Is the big 2012 trend going to be TV series that act as prequels to film classics? We’ve already heard that AMC is the likely home for a Goodfellas TV series, which has been said to be a prequel to Martin Scorsese’s film. There is also Hannibal, a show that explores the early relationship between detective Will Graham and killer Hannibal Lecter.

Now A&E is developing Bates Motel, a series that would serve as a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1960 film Psycho. Because we need to know all about how Norman Bates got to be crazy, right? Psycho IV: The Beginning didn’t cover that angle well enough.

THR says that Bates Motel will “offer an understanding into how Norman Bates’ psyche developed and would tell the back story of the film’s killer, learning of how his mother, Norma, and her lover damaged him, transforming him into serial-killing motel owner.”

The pilot script is written by Anthony Cipriano, but we don’t have any info about a director or attached cast.

Now let’s get into some Psycho series history. Psycho II introduced Emma Spool, the sister of Norman Bates’ mother, who had her own important role in the family history. But the made for TV movie Psycho IV, written by Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano, acts essentially as a direct sequel to Psycho, ignoring the second and third films and the Emma Spool character.

Presumably the ‘lover’ mentioned in the plot outline above is the character Chet Rudolph, played by Thomas Schuster in Psycho IV. That movie used flashbacks to outline how Norman Bates was dominated and warped by his mother, and how his jealousy over her relationship with Rudolph (who helped pay for the Bates Motel) led to Bates committing his first murders.

Will this series just be a far more detailed account of that same series of events, and one that trades on the recognizance of the Bates name? Or will it actively reconcile the differences between the Bates family history as presented in conflicting fashion in the various sequels?

I can see Bates Motel making a case for its own existence if it really creates solid characters — there is a compelling family dynamic in the roots of the Norman Bates story. And while Psycho IV has strong points, it wasn’t the best-written episode of the Psycho storyline  by a long shot. There is some room for improvement.

Oh, and super-knowledgeable Psycho fans may remember another attempt to make a TV series called Bates Motel — that was a sequel to Psycho III rather than a prequel. This new show is a totally different thing.

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