Last Monday the A&E network debuted it’s new series titled Bates Motel. The series purports to be a prequel to the events that took place in Alfred Hitchcock’s landmark movie Psycho, though it takes place in the here and now. It can be confusing. Norman Bates, who was a grown man in the movie fifty years ago, is now being portrayed as a teenager when he first moved into the hotel only the time is now, or at least I assume so by the presence of cell phones and the like. It is enough to make your head hurt.
The first episode featured Norman played by Freddie Highmore and his Mother Norma played by Vera Farmiga moving from Arizona to Oregon upon the death of Norman’s father. They have purchased a run down hotel as a way to make the proceeds of his father’s will last longer and provide a regular income. Mrs. Bates is an attractive widow who seems to have just a little bit of a possessive streak when it comes to her son.
Norman gets quite a good bit of attention when he arrives at his new school, attractive girls talk to him, even visit him at home and spirit him away to the library. Momma Bates is none too thrilled about this. As a touch of modernity the Bates have purchased their new hotel in a foreclosure sale and, as they find out one afternoon, the previous owner is a local, a good old boy, and he is none too pleased with their presence. While Norman sneaks out one night with his new friends Mr. Previous Owner pays a violent visit to Mrs. Bates which culminates with her killing him after he rapes her, an act Norman walks in on. Clearly this is not the start they wanted in the town,
Does the show work? I guess it does. The Bates are attractive until they start killing people and hiding them in sheets in the bathtub. Everyone in the town seems either a little too friendly, or a little too nosy, but I suppose that might be true in many small towns.
For me the show is just not very pleasant. Assuming we believe Norman and his Mother are, or are on the way to becoming, psychopathic killers do we really want to visit them each week and see what progress they are making. Outside of that the violence in the show is fairly extreme, the rape scene was way too vivid for a program rated as it was for television consumption.
I am sure I am a bit prudish and after all these characters are based on a book and movie called Psycho. Perhaps this illustrates best of all the difference between the genius of Hitchcock and the lazy producer of today. Hitchcock showed you little and had you at the edge of your seat with suspense while the makers of this show, and others, show you everything and more than you want to see.
A&E said this show set records for them for the number of viewers for a show premiere. That might be the case but one must consider this is a network that features on not a few nights of the week a show called Duck Dynasty. I will not be watching Episode Two. I know how it all turns out.
Final Review for Bates Motel: D. Don’t stay even one night.