We’re living in a historical transitional period for TV, as streaming services compete with traditional networks and cable/satellite channels for our entertainment dollar. As such, television has never been better, regardless of how it gets to us. Appropriately, my list of the year’s best shows consists of half network shows and half others, and kicks off with a streaming series.
Here are my 10 favorite TV characters at the moment, as the traditional season winds down and the summer season begins:
In this series, I’m looking back at the books and movies of the “Psycho” franchise before its TV revival in “Bates Motel,” which will conclude its five-season run this month. (Granted, “Psycho: Sanitarium” came out after “Bates Motel” premiered, but it’s part of the book series that preceded it.)
Although Robert Bloch only wrote three “Psycho” books – in 1959, 1982 and 1990 – there are four books in Bloch’s “Psycho” series. As an unexpected surprise for Bloch fans and “Psycho” fans, “Psycho: Sanitarium” came out in May 2016 from the pen of Chet Williamson, the author of 14 previous horror or fantasy novels. Set a year after the events of the first book, when Norman is locked in the State Hospital for the Criminally Insane 20 miles from Fairvale, “Sanitarium” is a masterwork of continuity, as Williamson — a self-described “disciple of Bloch” — gives insight into Norman’s time in the ward without contradicting anything from the future books. I read it after reading Bloch’s trilogy, but a person could also read it right after “Psycho” without spoiling “Psycho II” or “Psycho House.”
Four years before his death at age 77, Robert Bloch concludes his “Psycho” book trilogy with “Psycho House” (1990); like “Psycho II,” it’s a meta-commentary on popular culture and it explores the idea that everyone has just a sliver of Norman Bates in them. The character studies of Amy Haines, a Chicago author looking to write a book on the Bates case, and various Fairvale authority figures and residents double as clues. (This time around, the town feels like it’s in Missouri rather than Kansas; I’m continually amazed that the internet provides no solid answer to Fairvale’s location.) We ask ourselves not only about motives, but also whether the person is capable of being a killer.
More than two decades after 1959’s “Psycho,” Robert Bloch returned to the Norman Bates saga with “Psycho II” (1982), which has more in common with Wes Craven’s “Scream” films – in a good way – than with the film version of “Psycho II” (1983). While some books slap “Now a major motion picture” on their cover despite not particularly resembling the film (“The Lost World: Jurassic Park” comes to mind), reprints of “Psycho II” did not. While the film of the same name came about because of the book’s release, the stories are distinct.
Welcome to a new series where I look back at the books and movies of the “Psycho” franchise before its revival in “Bates Motel,” one of the best TV shows of the decade, which will conclude its five-season run this month.
Let’s start at the beginning with Robert Bloch’s novel “Psycho” (1959). At 125 pages, it can be breezed through in a few sittings. Although it was popular enough to come to the attention of Alfred Hitchcock, whose movie adaptation came out a mere year later, it apparently wasn’t so popular that it spoiled the famous twists.
The “Bates Motel” (10 p.m. Eastern Mondays, A&E) narrative has steamrolled its way into the plot of the 1960 movie “Psycho,” its source material, the past couple weeks. I was looking forward to seeing those classic scenes play out, particularly the famous “shower scene,” here starring Rhianna as Marion Crane. Then we got a twist: Norman (Freddie Highmore) doesn’t kill Marion; she emerges from the shower unscathed. Later, we do get the shower scene, but Norman’s victim is Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols, who – in the strangest bit of typecasting ever — also got stabbed to death on “The Walking Dead”).
These were my 10 favorite shows of 2016:
1. “Atlanta” (Season 1, FX) – Donald Glover’s brainchild is a crazy mix of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-esque wry observations (Earn’s inability to order a kids’ meal), envelope-pushing storytelling choices (the pundit roundtable parody) and outright horrific violence (Earn witnesses a murder, then moves on like it’s just another day in the ATL). It comes together as an on-point – albeit still crazy — portrait of being a dead-broke young adult on the backstreets of a collapsing American city.
As we wind down the traditional season and gear up for some summer shows, here’s a look at 10 TV characters who have my attention:
At first blush, prequels should be a boring form of storytelling, because we already know the end point. Of course, there are many examples that prove out-of-sequence storytelling can work – the “Star Wars” prequels and “Smallville” have plenty of fans, for example. But three current series – A&E’s “Bates Motel,” Fox’s “Gotham” and AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead” — have turned the prequel into an art form, garnering extra drama from the fact that the audience knows where the story is going.