Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Bates Motel: The new Smallville

Recently I have been watching the A&E series Bates Motel regularly and I have to admit it has been a very interesting show. However I cannot help but draw a parallel to another TV series, Smallville, which was the WB's attempt to make Superman young and hip for the kids.

Both shows are origin stories, but there is more to it than that- That would be an easy comparison, I could add Batman Begins or the first Spiderman movie to the similarities. However it has more to do with HOW they made these shows work.

First they are modern retellings of origin stories. Norman's history was originally chronicled in the film psycho 4 with ET star Henry Thomas as the young Norman. The new show does not follow the movie at all really. Firstly Psycho 4 was a period piece meant to completely tie it to the original Hitchcock film, including narration and scenes with Anthony Perkins reprising his role as Norman Bates. I was unsure about if this was meant to supplant or start fresh as the family car was vintage, the houses looked vintage even the home they have before they move, but once Norman whips out an iPhone to listen to some tunes at the bus stop it all becomes clear. This was also true of Smallville, The man of steel's origin has been retold more times on the silver screen than there have been original superman films. and Smallville wanted to basically tell the story of a teen superman without ever resorting to him donning tights or flying, or facing foes that would put the budget into a higher cost than say an episode ofBuffy the vampire slayer. Now the nice thing about Superman is that he does not need a period origin, his powers weren't tied to historical events such as Iron Man's (where the movies had to change China to Afghanistan to make the plot work), Not that it was a bad thing but more of a significant change than what kind of pickup the Kents found Baby Kal-El's rocket in. Thus Pa Kent's Ford F150, makes little difference than the stuetebacker used in the Richard Donner film.

Second the addition of new characters. Smallville was pretty well chronicled, in DC's past. Lana Lang, Pete, young Lex etc. but still the show needed to add quite a bit to make the show more modern from the silver age. The addition of the hip coffee bar, the Talon for example and Chloe, who is essentially a blonde Lois Lane clone who helps to create a love triangle with lana and who spends much of her time snooping around all the weird stuff that happens to young clark. Similarly Norman Bates spends time in a bit of a love triangle. Emma, the young girl with CF follows him around with stars in her eyes, while Norman chases a girl named Bradely. Emma kind of smacks of Chloe, Intrusive, love-struck and likable, In fact Chloe was likable was likable enough to end up being placed into the current DC Continuity Just like Harley Quinn was after her popularity on Batman the Animated Series. Bates Motel also adds Norman's brother and the local cops to the history along with another big similarity the mentor characters.

Emma's father is a local taxidermist, which was Norman's hobby in the original film, in the most recent issue Mr. Decody starts to teach Norman about his profession, setting those who remember the movie up for connecting the new show with the original film and what norman will ultimately become. The same can be seen in Smallville with the wheelchair ridden Doctor Swan (played by the late Christopher Reeves) who teaches clark quite a bit about his alien heritage, and inspires him to become the hero he would later be all in the space of an episode.

Finally the fictional towns of each are hotbeds for the kind of activity that would shape these characters into their future selves. In Smallville the idea that baby Kal El landed during the infamous Smallville meteor shower, plants Kryptonite all over the small Kansas town, and gives rise to many people who gain weird powers from the mystery element. and lead way to the first season following a monster of the week mentality. Kid gets picked on for X, he/she tries to compensate with activity Y somehow gets exposed to Kryptonite and voila, teen Clark has to stop the rampage of the teen who is either full of vindictive rage or just cannot help themselves. Meanwhile in the sleepy northern California town fo the show Bates Motel, we have a massive criminal underground with multiple players and rampant corruption, kind of a Gotham City wrapped in a Maybury shell. Honestly you add Norman's already present mental instability, and mother issues from a crazy mom, and he's lucky he's as well adjusted as he is by the time he kills Janet Leigh. From the secret pot fields to sex slave rings, it has more crime than my own home city of Cedar Rapids, at a size of a town like well Smallville.

All in all it's interesting to see how similar these shows are even though the end product of both towns are so very different. Norman hardly makes it to a nationwide stage like Superman, nor is he noteworthy for saving the world or stopping global catastrophes, Still it is a fascinating show.

No comments:

Post a Comment