The Norman Conquest: Bates Motel | Psycho’s creepy killer commands the small screen in Bates Motel

TV Shows: Feb. 26-Ma.r 4, 2014

The acclaimed Bates Motel (Monday, 8 p.m., A&E) adapts Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic Psycho, as Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) and troubled son Norman (Freddie Highmore) run a motel in a town with more than its share of unexplained murders. The second-season premiere contains all the perversity you’d expect while still exercising an admirable Hitchcockian restraint. Blessedly, Bates Motel is nowhere near as gross as fellow serial-murderer dramas Hannibal or Those Who Kill (see below).

Four months after his high school teacher’s death, Norman is obsessed with visiting her grave. He’d been with her on the night she died and either did or didn’t kill her; he blacked out and doesn’t remember what happened. As last season, the series delights in teasing us about who did what and why.

Alternately appealing and disturbing, Highmore is a worthy precursor to Anthony Perkins’ Norman from Psycho. And as his mother, Farmiga would make Sigmund Freud swallow his cigar — such is her Oedipal intensity. She somehow causes Norman’s odd behavior while at the same time disapproving of it.

"You seem obsessed with morbidity or something," she scolds.

It’s that mysterious "or something" that keeps us watching.

Wednesday, 8:30 pm (ABC)

This series takes place over the course of one night at a Manhattan bar, where good-looking young singles pair up, split up and, occasionally, throw up. Each episode focuses on a meeting between two characters, setting up possibilities for the end of the night — a.k.a. the season finale.

It’s an interesting premise for a sitcom, but you wish Mixology had better dialogue, better comedians. It relies too much on being "naughty," as if incessant references to sex were enough to provide TRENDY EXCITEMENT FOR THE 18-TO-34 DEMOGRAPHIC! Indeed, the writers are so smug about the series’ supposed cool factor that they put sneering comments about other networks in the characters’ mouths. For example, a couple of boring people are described as liking "scrapbooking, bowling, cheese and the whole CBS comedy lineup."

Sorry, guys, but you’re not going to woo many young viewers with lines like that. Mixology isn’t terrible, but frankly, I’d rather be scrapbooking and watching the whole CBS comedy lineup.

Inside Job
Friday, 8 pm (TNT)

This new reality series offers a behind-the-scenes look at corporate America. Each week, a major company invites four job candidates to compete for a six-figure executive position. But one of the applicants is actually working for the company as an undercover agent, with orders to report on the other three to the big boss.

In the pilot, House of Blues conducts a weeklong search for a sales manager. The three real candidates try to impress boss Carl Schloessman, unaware that the snitch is monitoring their every move when Schloessman isn’t around. If that’s not disturbing enough, check out the degrading interview process these people are subjected to by House of Blues. They’re made to work for free on the company’s behalf, pitching clients and staging a party. It’s painful to watch a powerful corporation make job applicants humiliate themselves on national TV.

And if House of Blues is looking for a blurb writer to work for six figures — well, yes, I’m available.