The Kingdom, Twin Peaks & The Burden of Reviving Cult TV Shows

Lars von Trier announced this week that he was bringing back his unfinished TV series The Kingdom for a third and final season. This is over 20 years after the second season ended on a cliffhanger. This is oddly parallel to David Lynch bringing back Twin Peaks for a third season in 2017 after it ended its second season in 1991. Television is full of TV shows that got unceremoniously canceled before they reached their conclusion. It's par for the course in the ruthless and fickle race for ratings. Things have changed in the 21st Century, though. With the emergence of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, CBS All Access, and Disney+, not to mention the various cable channels, there's an increased demand for more shows to fill the time slots. Now revivals of old shows are potentially valuable franchises.

Twin Peaks (image: ABC screencap)
Twin Peaks (image: ABC screencap)

Thus, Lynch was offered the chance to make Twin Peaks – The Return as a unique piece of Event Television. This time, he could make the show without mainstream network interference and mold it to his avant-garde, experimental, oblique leanings without the demands for a conventional TV narrative and soap opera storytelling. The result is either frustrating or exhilarating depending on your tolerance for experiments and whether you were emotionally invested in the soap opera aspects of the original show. Even at 18 episodes, critics hailed it as a movie because Lynch is considered an auteur. Viewers who preferred more conventional storytelling condemned it as pretentious and a massive act of trolling.

The Kingdom: Lars von Trier's Cult TV Series Gets 3rd, Final Season
"The Kingdom", Zentropa Productions

Lars von Trier is another auteur going back to finish some unfinished business, to finish telling a story. The Kingdom was heavily influenced by Twin Peaks and combined hospital drama, gothic horror, state-of-the-nation allegory, social satire, and outright body horror to create a cult TV series. The hospital served as a metaphor for the Danish state, a place where supernatural forces of good and evil fought for the soul of the country. Like Twin Peaks, it's being revived after several key cast members passed away, in this case, the two actors who might be considered the leads of the show, who of good and evil.

Von Trier is going to conclude his story with some serious trickery and out-of-the-box thinking. Lynch and von Trier are experimental filmmakers so these two shows are an anomaly in the practice of reviving TV shows. It's what makes these shows Event Television whether we like the results or not. Other TV reboots or revivals are much more convention and predictable because they're under TV executive overview and not being made by crazy maverick directors who want to, let's say it, create Art whether anyone likes it or not. Now, if Lynch or von Trier were given free rein to make the Saved by the Bell revival, that would be something to behold!

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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