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Review: Bates Motel

A&E, Monday, March 18, at 10 p.m. 3/17/2013 8:00 PM Eastern

A&E will offer a re-imagining of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in a new original series, Bates Motel.

The series, billed as a prequel to the classic 1960 theatrical film, stars Freddie Highmore as a teen-aged version of the movie’s main character, Norman Bates, with his controlling mom, Norma, played by Vera Farmiga. The pilot finds the two characters buying the Bates Motel — initially called the Seafairer Motel — as well as the infamous house on the hill.

The two try to begin a new life after Norman finds his father dead in their own home, and the pilot begins to set the dynamics that would eventually lead Norman to become the quintessential mama’s boy and maniacal killer, as embodied by Anthony Perkins in the movie.

Much like Perkins, Highmore plays Norman as a charming and unassuming character looking for love and acceptance not only from the outside world, but from his own mother. This version of a young Norman is that of a ladies’ man, attracting the attention of several female classmates on his first day at the high school. Even his language arts teacher takes a liking to young Norman, and encourages him to settle in and try out for the track team.

But Norman’s foray into the real world does not sit well with his mom, who selfishly needs him around to help set up and run the motel. When the motel’s former owner comes around to make trouble for Norma in a particularly violent manner, Norman is forced to intercede and begins what will inevitably become an internal tug of war between his desire to live his own life and giving in to the whims of his mother.

Diehard Psycho fans will struggle to view Bates Motel as a prequel to the Hitchcock flick as A&E attempts to give the original story concept a modern look. The look and dress of Norman’s high-school friends mirror today’s youth, and Norman even uses an iPod and earbuds while waiting for the bus to school.

Overall, the series looks to appeal to a younger audience. Much of the pilot revolves around Norman’s interactions with his schoolmates. In one scene, Norman sneaks out of the house to join his newfound friends at a house party that could as easily be featured in tween-targeted hit shows ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars.

Viewers will most likely give Bates Motel a chance, if for no other reason than to see how an otherwise normal and charismatic Norman Bates begins to wilt under the pressure of his relationship with his mother and what eventually transpires at home.

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