"Bates Motel," which premiered on A&E on March 18, is inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's cinema classic "Psycho" and set in modern times. The show focuses on the relationship between Norman Bates and his living mother, Norma. Norman is played by Freddie Highmore who starred in the 2005 movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and Norma is played by Vera Farmiga, most famous for her role in the 2009 movie "Up in the Air," which also starred George Clooney.
Reviews have largely been positive, with Los Angeles Times writer Mary McNamara complimenting Vera Farmiga's performance in particular, saying she "is reason enough to watch" "Bates Motel." Meanwhile, New Jersey Star-Ledger writer Vicki Hyman gave it an A-, saying, "[It] wastes little time in shedding blood (there is a rather graphic sequence in the pilot), but there's more suspense than outright scares. This property is definitely worth the hourly rate."
According to Screen Rant writer Sandy Schaefer, however, the fact that the audience knows where the story is leading could take away some of its drama, because many audience members are just waiting for Norman to snap.
"Alfred Hitchcock’s famous explanation about the real difference between surprise and suspense – a bomb exploding with no warning vs. being forewarned about the bomb in advance – lies at the heart of the difference between his film Psycho (based on the Robert Bloch novel) and the new A&E television series 'Bates Motel,' which examines Norman Bates’ upbringing and the events that will ultimately mold him into a cross-dressing murderer with dual personalities."
However, The Star-Ledger's Hyman compared the setting of the show's sleepy town White Pine to that of the classic TV show "Twin Peaks." So if you were a fan of "Peaks" or of the original "Psycho" film, "Bates" is only three episodes into the first season. There's plenty of time to catch up... if you dare.
Ben Frederick is a Monitor contributor.