A gloomy laketown where people are lit on fire on a daily basis. A run-down motel where Asian sex slaves are sold. Fields upon fields of weed. And smack in the middle: The kid who will grow up to be Norman Bates – the killer from Psycho. Likes: Musicals, taxidermy, Mother.

These are the ingredients to the weird cocktail that is Bates Motel, a show acting like a prequel to Hitchcock’s classic Psycho while also trying to be an earnest teen drama. It’s like one of those “What my parents think I do” memes, with Twin Peaks locked firmly under “what I think I do” and Dawson’s Creek under “what I actually do”.

At times, it can be brilliantly creepy and produce wonderful moments like this:


You’re on the edge of your seat, you’re intrigued, your heart is pounding in your chest and you’re dying to continue on…

…Only then it does this:


And you’re like “wtf”!?

It’s the weirdest thing. One moment you have a dude killing another dude in cold blood, then you have a character trying out for a musical. The only thing keeping these trainwreck scripts together is the solid cast.  Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga perform wonderfully (especially Vera deserves a nod, there’s no end to the creepy slapstick she can pull off) – and more than that: They bounce off each other incestuously well.

(I can’t believe I just typed that.)

I know what you’re thinking – Bert, as a writer, shouldn’t you be a beacon of good taste? Why do you tell us about this bad show? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Don’t you want to crawl into a ditch and cower in shame!?

Well, sure, but that is besides the point. The thing about Bates Motel is: It can be strangely honest sometimes. When Norma Bates tells her son (of all people) how she was brutally molested by her brother and hit on the leg with a red-hot iron, it’s so over the top it’s both tragic and hilarious. And somehow realistic. Yet nobody in their right mind would tell this to their 17 year-old son, especially knowing said son is probably a serial killer. Especially not with the iron cherry on the cake.

But here’s the thing: No one on this show is in their right mind. There’s only one character who doesn’t have a therapeutic issue and, guess what, they gave her a deadly lung disease.

So why do I watch Bates Motel? Because for all the schizophrenia this show is damn consistent.


Recommended Posts


One of the things I miss here in Germany (or in most of Europe for that matter) is the holy grail of television: The 30 minute comedy. Sure, everyone fawns over Succession or Breaking Bad or whatever high-profile high-stakes drama is coming […]


Liebe Layla, wie geht es dir? Wir haben uns lange nicht mehr gesehen, und ich war zufällig spazieren im Duttmannkiez und dann bin ich zufällig an deine Wohnung vorbei und habe zufällig auf dem Klingelschild gesehen, dass du da immer noch wohnst.  […]

The end of an era

Right. After eight years, this marks the end of my time at “In aller Freundschaft – die jungen Ärzte”, a weekly medical for German public tv, Thursdays 18:50. It was a wild ride. In eight years, we founded an in-house writers room, […]