APRIL 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 4


Bravo! Programming

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Also starring Bruce Willis.

The Sixth Sense (1999)
Winner: People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture.

Nominee: Six Oscars (2000), including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress.

Buy It today


[ 1, 2, 3 ]
Friday, 7:00 p.m.

Starring Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd, Paul Sorvino.

Friday, 8:00 p.m.

Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Dana Ashbrook, Lara Flynn Boyle. Produced by David Lynch

At its center, though, was the loneliness of Laura Palmer, the good girl gone bad, the one no one -- audience included -- ever truly understood. It was a solitude felt by the viewer, though, the basis for a sort of reverse dramatic technique in which Laura represented the impossible protagonist, the one not to be known, the one always kept at arm's length. Yet she was a presence, as visceral and as abstract as the "force" that killed her, framing for us the story of a personal isolation seen through the larger window of geographic isolation. Indeed, it seemed geography itself was a competing character in the pageant -- the show open itself featured nature shots only. The ultimate concern of Twin Peaks may very well have been the dirt itself, that which sinks down through our sediment in the shape of sin, lust, and the loss of control on ourselves and our worlds.

The sole character with whom the audience is to identify -- our guide through the maze, so to speak -- is Dale Cooper, a discerning but wide-eyed naif. In truth, actually, he's more a flake -- a shrewd investigator who's nevertheless prone to deja vu, hallucinations and fever dreams. What's most clever about the character, though, is that he's an emotionless blank slate, a regular guy outsider who's so enamored with the day to day minutiae of small town Twin Peaks -- its coffee, its trees -- that he almost seems negligible. Yet he's also the only one who also sees through the town's facade. In the end, he's quite fittingly inhabited by Bob, the killer himself, as if just when he's come to figure out the town it somehow turns on him and traps him in.

It's in this fashion that Twin Peaks drew to a close after just 30 episodes, eventually pulled by ABC as confounded viewers ran the other way. Moonlighting fared better in terms of longevity but suffered a similar fate, its last season even sardonically working the show's awful ratings into its storylines. In retrospect, it's clear viewers didn't necessarily confer "classic" status on these gems.

Still, these shows seem to have more in common than just initial under appreciation; more in common even than actor Ray Wise (Leland Palmer on Twin Peaks and an unnamed assailant on an episode of Moonlighting). In fact, Bravo! may very well be on to something with the pairing of this duo: Twin Peaks, at first seemingly opposite in nature to Moonlighting, actually ends up forming a crooked little kinship with its lead-in. In much the same way, both shows deconstruct and mock TV's most durable genres while still inhabiting that same space. And maybe they mock audiences as well, teasing us with just how dynamic and endlessly engaging good TV can be.

Is Bravo! making some broad statement on a cosmic and artistic link between the two shows? Certainly not. Programming them adjacently on perhaps the least-watched television night of the week is undoubtedly a small gesture. But it's a worthy one as well. Like Nickelodeon -- which banks on us being more interested in quirky past favorites like The Wonder Years, The Jeffersons, and yes, The Brady Bunch than what prime time has to offer -- this is a cable network that recognizes that quality and fun reign easily over routine.

So, in the absence of new programming this good, perhaps we'll just stick with the old. Thankfully, we can lean on the wisdom that exists within these pockets of the cable realm; the networks don't seem to possess the same type of trendless aesthetic. But maybe, on some future Friday, execs will switch from their own stations and sample the Twin Peaks-Moonlighting combo, and perhaps they'll be reminded of what the world of television -- and we as audiences, in particular -- are missing. In the end, they, too, might be tempted to exclaim, Bravo!

RICK CONNELLY is the staff television writer for Renaissance Online Magazine. He can be reached at rconnelly@renaissancemag.com


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