TV shows based on movies face unique issues. The biggest being the lack of actors from the original movie. Actors are either not interested in TV work or cannot be paid what they would like. So producers have two options: use the same characters with different actors or create whole new characters. Both options can lose fans but sometimes shows can triumph. For every success like Friday Night Lights there is a Clueless. The key is to have good writing and characters played by actors that are relatable.
Bates Motel takes viewers through Norman Bates’ journey of becoming a psycho. A&E jumps from the timeline of the original movie but keeps the character intact and the plot is engaging. The pilot starts strong.
Bates Motel beings the Bates story after Norman’s father dies and he and his mother move into the hotel to get a fresh start. The house and hotel are in major disrepair so the pair has a lot of work ahead of them. The town of Seaside is caught in an economic slump and the original owners of the hotel are not happy about losing their property. Added onto of being the new kid at school, Norman is dealing with the questionable death of his father and dealing with his mother’s mood swings. In the pilot, Norma is raped and the last shred of sanity in the Bates’ house snaps. Viewers watch as Norman begins his descends to the world of psychosis.
A&E gets quite a few things right. The first is the casting of the principle characters. Great care was taken in casting the 17 year old version of Norman Bates. Freddie Highmore (Johnny Depp’s progeny) moves past fairy tale characters and becomes the awkward teenager with mommy issues. Highmore nails the almost stutter and jerky movements that afflicted adult Norman. Highmore seems to channel Anthony Perkins, and you feel sorry for this budding psycho.
Adding the mother as an actual character is the unique twist that makes the show worthwhile. Even though Psycho IV: The Beginning delved into Norman’s childhood, the show gives a more intimate look of Norma Bates, and she truly comes to life. Vera Farmiga radiates crazy- the way she walks, the way she talks, the way she smiles. You clearly see why Norman becomes what he is; genetically and environmentally, he never had a chance.
Perhaps the best character in the show is the house itself. The production team did a fabulous job of reconstructing the Bates home and motel. The sets decorated as they were in the original movie. This eye for detail makes it seem nature that Highmore would be the young version of Bates. This blast from the past gives a sense to the family state of being: out of touch with the current time. The minimal use of technology allows the house to cast its spell and keep the characters and viewers trapped in the past. As a viewer, seeing the house done correctly was more important than casting the characters.
Bates Morel is a solid pilot and the show itself has lots of potential. Let’s see if the team at A&E can keep it up.
- 3 Million Viewers Check into the Bates Motel (dreadcentral.com)
- Bates Motel (Pilot) (horror-movie-a-day.blogspot.com)
- ‘Bates Motel’: A Boy and His Mother (Review) (popmatters.com)
- Some Thoughts on Bates Motel (asheathersworldturns.wordpress.com)
- New Artwork and Teaser for Bates Motel Filled with Motherly Love (dreadcentral.com)