Sequels are SO Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Prequels are the hot new thing, as origin stories tell us how things got to where we are now. And everyone knows that younger versions of familiar characters wiggle their ways into the brains of trend-setting teen audiences through cuteness and familiarity (Muppet Babies is obviously the bestest example). The latest old story to get the youthful treatment is Psycho via A&E's new drama Bates Motel, which follows a teenage Norman Bates as he and his mama open up a hotel and prove all of Freud's theories to be true. But is it worth watching? I've seen the first three episodes and I'm here to answer your questions that I made up for you.
Bates Motel? What is this, some sort of Psycho prequel?
Uhhhh, duh, that's what I said in the first paragraph! Bates Motel rewinds things to Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore, grown up since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) when he's 17 years old, immediately following the death of his father. Nothing says grieving like opening up a scary hotel in a small town, so mom Norma (Vera Farmiga) buys one and moves Norman out to White Pine Bay, where everyone is up in everyone else's business. The sereis also spends a lot of time with Norman at his new high school, where his peculiar demeanor and mysterious past instantly ingratiates him with both the cool chicks and the nerdy chicks. But obviously the big draw here is Norman's unusual relationship with his mother, which is kind of creepy and gross and could mess with his social development. I mean, this kid may grow up to be kind of... troubled.
Who's responsible for Bates Motel?
The show was created by Anthony Cipriano, whose credits don't really lead anywhere spectacular yet. But the big name on Bates Motel's resume is executive producer and showrunner Carlton Cuse, best known as one half of the showrunning team from ABC's Lost (the tall guy with reddish brown hair, not the short guy with the shaved head). Also running the show by committee is Kerry Ehrin, who last dealt with teenage murderers on Friday Night Lights.
When can I check out Bates Motel?
Bates Motel debuts on Monday, March 18 at 10pm on A&E. BUT if you are impatient you can watch it on some On-Demand services, like Comcast.
Who's the target audience for Bates Motel?
Do you like shows about f'd up people? Then this might be for you. Down with learning how serial killers get their start? Sure, fire it up. We'll see how far things go with the high-school aspect of the series, but it could draw in a younger audience of gothy types, too.
What are the good things about Bates Motel?
The source material is obviously stellar; beyond that, we're dealing with a different person in young Norman Bates, and there's lots of room for exploration in the relationship with his mother. But what really gives Bates Motel a unique flavor is its inherent creepiness—and when it's at its best, we're talking a Twin Peaks kind of creepiness and not an American Horror Story kind of creepiness. Whether it's the way Norma brushes her son's hand in one moment or the way she screams at him the next, watching them together is icky more than it is comforting. And witnessing Norman take those messed-up signals from his mom and project them onto his relationships with other women is worthy of a few cringes, too. Highmore's cautious performance as the young Norman is either perfect for the role or a bit underplayed. Farmiga is solid as Norma.
And what about the bad things about Bates Motel?
Bates Motel probably would have been better off as a limited-run miniseries, given that we know how this thing ends. Despite the creepiness and death in the pilot episode, the first hour is largely boring and full of only partially effective scenes, as the writing dips into mediocre territory. If you ask me, there's a lot in the pilot that could've either been cut or embellished. Later episodes add another family member and spin the story into his world, which detracts from what we all came to see: NORMAN KILLING ANIMALS! There are occasional lapses in credible judgment as Norma and Norman don't behave in rational ways, even for a crazy mom and her psycho son. But one of series' oddest creative choices is that it's set in modern times, as is evidenced by Norman pulling out his iPhone to send and receive texts or snap a photo. Why not set it in the '40s or '50s, when the Norman Bates we know would have been a teen?
So should I tune into Bates Motel?
If you have all the time in the world and you also have a dark side, then you'll probably enjoy it. But there's a lot of other television out there that's much better, and you're likely to miss out on very little if you do skip it, as I don't think this well be a show that everyone's talking about. Bates Motel just doesn't go much beyond average, but it's good enough to pass the time. In summary: It's okay.
Can I see a trailer?
What beverage should I pair with Bates Motel if I choose to watch it?
Something creepy. You know, like tea.