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David Lynch Hotel Room
Courtesy HBO, via Youtube

Hotel Room: the secret history of David Lynch’s lost HBO series

After an early cancellation, the 1993 mini-series fell into obscurity – but it may be some of the filmmaker’s best work

This month, David Lynch’s Hotel Room turned 30 years old. The mini-series remains an overlooked work in the auteur’s illustrious cannon, overshadowed by the acclaimed Twin Peaks and his other film work. On paper, Hotel Room should have been as much of a success as these projects – an HBO-produced anthology series with episodes written by Barry Gifford (author of Wild At Heart), directed by Lynch himself, and also featuring music by the late, great Angelo Badalamenti

Unfortunately, the show never really clicked with audiences, and after an early cancellation and years of gathering dust, it soon fell into the darkest depths of r/davidlynch (much like his equally obscure and short-lived 1992 sitcom, On The Air). This is probably because the show was written as three separate half-hour-long television plays, making it a more character and dialogue-driven project – a step back from visual spectacles like Dune and Blue Velvet. “[Making Hotel Room] was actually a wonderful experience,” reflected Gifford in 2021. “David and I collaborated on two episodes of the series, which aired at the beginning of 1993, and the plays have subsequently been performed all over the world.”

Is this to say that Hotel Room is actually Lynch’s forgotten masterpiece, an unsung pièce de résistance? To put it bluntly, no – but that’s not to say the series is devoid of any artistic merit. There are some genuinely visionary parts of the show, and although it hasn’t been subject to the critical or thematic analysis of much of his other work, it’s still worth checking out. Down below, we explore the history of what may be one of the filmmaker’s most obscure projects.


The mini-series takes us inside room 603 of the Railroad Hotel, following three different stories across three different decades. When watching Hotel Room as an omnibus (how it was originally aired on HBO) the constantly shifting tone can feel disorienting: the first episode, “Trick”, which stars Harry Dean Stanton and Freddie Jones, feels like a typically depraved Lynchian display, but the second episode, “Getting Rid of Robert” feels more like a lighthearted, run-of-the-mill soap opera. The shift creates the sense that the series is unsure of its own identity – is it a sitcom or a surreal exploration of the subconscious? While Lynch has struck up a perfect balance of offbeat humour and otherworldly darkness in works such as Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks, it never quite pays off in Hotel Room

The show’s downfall lies in the fact that it is marred by its inconsistencies. The shift in tone between the second episode and the other two in the series can be attributed to the fact James Signorelli (longtime producer of Saturday Night Live) and Jay McInerney (author of Bright Lights, Big City) took over as director and writer. Speaking to, Gifford reflected, “we should’ve done all three of them and not had the other one written and directed by other people.” Upon its release, the consensus of most critics was that it was a pretty weak and forgettable entry in the director’s filmography and, off the back of that, HBO said farewell to the Railroad Hotel. 


After three episodes the show’s cancellation felt premature especially given how good the third (and final) instalment of the series “Blackout” was, an episode that stands as quite possibly the director’s most underrated and underappreciated work. In an interview with, author and Lynch aficionado Scott Ryan believes that had “David just been given the opportunity to explore it [Hotel Room] further, what that would’ve become would’ve been incredible.” 

The final entry stars Crispin Glover and Alicia Witt as married couple Danny and Diane and remains nearly unmatched in its ability to combine Lynch’s striking visual motifs – the unsettling close-ups and atmospheric lighting – alongside an emotional plot about the pair processing the loss of their child. Both Glover (in one of his only roles for television) and Witt deliver standout performances, and the latter’s portrayal of a traumatised, grieving mother is genuinely affecting. The episode is an unusually stripped-back affair for the director – the episode being entirely based around a conversation between the couple – but nonetheless a deeply engaging one. “So many women have come and spoken to me about that play,” said Gifford. “Out of the plays I wrote in the Hotel Room Trilogy, “Blackout” is the one that gets performed the most often. Many people have wanted to expand it into a film, and I’ve said, “No, I think it’s just right the way it is.”

At the time of Hotel Room’s release, critics highlighted the quality of the episode – Chris Willman of the LA Times stating that “it may be the most moving work [Lynch has] ever done.” 


The more die-hard or analytical Lynch fan may be able to pick out conceptual similarities between Hotel Room and many of the director’s previous works. One member of a David Lynch forum page noted how in the opening episode, “Trick”, there are (spoilers!!) two characters, Moe (Stanton) and Lou (Jones), who represent split personalities of one person, or a psychogenic fugue where the mind is able to dissociate from traumatic or unwanted memories. This concept was also explored in Lost Highway (another collaboration between Gifford and Lynch) when Fred Maddison splits into the identity of Pete Drayton, and in Mulholland Drive, when Betty Elms splits into Diane Selwyn, both characters seeking solace in creating an alternate, better version of themselves.  


After fading to obscurity, rips of both the scarce US-released VHS tape and Japanese laserdisc have found their way onto YouTube in recent years. Even though the first 60 minutes of the series may not be up there with Lynch’s best work, it’s worth sticking it out for the emotional rollercoaster that is “Blackout”. And, let’s face it – if you sat through the whole James Hurley motorbike fixing loverboy storyline in Twin Peaks season 2 (which was pretty fucking awful) even the more casual Lynch fans should be able to find some value in the trashiness and tragedy that encompasses the series.