Synopsis: A young man inherits the Bates Motel from Norman Bates and who, after his release from a mental institution, is unprepared for the eerie happenings at the Motel. Based on the classic movie “Psycho,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Bates Motel 2.5
While on my quest to watch all that is ‘Psycho’-related, I decided to track down a copy of the little-known TV pilot called ‘Bates Motel’. It was released in 1987 with the notion of starting a regular TV series based around the Bates Motel.
Except that it would have nothing to do with Norman Bates.
And the motel would be remodelled to look more modern.
Apparently it would have been a ghost story anthology (or some such nonsense), but all taking place around the Bates Motel. The new owner (played here by Bud Cort), who was handed over the property by Norman Bates in his Will, would have introduced each episode and been a background character with guest stars being the focus of each tale.
Evidently, this doesn’t follow the sequels to ‘Psycho’ whatsoever (of which there were two, by this point); it basically takes up the story after the first film and totally savages it. It’s as though they came up with a concept from an alternate reality where Bates was never rehabilitated and never left the institution. Even the iconic music is barely referenced (you have to listen hard to hear shades of it!)
I suppose that, considering what they were trying to do, which is a scary TV series for network television, the basic premise is alright – however, it’s developed in a lame, ‘80s way that includes cheesy clichés and bottom-of-the-barrel sitcom-like humour. The whole thing becomes highly implausible, as well as uninteresting: I mean, who really cares what happens to Bud and the Bates Motel once Norman Bates is “officially” dead?
Furthermore, the acting is grating, at best; even Bud Cort (who was tremendous in ‘Harold and Maude’!) was rather irritating, if not pathetic. Everyone else was absolutely horrible, as though they picked the worst of what was left of the TV Actors Guild after all the other series had picked up the cream of the crop. In particular, they chose Lori Petty, who tramples through each scene with the grace of someone wearing cement shoes.
The crummy production quality didn’t help matters much either: everything looked like a cardboard set. Even the famed Bates house is nothing quite like the one from the films, including the made-for-TV movie ‘Psycho IV’. And… sigh… the way that they decide to transform the Bates Motel is abhorrent at best, making it cheesy and stripping away the character that made it a little eerie; suddenly it was given an ‘80s kitsch factor that doesn’t suit it whatsoever.
So, is ‘Bates Motel’ worth seeing by even the die-hard fans of the ‘Psycho’ series? Only if they really feel the need to satiate their curiosity at the expense of their patience and sanity. Because, while ‘Psycho’ was capable of instilling fear in the hearts of many a viewer, at best ‘Bates Motel’ can drive someone crazy with boredom and will elicit fits of disgust from anyone with good taste.