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On the Air, the second show from Twin Peaks creators Mark Frost and David Lynch, barely registered in the public consciousness when it premiered on ABC in 1992. The show’s seven episodes are now available on YouTube, and did the rounds at the very end of last year.

There’s a reason the show had little post-broadcast life and is all but forgotten: it isn’t very good. An attempt to create a zany behind-the-scenes look at live TV comedy in the late ’50s, On the Air is a bit like David Lynch doing 30 Rock. While the show did have the input of Twin Peaks creators Frost and Lynch, it stalled quickly, sliding into repetition and stale gags. Seven episodes were shot, but only three aired.

But wait! I didn’t write this piece just to say “here’s a thing, it’ kinda sucks.” In fact the pilot, written by Frost and Lynch and directed by Lynch, is actually pretty terrific. (In 1997 it was ranked squarely in the middle of a list of the 100 best TV episodes ever made.)

Now, Twin Peaks is in the ether again. David Lynch is evidently shooting something Peaks-related next week, which is probably a web-bound promo for the complete box set we know to be coming later this year. So it’s a good time to revisit On the Air. Because whatever intentions Frost and Lynch may have had, that first episode is like one long dream sequence that reconfigures and laughs at the whole experience of creating Twin Peaks. Read More »

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BDSF: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Cigarettes & Coffee

In a previous edition of Big Directors Small Films, we took a look at Paul Thomas Anderson‘s first film, a 1988 short fictional documentary that inspired Boogie Nights titled The Dirk Diggler Story. From there, Paul went on to attend New York University, but quit after only two days of classes. He became a production assistant on a bunch of made for television movies, television game shows and independent film projects. In this time he developed his second serious short film project made up of five vignettes set in a diner with Philip Baker Hall (who later went on to become a PTA regular) and Miguel Ferrer among the cast.

Cigarettes & Coffee premiered at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival, where he gained the attention needed to be accepted into the Sundance Institute’s filmmaker workshop program where he developed, adapted, and expanded the idea into his first feature film — Hard Eight. In this short you can see the early inspiration of Robert Altman, with Anderson cutting between three stories which somehow intersect. Many thanks to /Film reader Kendrick T who submitted the Vimo link over the weekend.

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