Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Please, PLEASE Stay Tuned for "The Commish"

I've been waiting for episodes of David Lynch and Mark Frost's short-lived 1992 sitcom "On the Air" to show up on YouTube for a while now and some kind soul has finally uploaded a well-worn VHS copy of the premiere episode in four parts. This page on gives a synopsis of the show's history and what it was about. Basically, Lynch's career was so mega-hot following the initial success of "Twin Peaks" that ABC pretty much gave him carte blanche to do any other kind of show he wanted. But by the time he gave them "On the Air" in 1992, Twin Peaks had been cancelled, Lynch was entering a commercial and critical downturn, and now ABC had this utterly whacked new show on their hands - a screwball sitcom with virtually every alienating trait the average network executive and/or person could imagine.

As anyone who's watched a lot of his work can attest, the only time Lynch is more bizarre than when he's vividly exploring nightmare imagery of the subconscious is when he's trying to be funny. Even in dark works like ERASERHEAD, a stray oddly comic moment ("OK, PAUL!") is often one of the most head-scratching elements of the film. Lynch's sense of humor is completely unfettered in "On the Air" and it runs toward the almost impossibly corny and dated. Picture scenes in "Twin Peaks" like the befuddled old man trudging slowly through the bank in the series finale, or the Deputy Andy/Lucy/Dick Tremaine bits late in the series' run, then ramp up the "zany factor" even further and you've got the tone of "On the Air." While the appeal and marketability of Lynch's usual dark milieu for art film snobs and social misfits alike is understandable, it's hard to imagine under normal circumstances that a sophisticated or not-so-sophisticated viewer would go for stuff in these clips like the unhilarious David "Squiggy" Lander's indecipherable German accent; the stock dimbulb, ditzy starlet character; and the sight gags involving midgets and siamese twins; all of which would have been stale by about 1939. However, Lynch's typically un-self-conscious and surreal presentation of this material makes it, if not traditionally funny, at least a weirdly compelling anomaly. I dimly recall the subsequent episodes as being even more odd so here's hoping they turn up on YouTube (or as I call it, SourceOfShamelesslyEverIncreasingOrgasms.orrrg) as well.

ON THE AIR - episode 1
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

On a related note, this YouTube user seems to be in the midst of uploading the entire first season of "Twin Peaks," including the essential, brilliant pilot episode which, due to ownership disputes is not available on DVD in the U.S., not even with the first season box set. If you've never seen the show and are unable to rent the pilot on VHS for whatever reason you may as well check it out. I watched TP when I was 11 and it forever changed the way I look at the world. The good news is it broadened my outlook, the bad news is I've attached permanent, creepy associations to ceiling fans.

EDIT: Whoops, that Twin Peaks pilot that guy uploaded is missing the last 10 minutes. I don't know what to tell ya.


litelysalted said...

Here is an impersonation of myself watching a David Lynch movie:

"Okay, this is good. I like where this is going."
"Oh SWEET! That part was pretty awesome."
"Wait. What just happened?"
"What the fuck is going on?"
"I don't understand this at all. I hate this movie."
"Watch it again? Not fucking likely!"

Mister Litelysalted is a pretty big David Lynch fan however, so I will pass this onto him. We actually have S1 of Twin Peaks on DVD and I kindof want to see it, only fear I will have the same reaction I have when watching a David Lynch movie, and the TV show is considerably longer.

Chris said...

In that case, get ready for his next movie, INLAND EMPIRE, as it's supposed to be nearly 3 hours long and one of his most incomprehensbile films yet! Your reaction was pretty much America's reaction to Twin Peaks. It started off as a quirky murder mystery/soap opera then slowly turned into probably the weirdest show to ever air on network TV. I can't stress enough that people should view that non-dvd pilot first, as it's arguably the best episode and is essential to the entire series. The 1st season dvds completely suffer without it.