Will Psycho work on TV?

It’s actually been done on TV before, but apparently A&E is ready to check back into the Bates Motel again with Bates Motel (clever title, eh?). 

And once again, as we often see in horror today, it’s a prequel, so it may be the tired old “how Norman Bates became Norman Bates” kind of story that explains how he lost his mind, had a mother fixation, and on and on.

A recent press release indicates the show will indeed “give viewers an intimate understanding of how Norman Bates’ psyche developed from his childhood through his teen years.” 

And as I’ve always felt, this could be a very bad idea. Yes, we all want to explain why people lose their minds and kill, but the whole point of insanity is it often makes no rational sense.

There was a show based on Psycho before, the TV movie Bates Motel, sequels, and the complete waste of time frame for frame remake in color by Gus Van Zandt, which probably helped launch the movie karaoke remake trend today, but you will never outdo Alfred Hitchcock’s original masterpiece. (Not to mention, there was indeed a psychological evaluation of Norman at the end of the film).

Christopher McQuarrie, writer of the Usual Suspects, once told me a movie that answers all your questions is pointless, and at a seminar for Fade In magazine, he once cited the legendary screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky (Network). 

When Chayefsky was once asked to explain why a character was a certain way, he would reply someone stole his rubber ducky when he was a kid. Can we apply this to Jaws, to show “how the shark became the shark?” Again, this is like showing the Death Star being built. What’s so ominous or scary about a construction project?

The whole point of casting Anthony Perkins in Psycho was you didn’t see him coming. For much of the movie, you thought the mother, who was already dead, was the killer, and then at the end you realize it’s Norman, applying the Agatha Christie theory of the person you least suspect. (Also applied very well in the Usual Suspects).

Although this show will try to continue the legacy of Psycho, it’s important to remember Hitchcock himself couldn’t top it, and it was the apex of his career. He even reportedly was going to hire a research group to examine the film and dissect why it impacted audiences so much, but then smartly decided against it. He captured lightning in a bottle, and over fifty years later no one’s been able to recapture it.