Twin Peaks: Las Vegas – Episode 1 Finds Its Top Gear

Welcome! You’ve stumbled upon my first “review” of the imaginary Twin Peaks spin-off sitcom, Twin Peaks: Las Vegas. The finale of Season 3 hurt. It really hurt. I needed something to laugh at, something healing. This, at long last, is the thing I needed. I hope this heals you like it is healing me. And I hope it makes you laugh, or at least smile. Smiling is good.

Before the review, we have this audio version for your perusal.

This week on Twin Peaks: Las Vegas, Janey-E talks Dougie into trying out for Nascar, and the Pink Girls take Sonny Jim on a nature study.

Breakfast with the Joneses

We jump right into the show as Janey-E looks fiercely into a mirror. I timed 8 seconds of silence before she momentums her way into her hysterical self-pep-talk about how “I deserve a life! A better life! In the fast lane! And my tiger can do this — I’ve seen him drive, he can beat all of them! And he’d look so good on camera — and so would I honestly though I’d need to straighten my hair and find a good rotation of three new pairs of shoes, let’s make sure to stop off at LuVonne’s on the way home — that’s how confident I am that this is going to happen!”  And so on and so forth (and constantly adorable). Then she march-bounces downstairs with the camera following her all the way to where Sonny Jim and Dougie are eating lunch.

I love how Janey-E springs the You’re-Going-To-Drive-In-Nascar plan on Dougie and doesn’t even give him time to finish chewing his sandwich to answer (not answering must be a way of saying yes according to Janey-E) before she says “I know a guy” as if it’s already cleared to happen. Which of course it is because two scenes later we’re looking at Dougie behind the wheel of a genuine Nascar car. But we’re not there yet because through Janey-E’s entire kitchen monologue she’s also packing Sonny Jim’s backpack and shoving him out the door just before the Mitchum’s limo even honks their horn. It’s like Janey-E is tapped into something and the world’s just working for her. This is a good choice for her character in this new Pilot. Let it be known this show treats Janey-E like a force of nature.

A note about how the show is filmed: right up until Janey-E walks past the coffeemaker it appears to be done all in one take, which is impressive. With the upstairs, downstairs and the stairway included as it was (not to mention the street and limo seen from the front door), I think they’re filming the Jones house scenes on location in a real house.

As far as the rest of the show, I’ll talk about the Dougie and Sonny Jim halves of the episode one at a time rather than bouncing back and forth between them like we see it.

Dougie sure knows how to drive

Anyone following the rest of our site’s Season 3 analysis knows why Dougie would be driving the #9 car, but on this show no one makes a thing out of it at all, or even winks at it. I love how even as a sitcom Twin Peaks can work on multiple levels.

It was honest fun to see Dougie with the hefty racing gloves clamped onto the steering wheel, and Janey-E needing to help him get his helmet on correctly. Some things never change, even though Dougie does a better job acting like he’s an active participant.

It was an interesting choice to film the actual time trials from a fixed position, as if it’s from the crowd seats where no one turns their heads to follow the cars. The shot focused on the back half of the track, let the cars go through the frame until they’re off camera. We hear them rumble through the closest part of the track without seeing them, and eventually the cars came back in the shot at the back of the course.

I get that the show’s going for the theme of cycles and circles, and the sound design made it feel like we were in the seats, but why keep the camera so still? There was so much action happening on the track itself, but most of everything in frame was static. It took going to the crowd shot near the end of the scene before anything was filmed like an action sequence, and then it was only to see Dougie’s supporters be happy to cheer on Dougie while wearing ambiguous expressions as if maybe they didn’t know if Dougie did well enough to qualify for a real race or not.

Sonny Jim’s great outdoors

Sonny Jim had a much more peaceful day out with the girls on their nature study (Candie, Sandie and Mandie, particularly standing out from the forest in their pink dresses), and I love how lush their hike scenes looked…the forest is different than the Pacific Northwest but no less beautiful.

