Now that “Twin Peaks: The Return” is coming to a close, we can begin to consider whether it was worth it to continue the story, 25 years after the original “Twin Peaks.”
For Showtime and many critics, the answer is a simple yes.
The series has been averaging two million viewers per week across all platforms, taking into account weekly Nielsen data, streaming and on demand viewing. That’s not an especially impressive number compared to something like “Game of Thrones,” which brought in 16.5 million overall with its Season 7 finale, but it’s on par with some of Showtime’s other success stories.
The two-part “Twin Peaks” premiere had the most streaming viewers ever for an original series debut on the network. The 15th episode — the most recent for which numbers are available — had the show’s best ratings since July 9, suggesting that interest is growing ahead of the 18th and final episode.
While Showtime doesn’t disclose subscriber numbers, the show generated the most free-trial sign-ups since Showtime launched a digital-only service in 2015, according to the network.
Showtime also expects the show to generate more viewers long after it completes. If the growing numbers for the premiere are any indication, many viewers are catching up with past episodes.
The premiere had 626,000 viewers in its May 20 debut, but that number has since grown to 4.3 million viewers.
The original “Twin Peaks,” which aired on ABC beginning in 1990, was all over the place in terms of ratings. (You can’t fairly compare old and new TV watching habits, because broadcast TV shows in the 1990s had far less competition than shows airing today.)
When “Twin Peaks” first premiered, it was in a Thursday night time slot, directly across from “Cheers,” so hopes weren’t high for it despite critical acclaim. However, the two-hour pilot was a massive success when it debuted. According to the New York Times, the premiere drew in nearly 35 million viewers.
Twinpeaks.org notes that while the premiere was a hit, ratings were inconsistent thanks in part to the show’s serialized nature and to schedule shifts by ABC.
The critical response to the revival has been positive. It currently enjoys a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it certified fresh.
In a recent write-up at the New York Times, critic James Poniewozik wrote that “The Return” has defied expectations. “But what I’ve enjoyed most is not when “The Return” made me say, ‘Aw, it’s so nice to see that/him/her again.’ It’s when the show made me say — as it has, over and over — “Wow, I’ve never seen that before.”
Some have noted that the slow pacing of “The Return” may frustrate some viewers, who are used to shows designed for shorter attention spans. Brian Lowry at CNN commented that the show “felt trapped in the 1990s — before it was quite as easy to tune out.”
“The Return” aired at the same time as the megahit “Game of Thrones” until “Return” switched to an 8 p.m. time slot. Hank Stuever at the Washington Post says “Thrones” may have drawn some of the attention from “Twin Peaks.”
“So it happens that while America spent its summer watching TV’s biggest show, it unfortunately missed TV’s best show,” he wrote.
“Twin Peaks: The Return” wraps up with a two-part finale on Sunday, Sept. 3. Look out for TheWrap’s critical discussion of the show following the finale.