The Real Mystery of Bates Motel
I am watching Bates Motel (Monday nights, A&E). It’s engaging and scary. Tune in if only for the performance by Vera Farmiga which really is astoundingly good.
I came away from last night’s episode thinking there are two kinds of drama on TV right now. (Yes, there are more than two but indulge me.)
There’s the police procedural, that work horse of network TV. Law and Order, if you count all 6 versions, now has over 1000 episodes to its credit. Then there’s CSI, NCIS and Criminal Minds.
In all of these, we open with a crime and we close with some kind of resolution. Chaos breaks into the world and then gets routed out of it.
Then there’s the another category that forgoes that this narrative and moral clarity. I am thinking of Bates Motel which is shot through with menace and a mystery never goes away.
You will say this is the nature of horror. But this “dreadful indeterminacy” can be seen also in shows like Fringe, Lost, Orphan Black and Dolls. Something is out of kilter, the world no longer spins on its axis, the forces of disorder are building, and we are done for.
1. Is this a fair contrast?
2. Is the police procedural category diminishing?
3. Is there a second category of the kind proposed here? (I am perfectly happy to hear everyone say “no.” This is an open question.)
4. If there is a second category, what should we call it?
5. Is it growing?
6. Why is it growing?
This is a question for those masters of popular culture, Sarah Zupko, Matthew Belinki, Tara Ariano or Sarah Bunting, and anyone else who wants to prove they are in their league.