Category Archives: Television

Bates Motel

I was fairly skeptical about Bates Motel when I first heard it had been optioned. I loved the original Psycho, but I didn’t really see a series out of it. A prequel even less. A prequel set in modern times… let’s just say I was doubtful to the point I forgot about it after the initial production news came out.

I kept hearing good buzz about it and then I discovered Vera Farmiga (national treasure) was headlining it and the sell was much easier. I loved her since she was on a little show called Roar with Heath Ledger in the 1990s. Bates Motel was available by episode on Amazon and my sister willingly was talked into buying some episodes.

I have a particularly warped sense of humor so I find this unsettling and tense show delicious. It is particularly delicious because like the movie the villain is the “hero” in that you related to them at times and are terrified of them at times. Norma and Norman move into a weird town, buy the motel, and even with all of their family glitches manage to be compelling, witty, sympathetic, scary, unnerving, and badass. It is an accomplishment that even during a heartwarming scene between two characters you hope no one turns their back because the mood can flip on a dime and there are lots of objects around that are good for bludgeoning

It was brilliant to have them move into a town with its own set of oddities. They have outside adversity as well as inside just in the dynamic between Norma and Norman and you watch them struggle to be even their version of normal and good. I mentioned Vera is fantastic as Norma with her freak outs and flustered determination to make her family work and her dry wit. If she doesn’t get nominations and/or all the awards this year I don’t know what’s wrong with the world.

With such a strong Norma they had to get someone strong for Norman or he’d be overshadowed. As personality dominance is a Psycho thing this couldn’t be ignored. The kid they got, Freddie Highmore, has the chin acting down for the role and his “Mother” is perfect. There is not a whiff of CW about him even though he does have his own high school storyline going on. There are other teens in this show but it isn’t annoying in other words. In fact I look at their scenes and wish more actual Teen Shows would be like this.

Bates Motel manages to open up the Psycho universe to a scope I would have never expected and does it very well. This is my favorite new show this year.

Vikings

This is a show that I think slipped through the cracks for many people. I came into Vikings late through social media. After it was about six episodes in. Between people tweeting their love and pretty tumblr pictures it was hard to ignore for long. Pretty? That was unquestionable. Good though?

The History Channel was putting it on so I was worried it was going to be some kind of history-ish half drama half teachy thing. Hey, I love The Men Who Built America as much as the next person (ok, more than the next person…I’m weird), but I didn’t have time for a Vikings version of that. I wanted an all out scripted drama and that’s what I got.

If you have Game of Thrones burn out this is the show for you. It has every bit as much character goodness and grittiness without the bloated mess that a book translated to television unfortunately has. Instead of having a cast of  thousands it has a small cast but very clear story goals. All I ask of my shows is that they do what they set out to do and Vikings succeeds at the scope it was targeting.

It is an explorers narrative. It is a family story. Brother against brother. It’s a story about a bamf shield maiden. It’s a power struggle between houses. It manages to pull off making two religions feel like living religions. That last doesn’t always translate on tv well. I think the only other show I’ve seen do similar is HBOs Rome.

The scope of the show is both micro and macro in that it revolves around one family, but the context is within the framework of viking expansion and growing influence as explorers. It also does a great job at showing early egalitarianism in Viking culture that shows the early seeds of a superior egalitarian society in the region today. Shield maidens FTW!