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Are You Excited For "Bates Motel" or "Hannibal"?

Alfred Hitchcock is getting as much attention this year as 007, what with Vertigo topping the Sight & Sound poll and the new Hitchcock biopic that references Hitchcockian mythology from 1958 through 1962 but focuses mostly on Psycho (1960). All that plus a new TV show that will look at the life of Young Norman (Freddie Highmore) and the infamous Mrs. Bates (Vera Farmiga) long before she was a dead woman rotting away in the fruit cellar. 

The first official image released inspires hope. It didn't go for something obviously CREEPY. Instead, counterintuitively, it's calm and painterly ...very Wyeth... and if you knew nothing of Psycho you might not even think of blood...blood... oh god mother the blood!

As a general rule I hate Hollywood's fascination with prequels, an obvious example of their creative bankruptcy but also, more dangerously, a key contributor to the dearth of imagination in audiences. It trains people to be passive viewers as if it's anathema to participate in what you're watching and create your own narratives to align with particularly gripping stories you're told. This is a strange dichotomous development considering that the easy access to art and technology these days seems to have actually inspired more participation... so why do people still want inspiration-killing backstories... the worst examples ever being the Star Wars prequels which just robbed the originals of their mythological potency. THIS IS WHAT CAUSED THAT. THIS BECAME THAT. REMEMBER THAT BIT? IT'S BECAUSE OF THIS. LET ME HOLD YOUR HAND AND OVER EXPLAIN EVERYTHING.

So I'm confused that I'm so excited for this. It must be the resilience of Psycho. It's already withstood several sequels, countless ripoffs and parodies and one recreation, and the kind of marrow deep cultural impact that you'd think would make it feel redundant to watch. Nope. It still terrifies and intrigues. The casting of the prequel series is also compelling. Freddie seems ideal, right? And Farmiga is one of the big screen's most compelling actresses, even if Hollywood isn't really helping her deliver on her potential -- even after her Departed / Up in the Air hit Oscar films breakthrough. What gives?

Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) enjoys his meal. Not vegeratian.

Still, with Dexter long overstaying his welcome on Showtime (this season started strong but quickly devolved and last season was just bad bad television... and there's still one more to go!) and Hannibal (yes, The Silence of the Lambs' Hannibal) about to get his own prequel series, doesn't TV already have enough 'life inside the head of a serial killer' drama? Serial killers are to television now what they were to the movies in the mid to late 90s.

Have you had enough or do you still enjoy the genre?

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Reader Comments (9)

I know Farmiga seems to be in the same spot Kidman & Moore got into around 2003 - 2007 give or take 1 or 2 roles..

November 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermrripley

I don't know about how necessary all these prequels are, but my expectations are running pretty high for "Hannibal". Could be the Bryan Fuller factor, or it could be the ridiculous regular and guest cast they've assembled: Scott Thompson, Molly Shannon, Anna Chlumsky, Caroline Dhavernas, Eddie Izzard, Raul Esparza... At this point the show could be a lot of things, but I doubt it will be boring.

November 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDS

I'm the same as DS. If you asked me "Do you want to watch a show about Hannibal Lector?" I'd probably roll my eyes in response. If you asked me, "Do you want to watch a show written by Bryan Fuller and featuring Caroline Dhavernas again?" It would be a total "YES!" so I'm in for Hannibal.

November 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert A.

Watching Hannibal (the movie) was one of the most distressful and disgusting experiences I can recall. I don't have a too sensitive stomach. I've watched the Saw movies (not all of them), and some Hostels, so I'm not unfamiliar with torture porn.

Still, I think it was one of the first movies where I reacted heavily against that idea of rejoicing in blood and organs just for the sake of it, with no ironic distance or sense of humour. So, the DVD someone gave me as a present went directly to the trash can. Seriously, I didn't give it away, didn't donate it to a library (couldn't change the present, time for that had expired), it went just right to where it belonged.

So, no, not really much interested in getting deeper into that. Though I agree Hitchcok is a fascinating figure and his movie sets look anything but boring.

November 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

I forgot Freddie Highmore existed. He's a man.

November 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Nathaniel - I completely disagree with you on the Star Wars Prequels effects on the original trilogy. If anything, I think the quality of the prequels - for better or worse - only showed how strong the original trilogy really was (and hopefully how the new trilogy will be).

November 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

I think they should add to the Hopkins Hitchcock movie a part where he's told about the sequels and prequels to come. And then he could explain, in the too-good-for-this voice he sometimes used on his TV show, why telling the story more than he's telling the story ruins what he's going for.

Psycho is about the last film that should have sequels or prequels.

November 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

"Psych IV: The Beginning" (1990) told the the story of the young Norman ( Henry Thomas) and his demented mother played by Olivia Hussy. "Bates Motel" (1987) was a failed attempt at a tv series set in the infamous establishment.

November 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

It's not just serial killers, I think I'm a bit antiheroed out with TV right now. Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Walter White, Dexter, House...as if TV needed another white dude with a superiority complex clogging up the primetime schedule. Vera Farmiga on the other hand is needed at all times and in any form.

(No offense Mads! You're wonderful! I love you!)

November 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

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