Bates Motel

The Blacklist S1 E1-10 (Sky Living) – and others from 2013 US Fall TV

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Apparently The Blacklist has brought NBC its highest ratings for a freshman drama series since the turn of the century, and just ten episodes into its run it’s not only been given a full-season order it’s also been given a very early renewal for a second year as well. I’m surprised by this, not because the show isn’t any good (it’s one of the best of the Class of 2013 so far) but because it’s such early days and the show is still so clearly finding its feet by trying on a succession of different borrowed sets of attire as it seeks to find out what it wants to be when it grows up and becomes a proper TV show.

blacklistThe high-concept premise is that notorious former high-level government agent turned elusive most-wanted fugitive called Raymond “Red” Reddington suddenly walks into the FBI building in Washington DC to calmly turn himself in. He offers to help them capture some of the most evil and dangerous criminal threats in the world – many so successful the FBI doesn’t even know about them – but on one condition: he will work only with rookie profiler Elizabeth Keen. A special task force is green-lit with the sort of alacrity only ever seen in time-starved television pilots desperate to lay out their format for the studio execs, and away we go: only it’s soon clear that not only is Red playing a very different game, he is also ten steps ahead of the plodding FBI staff at every turn to entirely his own unknown ends. Read the rest of this entry »

Bates Motel S1 E1 (Universal)

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It seems to be quite the year for TV series spin-off prequels to famous movie franchises. A few months ago we had the early years of Hannibal featuring the pre-incarceration Dr Hannibal Lector, everyone’s favourite cannibalistic serial killer; and now it’s the turn of Psycho’s Norman Bates to rise from the cinematic annals with a rebooted origin story.

In this first episode, “First You Dream, Then You Die”, we meet a teenage Norman and his still very-much-alive mother as they purchase a rundown motel in a small town on the west coast of the US. Norman is shy and awkward although handsome enough to attract some attention from the girls at school, something that his mother does not approve of; she meanwhile becomes the target of hatred from a man whose family used to own the motel and who went bankrupt. That leads to violence, and long before the end of the pilot episode the floors of Bates Motel are once more slick with blood.

I was surprised by this first episode by how totally unsurprised I was by any of it. If I’d written down an outline of what I’d have expected to see from an uninspired prequel, then this would have been very close to what I’d have envisaged. As such I was left rather underwhelmed and nonplussed by it, and wondering just how long I’ll be watching if it doesn’t pull something unexpected out of the bag. Read the rest of this entry »