'd stand by that grade for the pilot. (See Ken Tucker's full Twin Peaks review from 1990.) As the series went on, Lynch and his collaborator, Mark Frost, paid less attention to the show, and Peaks, in Frost's words, ''died a slow and inglorious death.''
The Gold Box acknowledges this in its extras, which include ''A Slice of Lynch'': David sitting with a piece of cherry pie exchanging Twin memories with cast members. The conversation is more entertaining than most of season 2. B+
Want more Twin Peaks? See our Q&A with series mastermind David Lynch.