“Bates Motel,” the 10-part series, has its premiere tonight at 10 on A&E, and with “Psycho” as its source of inspiration, one has to wonder: Can it come anywhere near the greatness of that macabre masterpiece?
It might or it might not — but what it does have going for it is Mama Bates & Son.
The TV series is a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic from 1960 starring Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. The series attempts to tell the story of how Norman came to be Norman, the motel proprietor under the thumb of a mother long dead. As Starpulse notes, this is not a direct prequel, though you may not realize it until you see young Norman on his iPhone. The website calls this as much small-town soap as the story of a young man’s descent into madness.
But the relationship between the pair — Norman and Norma — can be riveting, as well as “eew.” Together, the Boston Globe says, they “share secret knowledge of one, and possibly two, murders,” and the teenage Norman quotes “expressions of love” from “Jane Eyre” to his mother as they dispose of a dead body.
Oscar-nominated actress Vera Farmiga stars as Norma Bates. And she alone makes “Bates Motel” worth watching, writes Los Angeles Times’ TV critic Mary McNamara:
“Norma is a high-wire character, requiring deft and constant juggling of the believable and the absurd, of the ordinary and the extreme, the beautiful and the repulsive. Farmiga, Oscar-nominated for “Up in the Air,” is an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of a performer, while [Freddie] Highmore, most recently the star of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” meets her scene for scene.”
If nothing else, “Bates Motel” could inspire you to re-watch “Psycho.” (The famous ending is below.)
As for Mama Bates, Hitchcock’s original makes it clear she wasn’t such a bad person after all. She wouldn’t even harm a fly.
–Amy Hubbard | @AmyTheHub