Twin Peaks on YouTube: Where Cult Television Never Dies

When Showtime announced that Twin Peaks (the beloved quarter-century old television show written and created by David Lynch and Mark Frost) would be returning in 2016 for a nine-episode run, both casual and fervent fans went predictably berserk. If the announcement wasn’t exactly predictable, thanks to the internet (and especially YouTube), the overwhelming response was nearly guaranteed.

When Showtime uploaded the teaser trailer for the new episodes premiering in 2016 the clip managed to attract more than 1.5 million views in less than a week. Not too bad for a show that’s been off the air since before the internet. Where have all of these Twin Peaks fans been hiding for nearly three decades? Well, it appears a lot of them have been populating YouTube, uploading videos and finding ever new ways to talk about a show that (until Showtime’s announcement last week) was never coming back.

The Virtual Watercooler

Once upon a time, “watercooler” television was an actual thing. It’s where people would gather to discuss last night’s episode of the most popular program before getting down to whatever job it is they had to do (that was kind enough to provide them with free spring water).

When Twin Peaks aired its pilot episode in 1990, there was no household internet for fans to flock to and share hints or theories in the same way fans of Game of Thrones have been able to bide their time between seasons. They would just have to wait in vain hope that bygone daytime talk show hosts, such as Phil Donahue, would ask the right questions to fulfill their speculative need, carrying them through to the first season’s finale.

These days, fans react in real time with whatever social media platform suits their immediate needs. For longer term conversations and speculation between seasons, YouTube has become the platform where fans not only upload videos, but take to the comments to parse out plot points and encourage more people to watch their favorite show. After all, remember, YouTube is a social platform.

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Cults Don’t Die, They Upload

With nearly 30 million views of Twin Peaks-related content on YouTube (nearly 100 percent of it uploaded by fans) before the announcement of the new Showtime series, it’s clear that cult fandoms can cultivate new ways to look at an old show and keep a conversation going for years. That’s why they flock in droves to new content whenever there is anything new to see and discuss, no matter the source.

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When USA Network’s own TV program with a cultish following Psych announced in 2010 they would air a tribute to Twin Peaks (featuring a few original cast members), views for Twin Peaks content grew by nearly double, pushing fan views to nearly 6 million that year as compared to just over 3 million the year previous. Finally, there was something new to talk about.

Apparently rabid fans don’t even require new information when their favorite show has been dormant for 25 years. In that case, they will resort to watching CBS Television’s official upload of the opening credits over and over again.

However, along with the announcement of new episodes, the conversation around the old opening credits even shifted from thoughts about the creepy theme music to anticipation for 2016.

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When CBS Home Entertainment announced back in May 2014 the release of Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery Blu-ray, total views for Twin Peaks content increased again across the board, with 2014 already on pace to eclipse views for 2013. Smartly, CBS even made a direct appeal to YouTube fans by recruiting an original cast member for an unboxing of the Blu-ray set.

The Twin Peaks Lesson

It would appear that none of the above is news to Showtime. It’s why the network decided to upload the mysterious teaser clip directly to YouTube as part of their announcement that Twin Peaks would be returning after a 25-year hiatus in 2016. If you are looking for fans of nearly anything, they are alive and well and living on YouTube. They are uploading, talking, arguing, and generally freaking out if anything new (or even tangentially related) to their favorite TV show is revealed, as has been the case with Twin Peaks since practically the launch of YouTube itself. Fans drive YouTube. YouTube drives culture. The belated return of the beloved Twin Peaks owes a lot to both.

 

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