Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tune In or Tune Out: Bate's Motel (A&E)

Bate's Motel (A&E)
Created by Anthony Cipriano (The Journey of Allen Strange)
Starring: Vera Farmiga, and Freddie Highmore

There are certain films, which should remain untouched, Psycho is one of them.  Psycho is a classic thriller from the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, and I do not care to explore the life of young Norman Bates and his mother in present time.  With that said I left my bias behind and sat down to watch the pilot of the show last night.

The basic premise of the series starts with Norman (Freddie Highmore) finding his father dead; he rushes to his mother (played by Vera Farmiga with shock, although she doesn't look shocked. After his fathers death Norman and his mother move into the that infamous house from the Psycho film with the Motel right down the walkway.  

Much of the first part of the episode is centered on teenage Norman dealing with with girls and the typical high school aged experiences.  In the episode Norman appears to be a normal red blooded teenage boy with no signs of anything wrong.  Yet the seeds of discontent have been planted.  Norman's mother Norma has smothered this boy, and you can almost see the fear and pain within him as he fights for the affection of taken girl at his school.

There is a lot homage to the original film, which is nice to see, Norman's mother walking out of the shower when her husband is killed, Norman's love of black and white movies, and even his friend's fathers interest in taxidermy. While these things set the scene nicely, and the build on the intensity, are they too heavy handed or placed in too neatly?  This is like my complaint with the F/X show The Americans, just because you throw in something that looks 80s doesn't mean I meant to believe the show feels like its set in the 80s.

This show succeeds on creating a moody, tense atmosphere with some great acting.  While Highmore has some growing to do to get to the level of Anthony Perkins he is not bad; he has that potential to do and be great within this show.  Farmiga is the powerhouse, and I have always enjoyed watching her performances from The Departed to Up in the Air; she is a great actress, and it's her Norma that draws you into the darker world.  

Farmiga is a very talented actress, but and the role is great but the writing seems like its trying to be too David Lunch a la Twin Peaks.  I get that that they are going for a quirky, suspenseful beginning, because let's face it, Norman Bates coming from a world like Twin Peaks makes sense  Yet there is something off about this show, while the tone is right, the intensity is there, the show feels forced.  After giving this show a try I have to say, I will only be visiting the Bates Motel once.

Tune Out: Farmiga is not enough to save this show 

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