Lynch's unlikely salvation came from his agent, Tony Krantz, suggested the director conceive a television series with Frost. Though initially hesitant, Lynch hunkered down with the writer, and shaped a small-town murder-mystery roughly in the mold of Blue Velvet. Originally titled Northwest Passage, the plan was to hook viewers with the murder of Laura Palmer, the most popular and perfect high school student in town, with the ensuing investigation delving into a community that is at once morally upright and thoroughly corrupt.
The pitch proved irresistible to ABC, which, coming off contract disputes with the Writers Guild of America, which led to the lengthy 1988 strike, was desperate for new programming. (The network previously scraped creative rock bottom by reviving Mission: Impossible, which included shooting old scripts from the original run.) ABC committed to a two-hour pilot with the stipulation that Lynch and Frost film a version that definitively solves Laura Palmer's murder; if the network rejected the pilot, it could at least recoup on the $4 million investment by selling it as a new David Lynch film to international markets. Lynch and Frost took the deal, but, according to the writer in the documentary Secrets from Another Place: Creating Twin Peaks, they had one demand, "If you want us to do it, you have to leave us alone." They did. According to producer David Latt, "[Lynch] was the master of his own work."