Inside Invitation to Love: Twin Peaks's Show-Within-A-Show You May Have Missed
By Emily Petsko
Twin Peaks is the show that keeps on giving. Nearly 30 years after the cult classic first debuted, fans and critics alike are still discussing the multilayered messages hidden within the "groundbreaking" series.
One new analysis comes courtesy of Dazed, which outlined the history of Invitation To Love, the show-within-a-show that casual viewers of Twin Peaks may have overlooked upon first viewing. The use of this device—a nod to Shakespeare's play-within-a-play—serves as a "meta-exploration of the medium of TV itself," according to Dazed.
The characters of Twin Peaks can be seen watching snippets of the soap opera Invitation to Love throughout the first and second seasons, but it does not appear in the 2017 reboot. The soap shows up for the first time in season one, episode three, in a scene where waitress Shelly Johnson is watching television. After watching the show's opening, which has been compared to Days of Our Lives, Shelly glances at a photo of her abusive husband Leo and then turns to the doorway where her secret lover, Bobby Briggs, stands.
"Her own invitation to love, indeed her only possibility for love, has arrived, so Shelly abandons the television romance for one of her own," Mark J. Charney wrote in a 1991 essay published in the journal Studies in Popular Culture. In this way, the soap opera serves to mirror and parody the events happening in Twin Peaks while also providing insight into the characters' thoughts and motivations. At times, the soap opera is also used to foreshadow future developments in Twin Peaks.
An analysis by Slate further developed the theory that Invitation to Love is a meta commentary on television itself, stressing that Twin Peaks draws from diverse sources to create a "twisted pastiche of network TV." When series co-creator Mark Frost was asked why they chose to include the soap opera sequences, he replied, "I think that watching television is a big part of people's lives in this country and you very rarely see that treated in television."
Some people—including Frost's fellow co-creator, David Lynch—have even argued that Twin Peaks itself can be labeled a soap opera. But Charney disagreed, stating that the series "is neither a conventional soap opera nor a parody of the genre." Rather, he argued, it combines elements of slapstick, horror, and melodrama to create a surreal series that spans several genres.
Check out the video below to see a compilation of all the Invitation to Love clips that appear in Twin Peaks.