In chronological order, these were our 20 favorite TV shows of the 2010s:
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”).
By their very nature, some shows have end games and some don’t. A show about families and relationships, like “Parenthood,” simply looks for a grace note (and it found a good one in its series finale in January); it’s not as if it can end with everyone’s life in a state of perpetual perfection. At the other end of the spectrum, a murder mystery like last fall’s “Gracepoint” has a strictly defined finish line: “Who killed Danny Solano?”
“The Returned” (9 p.m. Central Mondays on A&E) takes “mystery” to a whole new level. Traditionally, a mystery show is something like “Gracepoint,” where we try to figure out whodunit over the course of a season. Clues peppered into each episode lead toward the revelation of the killer(s).
I have a friend, Shaune, who’s a big horror movie fan, but he has found the current character stuff on “The Walking Dead” rather boring. This is understandable: Television has never been able to be as flat-out scary as movies. There’s something about a dark theater, big screen and big sound. Plus, weirdly, the fact that characters are more secondary (and disposable) in movies than on TV helps the scare factor. When watching an “X-Files” monster-of-the-week, for example, you don’t have to worry that Mulder or Scully will be killed off. When watching a horror movie, everyone’s expendable.
I’ve never been high on the idea of reboots, but “Bates Motel” (9 p.m. Central Mondays on A&E) makes a strong case that they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. This reboot/prequel to the “Psycho” franchise takes place in present day and therefore won’t necessarily match up with the events of the 1960 Hitchcock classic, yet I can see why executive producer Carlton Cuse (“Lost”) is tapping into the Norman Bates mythology. While “Bates Motel” doesn’t strictly relate to any of the previous four movies, three books or one TV pilot (also called “Bates Motel,” back in 1987 for NBC), a viewer’s knowledge of the character seeps into every scene.
“Bag of Bones” (1998) is one of my favorite Stephen King books, so it’s refreshing to see A&E doing a beautiful job adapting it. (Part one was on Sunday, and the final two-hour installment will be at 8 p.m. Central Monday. If you missed part one, you can catch it at 6 p.m., or at the A&E website.)