Good Idea/Bad Idea: A&E Making a Psycho Prequel Series
TCA events bring news that A&E is developing a prequel series to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, to revolve around the early life of one Norman Bates and his beloved mother at the infamous Bates Motel. While intriguing, it prompts more than a few questions... like, who wants to watch teenage Norman devolve into filmdom's most notorious creep on a weekly basis? What gives writer Anthony Cipriano the authority to explore Hitch's iconic killer? And, most depressing of all to ponder -- do people these days even care about Psycho anymore?
Granted, the A&E audience is more sophisticated than your average Jersey Shore-obsessed dilettante, and Hitchcock has plenty of fans, even in the age of reality TV. In fact, the sordid melodramatics we're used to seeing in mainstream television coupled with the elevated profile of dramas on cable TV might actually prepare audiences for such a series; it can't be any more twisted than, say, American Horror Story, or as grisly as an episode of CSI.
The idea of exploring a fictional character's story in further detail is always intriguing, and often works in surprisingly great ways; see Wicked, for example, which imagined a tenacious but vulnerable humanity for The Wizard of Oz's Wicked Witch, decades after L. Frank Baum wrote her. But there's a degree to which, as with remakes and adaptations and sequels, it sometimes seems wise to leave good enough (or great, in Psycho's case) alone. Psycho revealed just enough of Norman Bates's demented interior to make that film a classic; do we need to see exactly what Mother did to young Norman to mess him up for life?
Maybe we do, or maybe we already saw what comes of taking liberties with Hitchcock's work, without Hitch: of the 1983 and 1986 Psycho sequels, the subsequent 1990 prequel, the abysmal made-for-TV spin-off, and Gus van Sant's 1998 shot-for-shot remake, none have been especially good. What could help Cipriani's Bates Motel to avoid repeating history? Take a gander at the unfortunate 1987 Lori Petty/Bud Cort/Jason Bateman pilot-turned-telefilm, also titled Bates Motel, and muse over the possibilities.
• A&E Develops ‘Psycho’ Prequel Series: TCA [Deadline]