Sunday, February 16, 2014
Here's a strange TV show. I don't mean that it's strange because of the events depicted, but because of its entire concept and execution. Oh, and also because of the events depicted too. It's just a strange show, but I liked it and enjoyed it and recommend giving it a try, since it's available to stream on Netflix. That's how I recently binged through the first season's ten or so episodes in a weekend. How did you spend your Valentine's Day?
It's ostensibly a prequel to the 1960 Hitchcock masterpiece Psycho... except it's really not. It's more of a reboot or revamp that uses a hotel setting, the familiar mansion, and the name Norman Bates, but other than that, it's such an entirely different story that it seems odd that they kept the whole Psycho connection at all. I knew things would be weird when the story opened and it was set in the present day. I guess I just assumed that it would take place in the 50s or 60s, but that was when I assumed it was actually going to be a prequel to the film. I understand why they didn't want to make a period piece, but somehow the transposition of the time period hurt the authenticity of the storytelling. In other words, I simply find it hard to believe that the Bates Motel exists in a world with cell phones, facebook, and GPS. What was a creepy, remote, isolated location in the film is now a retro motel that would be a hotbed of hipsters flocking from the nearby metropolis where everybody looks like a model from Abercrombie and Fitch. I just find it hard to believe a town of this size and obvious wealth doesn't have a Ramada or a Holiday Inn somewhere.
And as though the youth of a delusional future serial killer wasn't enough to sustain audiences, they had to include subplots that involve warring mobs in town, drug dealers, corrupt police officers, and an underground Asian sex slave trade that uses the motel as their base of operations, all set against the backdrop of a typical highs chool drama. If Alfred Hithcock ever had the opportunity to return to life and check out an episode of this show, he'd be like, "what the fuck did they do to my movie?"
However, it's ridiculously entertaining, suspenseful, funny, and impossible to turn off once you get hooked. It's basically a soap opera that takes place in the Bates Motel. They even added in a brother for Norman who I don't remember ever being mentioned in the film, but he's also fun and gets into a lot of crazy shenanigans around town.
What really saves the show from getting too over the top in its insanity is that the cast of actors are all so good. I had my doubts going in that anybody could replace Anthony Perkins, but Freddie Highmore is really good and obviously studied the films because he completely nailed the character. He looks and acts just like Perkins, but in a way that somehow still felt organic and natural and not just a parody or an impression. I also liked Vera Farmiga as the mother Norma Bates, who was always fun to watch... although at times perhaps a little too fun, almost as though she was the only member of the cast who understands how ridiculous this show is and is just having fun with the role. Then there's a bunch of other people, all of whom are fine and very good looking.
So, anyway, that's Bate's Motel. The first season is available to watch on Netflix and it's only ten episodes long. It has enough in jokes and references to Psycho to feel reverent and respectful, but it's so different that even if you haven't seen the movie you can enjoy it on its own. In fact, you might even enjoy it more. Give it a try. It's fun.