Fans of suspenseful, atmospheric, must-see TV will want to check in to Bates Motel when it debuts on the Universal Channel next week.
The series sets the backstory for how Norman (Freddie Highmore) and Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) become the characters cinema audiences meet in Hitchcock’s legendary film, Psycho.
Now, normally I’d run a mile from a contemporary TV prequel of a classic Hitchcock film so it was with some trepidation that I attended a screening of Bates Motel a couple of months back.
Mercifully my cynicism was misplaced – this is pure TV goodness.
Like Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bates Motel quickly overcomes the absence of any of the original cast or creative talent to establish a new, plausible take on the characters.
British actor Highmore is captivating as the slightly distanced, eerie Freddie – think Sheldon Cooper’s creepier cousin – while Farmiga’s Norma is a domineering, brooding lioness of a mother determined to protect her boy.
And then there’s the show’s third main character, the looming, dark and menacing Bates house which faithfully recreates the exterior from the film and lends the series its creepy vibe.
The first episode is one of the strongest openers for any series in recent years, and the quality gets even better in the two subsequent episodes which I’ve also seen.
In the States the show chimed with audiences and critics alike, doing well enough to win a second run which went into production this summer.
How close the characters eventually get to their big screen original versions remains to be seen, but the age gap between the big and small screen incarnations gives the writers ample room to play around and throw a few surprises into the mix along the way.
Captivating and clever, Bates Motel is genuine appointment to view telly.
Universal Channel, September 12th