The way Sandie spoke about all the flora and fauna around them, it sounded almost musical, and slightly comical because she’s describing all of this action yet we see such stillness around them. If you told me Candie’s random nonsequiters would not be the highlight of the scenes she’s in, I wouldn’t have believed you, but Sandie carried the forest scenes ridiculously easily.

I’m not sure how they’re planning on characterizing Sonny Jim in this show yet. The comedy that came from him was mostly reaction shots as he almost laughs every time Sandie interrupts him. You can tell Sonny Jim loves when people are passionate about things.

Did anyone else notice the shot of ducks on the lake followed the same kind of formula as the Nascar Track shot? If you noticed behind the picnic lunch scene, the ducks were actually swimming in a circle in and out of frame. Don’t know how they got the ducks to do that; almost wonder if they were somehow animatronic.

The last scene was late that night (after the sun had gone down at least). Janey-E and Dougie come in from the garage after their (what should have been) celebration meal, both acting stuffed to the gills. Dougie seemed non-plussed about not making a spot on the racing team, but Janey-E was still fluffing up his ego anyway (for her own benefit I assume). You could tell it revved her motor whether or not he could make a career out of that driving, and some of her innuendo was positively filthy, so we know she came to peace with the day’s outcome. A slower moving life will work for her just fine after all, it seems.

And before it veered too far in that direction, the knock on the door led to one of the more endearing moments of the episode when Bradley Mitchum carries a fast-asleep Sonny Jim from the car to the boy’s bedroom. Janey-E got to tuck him in, she and Dougie got to share a really sweet look, and as soon as the men exchange thumbs-ups and Bradley turns to leave, Janey-E looks up at Dougie and her expression changes from mom to tiger. Cut to credits, and the most Yakkity-Sacks-inspired music I’ve heard in a long time.

Overall Thoughts

This pilot was character-based like any good sitcom, but it feels like it doesn’t just want to be a sitcom. The whole show hits me in an Arrested Development way of bringing humor out of absurdity, but it all still has the look of paintings on the screen. Maybe it’ll look less that way as the scenes won’t always be outside in nature (though for Sandie’s sake I hope they get some time outside so she can rhapsodize again), but based on how they filmed the outside of the house I think this show is going to be gorgeous the whole way through.

And before you ask, I have no idea why the Jones house’s mailbox was focused on for so long. Maybe it’s foreshadowing for the future, but it might just be a statement on an old system like snail mail, or maybe the shot could just be there for mood. There’s lots of reasonable answers so let’s just wait and see before we turn it into a theory on life. If it comes to nothing, though, it’d be weird they left it in the show with all the other stuff going on. We could’ve had another Sandie monologue about a different kind of butterfly (or something) to go along with her take on squirrel hibernation.

Sandie and Janey-E were obviously the standouts, but Phil Bisby (who wasn’t given a single line the whole show) deserves a mention for getting into the spirit next to Bushnell, Janey-E and Sonny Jim in the Nascar stands during the time trials montage. And his prop is a classic already: the mustard yellow pennant with the lime green letters (D and J) was as glorious as it was hideous. I expect to see that for sale in the Showtime store one of these days, and I think I would even buy it when it gets there.

A lot happens in this first episode (Dougie’s entire Nascar audition and Sonny Jim’s full day of nature study, all over the course of the half hour), but it doesn’t feel like much of anything happens in this pilot.  Not sure what to make of this, other than there’s a blatant repetition (whether it’s in camera angles, or specifically mentioned in dialog) that says “slow down” (my favorite of these being Dougie obeying the Yield sign on the way to the audition and Janey-E saying “oh come on”).

The only thing I don’t know about is that credits song. It’s goofy as hell but somehow not entirely incongruous. It could grow on me, or I could end up hating it. A truly confusing choice however you look at it. But I’ll take the show’s advice and not jump to conclusions about it.

When I heard the topic of this episode involved race cars, I was skeptical at first, but it turned out to be a cute show based around people who love each other. I’ll take this little burst of compassion in a TV landscape otherwise filled with anti-heroes and monsters. Not sure where the dramatic tension will come from (though I suspect it’ll mostly be from misunderstandings), but for a pilot it introduced us to a status quo I’m happy to return to.


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