We really ought to be used to the idea of film and television executives greenlighting any project that comes across their desk featuring branded ideas and concepts. Even, or maybe especially, when those ideas and concepts are clearly bad ideas and concepts that have actually been tried before. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has been revisited a half dozen times since Anthony Perkins first stabbed Janet Leigh to death in her shower — spoiler alert! Considering the original slasher flick is a masterpiece, it’s an understandable starting point for new material when one lacks creativity.
Three increasingly terrible sequels followed Psycho, culminating in Psycho IV: The Beginning, which tried to explicate how, exactly, Norman Bates became such a murderous mama’s boy. There was also an attempted and quickly aborted TV series, “Bates Motel” starring Bud Cort (of all people), that functioned as a sequel to Psycho III, and, of course, Gus Van Sant’s misguided remake of the first movie all but ruined his Good Will Hunting goodwill. But, it’s been 14 years since anyone has tried to improve on brilliance, so with an upcoming television slate featuring adaptations of both Goodfellas and Hannibal, revisiting the Bates family well probably seems like a pretty smart idea to somebody at A&E.
The cable network is developing a prequel series to Psycho that will likely tread similar ground to The Beginning, detailing Norman Bates’ long term mental anguish at the hands of his mother and stepfather. The show itself is said to start at childhood with the intent to tell Norman’s story up through his teen years, meaning the amount of actual serial killing may not be too high. In fact, there will probably be more scenes of animal mutilation and child abuse than anything else in the new “Bates Motel.” Yes, the people behind this are so confident in their own brilliance that they’re re-using the title of the first failed Psycho TV show.
While I wouldn’t hold my breath for groundbreaking television, let’s just hope they answer one question right out of the gate: “Why do we need to know the origin of Norman Bates?” The story works just fine without that background and the show will have to justify itself before it really warrants our attention. That’s one thing Van Sant never bothered to do with his take on the material, and that’s one major factor in why that was almost unbearably painful to get through. In case you forgot how pointless the 1998 remake was, here’s a comparison between it and Hitchcock’s classic:
Rob Payne also writes the indie comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter @RobOfWar, and his ware can be purchased here (if you’re into that sort of thing). If “Bates Motel” must happen, he thinks that kid from “American Horror Story” would make for a pretty excellent teenage version of the lead character.