We are all shocked by the news of David Lynch directing all nine episodes from the upcoming third season of Twin Peaks. It looks like after Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) and Steven Soderbergh (The Knick), the next cool thing in the television landscape is having the same director for the whole run. It seems that the era of true authorship in television has arrived, but directors and TV shows have had a long and complex story together, and now it’s the perfect moment to bring it out.
Let’s start clarifying an assumption: Cary Fukanaga didn’t invent anything, other shows and miniseries have followed the same structure that this HBO show is now using. In the 80s, a BBC miniserie called The Singing Detective had its 8 episodes written by Denis Potter and directed by Jon Amien; at the end of the 90s, we have Kieslowski’s The Decalogue, a 10 episode series about the Ten Commandments; and since 2010 Louis C. K. has been leading, directing, writing, producing and editing his own show (beat that Lena Dunham!). Also in 2014, a month after True Detective aired, the gorgeous miniserie The Honourable Woman directed and written by one single person (Hugo Blick) was broadcast. So, nothing new under the sun.
Showrunners such as Alan Ball or David Simon directed the pilot episode and a few others from their creations, but there is a strong sense of authorship in their whole projects. Six Feet Under and True Blood have many things in common: the importance of death, family, exploration of otherness, etc., and Simon’s shows usually tell the story of American towns from the point of view of dozens of their inhabitants. Despite the use of many other directors, there is one story and one well-defined way to tell it, the sign of the author prevails.
J.J. Abrams is the capitalist evolution of this type of author. He has, and no one can doubt it, a unique vision and he is behind two of the most importante TV shows ever. However, he has become a brand, an empty name to catch people’s attention. Since Undercovers (what an awful pilot…), he has only been the executive producer of forgettable shows like Believe, Almost Human, Revolution, Alcatraz or Person of Interest (the only one interesting). I hope that we find the old Abrams again in a galaxy far, far away.
Being behind a TV show (although you don’t direct every single episode like Soderbergh) is the next cool thing and everyone wants to have their own. Lynch was the first American cinema director (in Europe we had Von Trier’s The Kingdom and Kieslowski’s The Decalogue) that saw the television as a new field to explore, and since Twin Peaks important directors like Tarantino (Alias, CSI) or Michael Mann (Luck) have been shyly approaching television with special instances or being the executive producer and director of the first episode (Fincher with House of Cards or Scorsese with Boardwalk Empire, for example).
As we saw in the beginning, although it isn’t a new practice, the next step, nowadays, is directing a whole TV series in order to provide it with an unique cinematic vision. As in the 60s, directors want to make a case for their artistic views and forms. Nevertheless, in this writer’s humble opinion, a show with several directors can mix different perspectives and ideas into a similar homogenous result. In the end, it’s just another option and like any other art, television deserves as many options as possible so artists can express themselves freely.
Lynch, don’t be mad. Television may not need you as much as in the 90s, but we love you’re back.
The Homecoming Queen