Monday, November 16, 2009

Be seeing you?

I have yet to see the entirety of AMC's remake/remodel of The Prisoner, but thus far, I'm less than impressed. To be fair, my memory of the 1960s British original makes it difficult for me to accept any attempts to recapture that zeitgeist, but even on its own terms, this series comes up short.

What AMC has given us, pure and simple, is less a remake/remodel of The Prisoner than it is Lost II, with The Village standing in for The Island. In the first episode, we even get protagonist Number 6 telling us that he's "lost." All that's missing is the smoke monster. We also get the obligatory reference to Twin Peaks (love that ceiling fan!), and the hyperkinetic editing and reliance on absurd rack focuses that connote Edgy TV.

The second episode opens things up some -- we find out a little more about 6's background, and the connections between past and present become more clear. But that's marred by a cheap nod to star Jim Caviezel's previous career as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, with Pilate showing up on Gesthemane carting a grenade. Pilate in this case is played by Ian McKellen, doing his slimy powerful shtick one too many times -- I can predict already that the mask will fall, revealing the pathetic evil within before it is necessarily destroyed.

That's the show considered without the original. With the original, it's hard to see why this went beyond storyboarding. AMC has, wisely or not, posted the original ITC series online. Just watch the 2 1/2-minute intro of episode one to see all the invention and excitement this version lacks. A meditation on the existential relationship between the individual and the state, the original Prisoner spoke to both right and left, both Brit and Yank, in a bizarre psychedelic lingua franca that was entirely of its time. The AMC version lacks both the philosophic intent and the political urgency of the original. It's simply must-see TV for people who can't think outside of must-see TV -- although they've at least retained The Bubble.

btw, if you want to read a really interesting analysis of the original Prisoner, you might want to check out this book.

1 comment:

  1. Haha. Excellent review, and nice (albeit shameless) self-plug!