Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Norma and Norman, Anything But Normal at the Bates Motel

Last week, I mentioned that we have some changes coming to Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday.  From my years in Corporate America, I learned that most people view change as a bad thing, but that’s not always the case.  Change can be good and exciting.  And yes, change can also be sad.

Today’s news is a bit of both.

Due to the amount of new work opportunities for the other half of this duo, Amber has decided to step down from posting a new television review every week.  She will continue to chime in when she can, as well as publish new reviews when time permits; but for now, she’s saying adieu after almost 100 weeks of Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday.

And in typical Amber style, she’s going out in a blaze of Photoshop glory.  As always, there is a link to her post below.  Be sure to click over and wish Amber the best in her future endeavors!

==and now a note for my TV-partner-in-crime==

My "Smash"ing Sister
Me and My “Smash”ing Watch Wednesday Sister (photo courtesy of Amber West’s mad Photoshopping skills).

Amber, I have loved every minute working with you.  Our tastes in television are anything but similar and I feel this is why our blog series has worked as well as it has.  I wish you the absolute best and I am so excited for you.  This is a tad bittersweet for me, but I know you aren’t disappearing forever—thank goodness—so I refuse to get emotional here.  You know how I feel about you—we’re sisters—and I am absolutely blessed to have you in my life.

==now back to the regularly scheduled program==

I contemplated the idea of walking away from my Wednesday reviews as well, but considering I already have the TV addiction AND it doesn’t take that much time out of my week to write a new review, I’m keeping Watch Wednesday alive.

So, as they say in show business… the show must go on.

Today, I’m taking a look at the new A&E drama, Bates Motel.

In Bates Motel, we revisit the Alfred Hitchcock favorite… only this time we’ll see how it all began with a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Spiderwick Chronicles ) and his very-much-alive mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga from Safe House and Orphan).  Anyone who has seen Psycho understands why Norman is how he is as an adult, but Bates Motel plans to show us more of the sordid relationship between mother and son.

The pilot begins with a seventeen year old Norman discovering the dead body of his father.  Viewers are led to believe that his mother had something to do with his father’s death, but she never admits to the crime, nor does Norman or anyone else accuse her of harming him.  Mother and son pack up and move from Arizona to the small coastal town of White Pine Bay, Oregon to start over, leaving another son, Norman’s older half-brother (Dylan, played by Max Thieriot from House at the End of the Street), behind.

Using the inheritance from Mr. Bates’ insurance policy, Norma buys the recently foreclosed Seafairer Motel and the residence located directly behind it.  She appears very competent, even without experience running a motel, but also very controlling… very controlling, specifically of Norman.

Norman is just a sweet boy who always does as his mommy says… until now.  When a pretty girl from school shows interest in Norman, he sneaks out of the house to be with her.  And of course this one time he acts out, his mother needs him when the angry former owner of the property (Summers, played by W. Earl Brown from Scream) returns, beats her, and rapes her.  However, Norman does return home just in the nick of time to rescue her.  And when Norman leaves the kitchen to fetch the medical kit, Norma kills the intruder… stabs him multiple times in the chest with little to no remorse.  One might think she’s in a state of shock, having just been attacked and forcibly penetrated, but no… I think she’s just crazy; but then again, I’m a Psycho fan and I know she’s crazy.

The sweet and innocent boy that he is, Norman wants to call the local police; but Norma insists otherwise.  After all, “Who is going to book a room in the rape slash murder motel?”

Halfway through the first hour, we have two dead male bodies—both murdered at the hands of Norma… or so we think anyway.  How many more bodies does she have in her closet?  And does the horrendous scar on her inner thigh have anything to do with another body she’s hiding?

Speaking of Norma’s inner thigh brings up a conversational piece of Bates Motel—the relationship between mother and son.  Just how inappropriate is it?  Well, we haven’t seen anything sexual between the two yet, but we have seen Norma undress in front of Norman.  But don’t worry; “It’s not like it’s weird or anything.”  Or so Norma says…

The pilot episode moves fast; Norma and Norman hide the body in one of the motel room showers; they rip up the carpet to cover up the blood stains from when they dragged the corpse in; the local authorities show up, adding to the drama and tension of the situation (Sheriff Alex Romero, played by Nestor Carbonell from Ringer, and Deputy Zack Shelby, played by Mike Vogel from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre); and Norma and Norman dispose of Summers in a body of water, in true Bates and Psycho fashion—and this is all in the second half of the one-hour show.

While ripping up the carpet in the motel, Norman finds a journal hidden beneath the old flooring full of hand-drawn images of a young girl, showering, being watched, and then held against her will and injected with drugs.  At the end of the pilot, viewers see an actual girl being held against her will and being injected with drugs.  There is more to come of this story in the following episodes; but I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t watched Bates Motel… however, we are left wondering:  Is this girl real?  And if so, who is holding her and where?  Or is this just another of Norman’s fantasies and hallucinations?  Oh yeah; Norman has fantasies of women being tied up and he also has conversations with people, specifically his mother, when she’s not there.  Uh-oh…

Now three episodes in, I could go on and on about the show… there’s so much we haven’t discussed, including: Dylan hunting Norma and Norman down; Emma, Norman’s classmate with Cystic Fibrosis, who is just as fascinated with the journal of drawings as Norman is; the gigantic marijuana farm; the budding relationship between Norma and Deputy Shelby; and the fact that the Bates aren’t the only abnormalities in the small town … “The people in this town, they deal with things in a different way.  But it gets dealt with.”

