Ready for a “Psycho” prequel? The new series “Bates Motel” (9 p.m., A&E;) aims to explain the devolution of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) from teenager to serial killer. As in most psychological queries, we begin with the mother.
‘‘Bates” is an ambitious, cinematic attempt at a TV thriller that suffers from a maddening inconsistency in tone. At first, it seems to be set in 1960, or at least lost in time. But once Norman’s teen contemporaries arrive with their smartphones and earbuds, you halfway think “Bates” has been kidnapped by a CW show. Then, it’s back to the Bates’ mansion (that looks borrowed from the Universal Theme Park), where a gruesome rape and murder scene takes us in another direction entirely.
• For a far more original effort, don’t miss the seven-part miniseries “Top of the Lake” (8 p.m., Sundance).
‘‘Lake” stars Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) as a troubled detective out to find a missing, suicidal 12-year-old girl, who happens to be five months pregnant. The girl is the daughter of violent drug lord Matt Mitcham (Peter Mullan), who presides over a cultlike family from a ramshackle compound. They live in a bucolic spot aptly named Paradise. Mitcham gets even more violent when it appears that a local realtor has sold a parcel of his hideaway to a mystical guru, GJ (Holly Hunter), who uses it to create a healing retreat for wounded women.
The cultural collision of angry alpha-dog males and GJ’s new-age feminist troupe is unforgettable. Like many efforts from writer and director Jane Campion, “Lake” is slow to build, but more than pays off. Filmed in New Zealand, the series’ gorgeous and haunting scenery shows human darkness wallowing in the full light of day.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Doomsday preppers are murder suspects on “Bones” (7p.m., Fox).
• “Dancing With the Stars” (7p.m., ABC) begins its 16th season.
• Carroll wants to see his wife on “The Following” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Formerly comfortable families face poverty in the 2013 documentary “American Winter” (8 p.m., HBO).
• J.R.’s will affects everyone on “Dallas” (8 p.m., TNT).
• Vivian’s killer is revealed on the season finale of “Deception” (9 p.m., NBC).