Last year, Showtime brought us Twin Peaks: The Return, an 18-hour television masterpiece from original Twin Peaks creators David Lynch and Mark Frost that answered some questions, raised many others, and kept Peaks fans riveted week after week. Lynch and Frost co-wrote every episode, Lynch directed them all, and the result was some of the most acclaimed television of 2017. But it almost didn't turn out that way.
In April of 2015, six months after Showtime announced the revival as a nine-hour limited series, Lynch announced that he was leaving Twin Peaks over budgetary concerns. Fans and the Peaks cast rallied around Lynch, and a month later he was back after new negotiations with the network gave him the budget he desired and a bigger episode order (at the time the total was unannounced, but it ended up being 18 hours). Everything worked out, so by the time The Return came to air, we weren't hearing much anymore about exactly what happened that convinced Lynch to leave and then to return to the series. In his new memoir Room to Dream, Lynch has finally elaborated a bit about how that all went down.
According to Lynch, Showtime was initially hesitant to make the revival series with the budget he requested, and they were also hesitant to offer anything more than nine episodes. Lynch cites the financial failure of his most recent film at the time, Inland Empire, as at least part of the reason why Showtime was reluctant, but when he saw the proposed budget for the new series, he felt there was no way to make it work.
"Then, when I saw the budget they were offering, I said, ‘F**k this,’ and ready made! I said, ‘I’m f**kin’ out! If they want to do it without me I’ll probably let them, but I’m out,’ and I felt a tremendous sense of freedom mixed with sadness when I made the decision," he wrote.
Two days after Lynch announced his departure from the series, Showtime execs Gary Levine and David Nevins met with Lynch at his home and, over cookies, they tried to work out a new deal. According to Lynch, by the end of the 45-minute meeting "it wasn't happening at all," but he and Nevins both said they would come up with offers for each other. Lynch and Twin Peaks executive producer Sabrina Sutherland set to work on a kind of all-or-nothing offer asking for everything Lynch felt was necessary to get the series made the way he wanted.
“With not a f**kin’ thing to lose, Sabrina and I drew up a list of everything we’d need and I said, ‘Okay, Sabrina, you’re gonna go in there in say, ‘This is not a negotiation. If you want to do it, this is what it takes.’ If they start quibbling about stuff, say thank you very much and stand up and leave.’” Lynch wrote. “But David Nevins said, ‘We can make this work,’ and that was it — I’m back in the thing.”
So Lynch returned to The Return, Showtime agreed to his budget and produced 18 episodes, and we got one of the most thrilling TV reunions ever made. The lesson here: Give David Lynch what he wants. And bring cookies.