Many films have been adapted for the small screen in the past. Very few of them have ever worked as a series. And very few of them have been adaptations of universally iconic films. When it was announced that A&E was moving ahead with a TV series called Bates Motel, based on the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho, the world was resistant. After all, how could you make a prequel series about the young Norman Bates and his mother, who we have only ever known as a corpse, and make it work? Then we discovered the series would be set in present day. Now it was impossible. Norman Bates with an iPod? Impossible I say. But when the first promo spots aired, we got a strange curiosity building in us that it looked intriguing. Could it work?
Bates Motel centers around Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) as they move to a new town after the death of Norman’s father to start new. Norma buys a motel with a large house on the property so that she and Norman can be self-sufficient, but soon after moving in, she discovers a new freeway will be put in town and her motel will be off the beaten path. When the former owner of the property threatens the Bates to leave, things take a dark turn, forging the relationship between mother and son with new and deadly secrets.
How exactly the creators of Bates Motel made the show work is still a mystery to me. But it basically must boil down to the fact that the stories are smart, well written, engrossing, funny, and are portrayed by an incredible ensemble of amazing actors who thoroughly inhabit their characters. Highmore and Farmiga are the real shining stars with Farmiga playing the very off kilter and strange Norma and delicately balancing her creepily close relationship with her son, and Highmore perfectly portrays the young Norman Bates by beautifully emoting the traits of Anthony Perkins landmark performance in the film while still keeping the character real, current, and sympathetic. This is a just a brilliant show on every level and it kept me guessing right up to the finale.
The Blu-ray from Universal is excellent. Like many of the channels now famous for their adult oriented shows such as Showtime, HBO, FX and AMC, A&E now joins those ranks with a beautifully filmed show that is much better looking on Blu-ray than it was even on the HD A&E channel. Detail is amazing, blacks are deep and colors are natural and saturated. This is a show that easily competes with the other cable show and puts A&E in the running for future shows of this kind. Bates Motel is the show that never should have worked, but damn, did it. Highly recommended by me and my mother.
Available September 17, 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD.