'Bates Motel' (A&E)
A bit like its main character Norman Bates, A&E's "Bates Motel" suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. It's a "Psycho" prequel, only it's set in the present and it's really got almost nothing to do with "Psycho." There was a long and icky arc about sex slaves. There was a silly and barely developed arc involving vast pot fields. Half of the actors were only on-hand to skulk in the background looking suspicious. And there was a frustratingly on-the-nose cap to the season finale that I'm not sure I approve of. But for all of that, Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin's creepy drama was often gripping TV. Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore gave "Bates Motel" a super one-two acting punch and Nestor Carbonell and Olivia Cooke were really good as well. If "Bates Motel" can get just a bit more clarity in its Season 2 vision, it could be ready to take a big creative step.
- Daniel Fienberg