The Norman conquest2/26/2014
The acclaimed “Bates Motel” (Monday, 8 p.m., A&E) adapts Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic “Psycho,” as Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) and troubled son Norman (Freddie Highmore) run a motel in a town with more than its share of unexplained murders. The second-season premiere contains all the perversity you’d expect while still exercising an admirable Hitchcockian restraint. Blessedly, “Bates Motel” is nowhere near as gross as fellow serial-murderer dramas “Hannibal” or “Those Who Kill.”
Four months after his high school teacher’s death, Norman is obsessed with visiting her grave. He’d been with her on the night she died and either did or didn’t kill her — he blacked out and doesn’t remember what happened. As last season, the series delights in teasing us about who did what and why.
Alternately appealing and disturbing, Highmore is a worthy precursor to Anthony Perkins’ Norman from “Psycho.” And as his mother, Farmiga would make Sigmund Freud swallow his cigar — such is her Oedipal intensity. She somehow causes Norman’s odd behavior while at the same time is disapproving of it.
“You seem obsessed with morbidity or something,” she scolds.
It’s that mysterious “or something” that keeps us watching.
Friday, 8 p.m. (TNT)
This new reality series offers a behind-the-scenes look at corporate America. Each week, a major company invites four job candidates to compete for a six-figure executive position. But one of the applicants is actually working for the company as an undercover agent.
Three real candidates try to impress boss Carl Schloessman, unaware that the snitch is monitoring their every move. It’s painful to watch a powerful corporation make job applicants humiliate themselves on national TV.
And if House of Blues is looking for a blurb writer to work for six figures — well, yes, I’m available.
Friday, 9 p.m. (NBC)
The season-two premiere leaves a trail of corpses so grotesque you wonder if the NBC censors have mysteriously vanished. Perhaps they’re writhing in a trunk somewhere, like most of the victims in “Hannibal.”
Investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is locked in a mental institution, suspected of being a mass murderer himself. Fellow weirdo Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) arrives for a visit, and the two of them try to outdo each other in the crazy-staring department. They talk in slow, whispery phrases, as if harboring unspeakable secrets. Oddly, the show’s cops and psychiatrists talk this way, too. You get the feeling that every character may be carving up body parts behind closed doors.
Was America clamoring for a prime-time series detailing the sickest things a psychopath can do to human flesh? If so, I’m more creeped out by America than I am by “Hannibal.”
Sunday, 6 p.m. (ABC)
If it’s half as fun as the Golden Globes, this will be a memorable night — and with Ellen DeGeneres as host, there’s a fighting chance. I don’t want to reveal which movie I’m rooting for, because I’ll be embarrassed if it bombs in all 10 of its categories. All I’ll say is that, if it wins, I’ll be as happy as an astronaut touching back safely on Earth. CV
Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. He graduated from Grinnell College and went on to become an award-winning journalist. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.