Trading Card Set of the Week – Twin Peaks (Star Pics, 1991)
I will tell you three things. If I tell them to you and they come true, then will you believe me?
Twin Peaks was one hell of a phenomenon. Though it only lasted two seasons, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s brainchild burned as brightly for its short life as any television series ever has, and anyone alive and pop culturally aware at the dawn of the 1990s knew the question of the day: Who killed Laura Palmer? The mystery surrounding the death of the eponymous town’s All-American Girl — the homecoming queen, the A student, the deliverer of Meals on Wheels — gripped a vast swath of the viewing public, and that was even before the mystery deepened. The darkness that lurks inside even freshly painted houses was famously explored again at the end of that decade, in 1999’s American Beauty, but it was never as scintillatingly detailed. Was there a Log Lady in Beauty? I THINK NOT.
Has any other show ever had a backwards-talking Man from Another Place? One-Eyed Jacks? The Bookhouse Boys? Riddle-telling giants that may or may not moonlight as decrepit bellhops? The world’s first completely silent drape runners? Thugs that suck on white dominoes? Owls that are not what they seem? One-armed men? (Okay, maybe that one…) The assassination of a mynah bird? Psychologists that walk around wearing 3-D glasses? Sherilynn Fenn proving her whorehouse mettle by tying a cherry stem into a bow with her tongue?
And honestly, what opening musical montage could ever hope to compete with Angelo Badalamenti’s soaring theme, which pulled us into that universe’s inviting arms each and every week:
Boutique card publisher Star Pics capitalized on the raging maelstrom of popularity by putting out a 76-strong set of cards in 1991, just as the second season started to come off the rails, dooming the show to an end of season cancellation. (Heather Graham joining the cast was like a herald of Galactus showing up on your doorstep. Oh ——.) Lesson: When a mystery is the driving force for your program, think twice about solving said mystery before the production has run its course. At least Peaks lasted long enough to gestate this nice little stack of cards. Indeed, they’re a must have for anyone so enamored by Twin Peaks that they’ve scoured eBay trying to find old RR Diner mugs like the one seen gracing the card at the top of this post. (Yes, I’ve done that.) They don’t break any fresh ground, but they offer an attractive package, with tree bark borders (The wood holds many secrets…), character cards, several (sometimes humorous) cards commemorating various quirky objects that gave the show much of its vim, and biographical details and trivia on the backs.
And now, a few for your viewing pleasure.
Here’s FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (played by Lynch veteran Kyle MacLachlan), series lynchpin (…) and he of affinities for coffee, cherry pie, Tibet, hair gel, odd dreams and tape recorded dictation to the never glimpsed Diane:
Here’s his favorite snack:
Cooper shared one of the more endearing lawman bromances in television history with the memorably named Sheriff for Twin Peaks, Harry S. Truman (played by Slapshot veteran Michael Ontkean):
The card backs for the characters, with their bios and backgrounds, have a creepy quality to them generated by incorporating a negative of part of the card front’s photo — negatives are always off-putting, yet they’re very much appropriate for a show where nothing was as it seemed. There are no great spoilers on Leland Palmer’s card back, but Laura’s grieving father does get the most innovative Weakness of any of them:
Speaking of Bob (played by the late Frank Silva), he was maybe the most terrifying creepizoid in television history, and, though the character’s creation was one of those happy accidents embraced by genius, he overcame his happenstance origins and seared his way into fans’ nightmares. Read any reminiscence about the show, and you’ll always find references to how “Bob scared the hell out of me that one time.” I was no different. There are several scenes where, even though I’ve seen the who series multiple times and know what’s coming, I have to suppress the urge to cover my face and peak at the screen through tightly compressed fingers. And without further ado, here he is, the bogeyman of Twin Peaks, in all his stringy-haired, denim-wearing glory:
To this day I still fear that Bob will come along and put me in his Death Bag.
These cards weren’t the only bit of authorized marketing that Peaks had in its heyday. Before there was such a thing as going viral on the internet, there were tie-in books like Agent Cooper’s tape transcripts and Laura Palmer’s secret diary. (In an odd twist, Frost’s son wrote the former, Lynch’s daughter the latter.) Thanks to the quality of the show, which was ahead of its time (it still is), all escape the chintziness that dooms so many TV tie-ins. They also came out before the prequel/kind of sequel movie follow-up, Fire Walk with Me, which shed much of the cast and bewildered more than it entertained, so there’s no Chris Isaak or Keifer Sutherland presence amongst the assemblage, for better or for worse. As they are, the cards stand as an interesting outgrowth of the show that, with all due respect to Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, may be the finest exemplar of Lynch’s unique vibrational plane of creativity.
The cards can be found fairly easily online, and special factory sets come with one card autographed by a member of the cast. As stated above, any fan would be happy to have either a basic set or the deluxe, autograph-laden version. Strangely enough, if I had an autographed card, I’d want it to be Bob’s. Despite my fears.
Oh, and one more thing. I’ve got good news. That gum you like is going to come back in style.