There are a lot of great shows on cable TV these days. On AMC, Breaking Bad is about to air the final episodes imminently. If you subscribe to HBO, Game of Thrones is starting up soon.
Last week, A&E, which is a network that has been more or less overrun by “reality” programs like “Duck Dynasty” and “Storage Wars” aired the first episode of “Bates Motel.” The show is a modern day prequel to the film Psycho.
The first episode starts with a teenage Norman Bates discovering his father’s dead body; Norman’s mother listens to his horrified reaction with total indifference. That’s right. Norman’s mother (Norma) is a main character on the show in the flesh. Six months after these events, she relocates their lives to the iconic Bates Motel, where they are starting new lives in the hospitality industry. The events in the first episode begin to plant the seeds for the issues that the character of Norman Bates has become famous for.
For anyone familiar with the original film (or the three sequels), the show becomes eerily familiar very quickly, as the Bates house is one of the main settings for the show. And the sets are so reminiscent of the originals that it’s almost impossible to discern that the story of the show is taking place in modern times; the digital devices and electronic raves are pretty glaring reminders, though.
So far, the cast seems perfect. The kid who plays Norman has Anthony Perkins’s awkwardness down. I’m not sure how I feel about Norma being such an attractive middle aged woman (I guess it kind of makes sense with what is to come), but Vera Farmiga is really good at playing the overprotective “mother.” The supporting cast is also interesting. Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert from LOST) plays the town sheriff.
They took a few liberties with the continuity. For example, in Psycho, it’s explained that Norman’s mother built the hotel after a five year old Norman’s father died. In the show, Norma purchases the hotel while Norman is around 16 and in high school. [Hey, it’s nothing worse than the liberties they took in the sequels to the original film as far as I’m concerned; those films are so inconsistent, it’s frustrating!]
It’ll be really interesting to see how the show develops. We pretty much know where most of the characters end up, but, when done right, it’s fun to see how the characters get to the place they are when we meet them.
“Bates Motel” airs on A&E on Mondays at 10PM.