I’ve been thinking about giving A&E’s Bates Motel a try, but I’m stalling. Freddy Highmore as a teenaged Norman Bates, Vera Farmiga as his highly conflicted mother Norma…okay. The widowed Norma buying the motel in foreclosure, she and Norman moving into the hilltop gothic Victorian…fine. Except it’s set in 2013 and all the moralistic underpinnings and innumerable 1950s details that made the original Psycho what it was have been tossed…or some of them have. A period-flavored contemporary thing.
The series, which began last night, “appears to be a victim of marketing stratagems,”Slant‘s Chuck Bowen wrote on 3.15. “Sure, Psycho carries the ‘brand recognition’ that studios appear to value above any and all common sense, but can viewers belonging to the all-important 18-to-30 quadrant be reasonably expected to tune in to a series inspired by a film from the 1960s?”
A 1960 film, he means, that adapted Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel that was inspired by the 1957 arrest of mass murderer Ed Gein. Plus the Norman-and-Norma backstory would have happened sometime in the mid ’50s.
“Executive producer Carlton Cuse (Lost) has called Bates Motel a ‘contemporary prequel’ to Psycho“…what bullshit. Bowen calls this “an evasive way of saying the show runners have borrowed the elements from the film that suit them with little regard as to whether they logically belong in a contemporary setting that’s otherwise informed by the most successful shows of the last 20 years.
“Unsurprisingly, given this opportunistic grab-bag approach, Bates Motel exhibits virtually no feel for time or place.
“Norman, though a contemporary teen, still dresses in the priggish 1950s mode — all hiked-up trousers, plaid button-ups and hand-me-down sweaters — that we associate with the Norman who once fatefully encountered Marion Crane. That could potentially make sense thematically, as Norman is meant to be a creature of another time, but occasionally we see teachers distractingly dressed as conservative school marms, while Norman’s bad-boy brother, Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot), broods in tailored, fussed-over duds that wouldn’t be out of place in the contemporary incarnation of 90210.
“Norma’s behavior is the least consistent, as she continually wafts back and forth between Norman and Dylan’s conflicting fashion senses: Occasionally she’s the oppressive asexual matriarch the film implied her to be, but she’s also capable of morphing into a sexy, chic, leather jacket-clad vamp when it occurs to the producers that a little cheesecake might be in order.”
So that’s why I haven’t watched it yet. Even though I could watch it right now on the A & E Bates Motel site. That plus the 65% Metacritic rating. But I have to admit I’m somewhat intrigued all the same.
Just noticed this: Check out the house-tour portion of the trailer and you’ll notice that Norman’s room is located in the wrong area of the second floor. In the 1960 film Vera Miles found it by taking a right at the top of the stairs as it was located across the hall from his mother’s large room. Now his mother’s large room has been subdivided and split into two — she has a smaller bedroom toward the front, and Norman’s small room is right to the left at the top of the stairs. So they messed with the original architecture. See what I mean? This why I’m reluctant.