Like I said, there’s more to Bates Motel than just the Bates…

I don’t know what I expected from A&E’s new series, but I will say the writers and creators have far exceeded whatever expectations I might have had.  Is Bates Motel the best new show on television?  Probably not… But does it have me wanting more?  Yes!  Therefore, I’m awarding the new Norma and Norman Bates TV show with the JFTV rating.  Instead of comparing it to a bag of greasy potato chips, I’m going to liken this guilty pleasure to a bag chocolate miniatures—one just isn’t enough, but eat too many and our stomachs might flip upside down.

And remember, “Norman is a good boy.”

What do you think?  Have you watched Bates Motel?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Be sure to click over to Amber’s blog and wish her the best in her future endeavors!

And come back next week when I take on another new show… I just haven’t decided which one yet.

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV):It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (NyQuil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech
Inedible TV: Exactly how it sounds…

Successful Motion Picture Film Ideas Move to Television – Genius or Lazy?

In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed many popular TV programs move to the Hollywood big screen.  Just off the top of my head, I think of the Transformer movies, the Star Trek movies, the Brady Bunch movies, the Mission Impossible movies, and the Charlie’s Angels movies.  Heck, there have even been a few great stand-alones, including Starsky and Hutch, The Fugitive, and The Untouchables.

So why be surprised that several successful motion picture film ideas are moving to television?  I’m not.

It takes very little to pique my interest when a new pilot premieres on television; I’ll watch pretty much anything.  But there are a few things that instantly attract me to a new show: the concept, the actors and actresses, and the attention to detail, particularly the music and dialog.

Today, let’s talk about the concept behind a few of the upcoming 2013 releases… TV premieres that also happen to have been successful motion picture films at one time or another.

*****

In Bates Motel, we revisit the Alfred Hitchcock favorite… only this time we’ll see how it all began with a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Spiderwick Chronicles ) and his very-much-alive mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga from Safe House and Orphan).

The series also stars a few familiar faces from the horror genre: Max Thieriot (House at the End of the Street), Keegan Connor Tracy (Final Destination 2), and Mike Vogel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)… as well as few from recent television mysteries: Nestor Carbonell (Ringer) and Richard Harmon (The Killing).

Bates Motel premieres on A&E on Monday, March 18th.

*****

Dracula… where our love for vampires truly begins.  Or at least it did for me.

The premise for the new series reminds me of ABC’s Revenge… with bite.  Dracula, also known as Allen Grayson (see, Grayson… another Revenge similarity) as far as his life and business are concerned, moves to London under the false pretense of bringing modern science applications to the city, but instead plans to seek revenge against all those who wronged him before… centuries before.

And it wouldn’t be Dracula without love, right?  Much like the love story in the ‘90s version of Dark Shadows, Dracula will encounter a woman who inexplicably looks like his dead wife and he falls in love with her all over again.

Oh, and did I mention Allen/Dracula is played by the sexy Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors)?

The series also stars a few other familiar British and Irish actors: Katie McGrath (Merlin), Nonso Anozie (Game of Thrones), and Victoria Smurfit (Trial & Retribution).

Dracula is scheduled to premiere on NBC this fall.  Production should start soon if it hasn’t already…

*****

One of the most fascinating and chilling characters in literary and cinematic history is coming to TV—Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

Only this time, audiences will get to experience more of Special Agent Will Graham’s (Hugh Dancy from Blood & Chocolate) hunt for a serial killer and his collaboration with a top psychiatrist (Lecter, played by Mads Mikkelsen from The Hunt) as he builds his criminal profile.

I personally loved the character of Will from the film adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novel, Red Dragon.  But then again, I adore Edward Norton.   I hope to like Mr. Dancy just as much…

The series also stars: Caroline Dhavernas (Off the Map) and Lara Jean Chorostecki (Camelot)… and a few other familiar faces in recurring roles: Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix trilogy and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), Gina Torres (Firefly and Suits), Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall), Ellen Greene (Pushing Daisies), and Gillian Anderson (The X-Files).

Hannibal is scheduled to premiere on NBC at some point this year.  Hopefully *crosses fingers*.  We’ll just have to wait and see…

*****

There’s no available image for the upcoming TV series since it’s still in the early developmental stages… so let’s remember Axel…

We finally have the next installment of our favorite Detroit cop taking over Beverly Hills… only this time we’ll see a true continuation of the film series.

Instead of Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy), television viewers will watch his son Aaron (Brandon T. Jackson, Tropic Thunder and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief) as he works the streets of Beverly Hills, following in his father’s footsteps as a cop, while also trying to escape his father’s shadow and be his own man.

And now envision Mr. Brandon T. Jackson as Axel’s son…

Murphy will serve as executive producer along with Shawn Ryan (co-creator The Shield and producer of The Unit) AND also guest star in a recurring role as the character he made famous in the ’80s.

Production is still in the very early stages of this project; however, it has been announced that Kevin Pollak (Shark) has joined the cast… as has David Denman (The Office), who is rumored to star in a role similar to the one Judge Reinhold played in the film series.

Rumor has it that all five major networks made a play on this series with CBS winning out.  And considering the casting is still underway, we’ll have to wait a while for this one to hit the telly.  But won’t it be exciting when it finally does?

*****

So, there we have it.  Four upcoming projects undoubtedly brought to us because of the successes of their predecessors, whether it is literature or film.  But are these projects truly genius… or just lazy? Are we losing a bit of our creativity where television and film are concerned anymore?  It seems more and more remakes and/or continuations of very popular movies and/or earlier TV series are in high demand…

Like I said earlier, I plan to watch all of these new series.  It doesn’t take a lot for me to check out a new TV program, and I especially enjoyed the books and flicks these projects are following, but I can’t help but think we’re failing in the originality category here lately.

What do you think?  Are these new TV adaptations pure genius?  Or just lazy?  Which one are you most looking forward to and why?  I’d love to hear from you! 

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