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matt zoller seitz

Seitz Asks: What’s the Scariest Image You’ve Seen in a TV Series?

Q: What's the scariest image you've ever seen on a TV series?
A: BOB crawling over the couch in Twin Peaks.

David Lynch and Mark Frost's landmark series Twin Peaks was a moveable feast of perverse and terrifying imagery, but many of its signature creep-out moments revolved around BOB, an evil spirit who loomed over the show's 30-episode run.

Even though Twin Peaks is over two decades old, I don't want to ruin its twists for newbies, so I won't delve into detail about exactly who BOB is and what he does; let's just say he's described within the show as a manifestation of "the evil that men do," and that he's so primordially horrifying that just looking at the image at the top of this page is enough to make me want to curl up on the floor like a brine shrimp and weep softly. The scene appeared in the second-season episode "Coma," which was written by Harley Peyton and directed by Lynch: Murdered high school cheerleader Laura Palmer's twin cousin Maddy Ferguson (Sheryl Lee, who also played Laura) has a vision in which BOB ambles through her aunt and uncle's Donna Hayward's eerily symmetrical living room and climbs over a couch, moving closer and closer to the camera until his leering, hissing face is right up in the lens. And I'm going to quit typing now, because I'm getting scared just thinking about it.

When I mentioned the couch moment to Peaks-loving friends, they agreed it was scary, but a few of them cited other BOB appearances as being even scarier. (This one is a doozy, too.) I believe BOB appeared in ten episodes of the series, often quite briefly. I started  to compile a complete list of BOB scenes via YouTube search but quit when I realized that if I followed through, I might not be able to sleep again until next Tuesday. Your fright mileage may vary, but what raises this BOB appearance to No. 1 on my list is the methodical relentlessness of his walk-up. I've always found monsters that amble to be much scarier than monsters that sprint. It's as if they figure they'll get you one way or another, so why rush?

What's your pick for the most disturbing image on a TV series? We're talking scripted TV here, not documentaries or news footage. Share your own traumas in the comments section; the scarier the better.

Photo: Lynch/Frost Productions