Bates Motel is trespassing on somewhat sacred territory (less so, after Psycho IV: The Beginning), but some people are starting to become cautiously optimistic thanks to its respectable casting and effectively ominous trailers.
A&E has set the pilot to air on March 18th. The network currently has ten episodes lined up for the series, but there could be more down the line; should TV viewers applaud its portrayal of Psycho's iconic killer Norman Bates as a young man, that is. The issue of how, exactly, this show could tie-into Alfred Hitchcock's movie - based on Robert Bloch's novel - and whether or not it will adhere to the franchise's canon story, were addressed at a recent event.
Co-showrunners Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights) spoke with journalists during this week's Television Critics Association press tour, where the official premiere date was announced. Furthermore, the producers indicated that past Psycho installments are providing inspiration, but that Bates Motel won't necessarily be sticking to the elements introduced in those films (save Hitchcock's original, presumably).
Here's an excerpt from Deadline's report on the event:
“We don’t really view any of that as canon,” Cuse said. He called a desire to avoid “homage” a reason why the story has a contemporary setting, rather than being set in the ’60s. He added that the story of how young Bates becomes a murderous adult “will not be what you expect it to be.” (He did confirm that the story would be serialized but “have a beginning, middle and end” and will not focus on a single individual mystery or story point.)
/Film is likewise quoting Cuse as follows:
"This is a tragedy, it’s a fantastic dramatic form. We want the audience to fall in love with these characters, particularly Norman. That tension of knowing what their fate is and how they get there, was something we thought was really telling."
Indeed, all eyes will be on Freddie Highmore as young Norman Bates and Oscar-nominee Vera Farmiga as his mom Norma; not just in terms of their relationship - and how it culminates with a disturbing and destructive downward spiral - but also with regard to whether or not their experiences together truly shed that much light on Norma's transformation into a tormented monster. Hence, deviating from canon and throwing in (hopefully) unexpected curveballs along the way seems like a wise decision (given that we all know what the final destination is).
On that note: Cuse also mentioned that Bates Motel comes pre-packaged with a specific stopping point, but "[gave] no clue about how long it’ll take the show to get to it." It's a fair wager that conclusion won't lie too far ahead in Norman's life; unlike Bryan Fuller's upcoming Hannibal prequel TV series, which takes place before and after the title character's disturbed behavior has been revealed.
However, Cuse did promise the show won't go off on any left-field tangents (a la Lost) or introduce supernatural elements (a la American Horror Story) that lead outside the realms of plausible reality, in order to keep things interesting.
As he put it:
“No polar bears, no Smoke Monsters, that’s for sure. I don’t think [American Horror Story] had an influence. It was its own thing.”
The Bates Motel supporting cast includes Jere Burns (Justified), Nestor Carbonell (Ringer), W. Earl Brown (Deadwood), Nicola Peltz (The Last Airbender) and Max Thieriot (House at the End of the Street).
Look for the show when it premieres on A&E at 10 p.m. EST Monday, March 18th.