‘Be seeing you’: The Prisoner to be made into mini-series

July 9, 2008 at 1:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Do you remember The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, The Avengers, Lost in Space, Starsky and Hutch, Dennis the Menace, My Favorite Martian, Dukes of Hazzard, Charlie’s Angels, or The Wild Wild West?

If any of these titles create an image in your head, I’m guessing, no matter your age, that you visualized the original television show, not the hackneyed film version. No matter how funny Jim Varney and Steve Martin were or how hot Nicole Kidman was, the characters of Jed Clampett, Ernie Bilko and Samantha Stevens were owned by Buddy Ebsen, Phil Silvers and Elizabeth Montgomery. Film versions of old television shows — even those that turn out to be entertaining, like Maverick or (I hear) Get Smart — seldom, if ever, do justice to the ideas, characters and visions of the original TV show.

The idea of a remake of what I consider one of the best television programs of all time, The Prisoner, has been bandied about for years, and a commitment by AMC to do so was announced in Dec., 2006. According to an article last week at Newsarama.com, the project has been officially greenlighted and lead actors have been signed.

Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, has been cast as Number Six, the role played by the original series creator Patrick McGoohan. Two-time Oscar nominee Ian McKellen — Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy — will play the role of Number Two.

The remake will not be a big screen production. It is slated to run as a six-part miniseries on the AMC basic cable channel.

From the article:

While the original series, which debuted in 1967, was a riff on Cold War politics, AMC’s reinterpretation will reflect 21st Century concerns and anxieties, such as liberty, security, and surveillance, yet also showcase the same key elements of paranoia, tense action and socio-political commentary seen in McGoohan’s enigmatic original.

Surely there have been a number of quality books written about 21st Century “concerns and anxieties” that could be adapted into films or mini-series. Why try to improve on a classic? Certainly, the original The Prisoner is dated, a product of its time. One episode deals with a computer the size of an armored tank, and the Cold War is the backdrop of the show. But it was also a psychological thriller and a look inside the mind of Patrick McGoohan, something no amount of modern CGI techniques, hand-held cameras and unnecessary profanity can make better.

No matter how good an actor Caviezel may be, he’ll never master the quirks of McGoohan’s sometimes panicked, sometimes amused, sometimes sly facial expressions, or the sarcastic, smirky way Number Six said, “Be seeing you.”

And it wasn’t just McGoohan’s acting that made the program a cult classic in the 1960s; his and the entire cast’s wardrobes helped make the show what it was — his jacket, his silly boat shoes, the colorful, flamboyant ponchos the extras wore. And no one, not even Mini-Me, can duplicate the presence of Angelo Muscat as The Butler.

And, not-so-technically speaking, The Prisoner has already been “remade.” Not literally, but the 1996 television program Nowhere Man, another show I consider one of the best ever made, was truly an homage to McGoohan’s vision, and carried the paranoid “prisoner” idea to new heights.

I’d rather the mini-series not be made at all, but I’ll watch it, eagerly, and expect great things from it. It could be interesting. I hope it lives up to its potential. Cable television series have come a long way, and we’ve seen some good TV with shows like Rescue Me, The Sopranos, Weeds, etc. Production values are as good as major films today, and the writing is usually better.

I just hope the remake of The Prisoner stays true to the message of the original: “I will not make any deals with you. I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own. I resign.”

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