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]

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  • As long as they don't use the music all will be alright.

    We don't need Janet Leigh feeling violated.

  • Actually, PSYCHO II, while not being as good as the original, was an extremely entertaining follow up to Hitch's classic. It is aptly considered one of the best horror movies of the 80s.

    PSYCHO III, directed by Anthony Perkins, relies a bit too much on 80's-style gore, but it is still worthy of a look.

    PSYCHO IV-The Beginning, penned by original Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano, actually mines this backstory pretty well. What's to hate when you've got stunningly beautiful Olivia Hussey playing Mrs. Bates?

    As for this A&E series, if they can pull it off, more power to 'em. I'd give it a watch … but they'd better not screw it up.

    I've written at length about this series of films, in an article entitled PSYCHO BABBLE – The Legacy of Norman Bates on my website TheWordslinger. Check it out:

  • Max Renn says:

    Why not, I say. At least it's not another remake. Creating prequels could be the next progression. I actually didn't mind the Thing prequel movie.

  • Charles says:

    I do care about Psycho. And I'm just glad this will be on A&E and not at the movies, because once I forget this story it'll be like the prequel(s) didn't even happen.

  • j'accuse! says:

    "...Jersey Shore-obsessed dilettante..."

    Jen, when I read that, for some reason I pictured Newland Archer and May Welland doing shots and talking about their GTL routines.

  • Psycho Steve says:

    That old pilot clip put me in mind of American Horror Story

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