Checking In: The Appeal of Bates Motel
Whether it was impeccable timing or by fluke, not-so-young-anymore Freddie Highmore (August Rush, Finding Neverland) cast as Norman Bates for the Psycho (1960) television prequel is undeniably perfect. Highmore has an uncanny resemblance to Anthony Perkins in Alfred Hitchcock's iconic film, in presence and unsettling awkwardness. The series begins with Norman and his mother (The Conjuring's Vera Famiga) buying an old hotel for a fresh start. While they try to bury the secrets of their past, they unknowingly come to a town which has a few secrets of its own.
I instantly became a dedicated viewer of the series when it started up last March. Throughout the first season, you can tell it is a very character-centered thriller, with no supernatural elements (thank God!). Bates is a serialized show that takes the entire season to unfold, with added complications along the way. However similar the story of the loner mama's boy is to dedicated horror fans, the series does not provide viewers with the predictability of what might be future Norman Bates. Along with Norman "uncharacteristically" getting some action in his teen years, Norma Bates is portrayed as a sympathetic devoted mother who would kill to protect her children. As interviewed in Entertainment Weekly, producers of the show (Carlton Cuse, who's known for his work on Lost) ensured:
"There's a certain amount of baggage that comes from working within the Psycho franchise. But it ultimately seemed like far more opportunity...we are going to catch up with a version of the character from the movie, but we don't feel literally bound, as someone asked earlier, to have Marion Crane come rolling into the Bates Motel."- EW Bates Motel Facts.
In the upcoming season, we are likely to see how far Norma Bates will go to protect Norman from others, and himself. Also, we will get to see what happens to Norman's half-brother Dylan Massett (House at the End of the Street, Max Thieriot), and one of the three new characters--George (Alias' Michael Vartan), who will play Norma's possible love interest and occupant of the Bates Motel.
There is reason to take notice of Bates Motel; the fact that it occurs in present time, and not the past. I personally watch for the brilliant acting (Famiga was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2013 for her performance in season one), and the set recreations of the infamous Bates house on top of the hill and hotel (which are located in Aldergrove, BC) which are seen in the 1960 film. Unlike any of the network's other projects, Bates Motel brings in a younger audience, and couldn't have arrived at a better time--where horror television is certainly at its peak. Viewers won't see any Hitchcock homage (aside from a few downwards shots), but an original take on the film that changed how we see mama's boys forever.
Renewed for a second 10-episode season, the series will start up again March 3, 2014 on A&E.
A Longer Sneak Peek of Season 2