williamallenpepper

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BATES MOTEL: A REVIEW

I wasn’t going to watch.

I first saw “Psycho” twenty years ago. I’d heard about the classic Hitchcock thriller for as many years as I’d cared about movies. So I was intrigued to finally check it out.

I have to say, I wasn’t wowed. It was okay, it was interesting. I am a Hitchcock fan (especially Rear Window), but Psycho just didn’t do it for me. Too much hype maybe.

So when “Bates Motel” was announced, I groaned a little. Norman Bates, his mother, and getting knifed in the shower have (weirdly) pretty much become clichés. And we’ve already had endless re-imaginings and reboots of other things in film and TV. Batman and Joker reborn, darker than ever. James Bond lives on, a whole lot grumpier. Like Psycho,  Norman’s blood cousin, Hannibal Lechter, is getting a TV remake of his. “Hannibal” the series centers on – surprise – the killer as a young man.

Do we need a young Norman Bates too?

No.

But for some reason I couldn’t stay away. I’m a sucker for hype, apparently.

So I watched. And I’ll say now that, while I wasn’t blown away by the A&E channel’s incarnation of Psycho either, I was intrigued enough to look forward to the next episode. The series moves the characters to the present day and opens with seventeen-year-old Norman Bates and his mom looking for  a fresh start for various reasons. His mother buys a run down motel on the outskirts of a new town.

Norman is a smart, slightly shy, under-achiever, but otherwise fairly normal teen. He quickly draws the attention of a cadre of pretty young, bad girls who are eager to show Norman the seamier side of this otherwise dreary little town.

Norman’s mother, who is, as we know, the infamous source of so much turmoil for Norman in his later years, is an interesting character. At this point in Norman’s life, she seems more flaky than menacing, although as the first episode progressed, shades of the control freak, famous from the movie, do come out.

There are some ugly confrontations with townsfolk. A well-meaning teacher who tries to befriend Norman. The requisite visit from the earnest, but slightly befuddled, local sheriff. And underneath it all, there’s a whole lot of shit waiting to boil over – both inside and outside the newly christened “Bates Motel”.

Here’s a good way to sum it up. If you remember the David Lynch show “Twin Peaks”, this one is a lot like that – only without the doughnuts and little people talking backwards. At least so far.

And given that it’s young Norman, maybe the show is  more of a cross between “Twin Peaks” and “Muppet Babies.” Yeah, that’s a good way to think of it.

And it’s enough to make me tune in next Monday.

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