Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'The Prisoner' review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review "The Prisoner" remake on AMC:
I thought the fact that I had never seen the original version of "The Prisoner" would make me an ideal viewer for AMC's 21st-century remake. Because I had violated TV critic code and never saw more than a few minutes of the trippy '60s series about an ex-spy trapped in a bizarre, isolated community called The Village, I would have nothing to compare the new version to, and no outraged reactions of "That's not how Patrick McGoohan did it!"

And watching the original is far from a prerequisite for the new one. There are nods to the old show (most of which I recognized from having seen a "Simpsons" episode that sent Homer to The Village), but the miniseries stands on its own, and whatever sense it makes — which, at times, isn't much — in no way depends on knowing what McGoohan was up to.

But at the end of the miniseries' six hours, I realized that the reason I had never watched the original "Prisoner" made me anything but an ideal audience for the remake.

Simply put, it's incredibly weird, and I don't do weird if I can help it.
You can read the full review here.

I don't think I'll be doing episode or night-specific blog reviews. As you can see, it's not really my thing.

UPDATE: Bumping this up in case you want to discuss the premiere, at least.

UPDATE #2: Bumping this up one last time in case anyone wants to now discuss the thing as a whole entity, including whether the ending satisfactorily answered the questions. (It explained the wraps, at least.)

68 comments:

Karen said...

Well, I DO do weird, but your review isn't changing my mind on my decision not to watch it. My family devoured the original "Prisoner" when it first aired on American television so long, long ago, and it has long been one of the shows I consider nonpareil and life-changing. So I wasn't pre-disposed to like a remake.

Add to that: Jim Caviezel is no Patrick McGoohan. Shouting is not what Number 6 does. The only thing that belongs in "strange doings about dreamers and holes in the Earth, and giant white bubbles and a shimmering pair of silver towers designed to evoke the World Trade Center" is "giant white bubbles."

Yeah, yeah, I get that they're reinterpreting the original for a new audience and a new Zeitgeist, and that there wouldn't be much point to doing a shot-for-shot remake. Don't care.

Matthew L said...

I will confess to being a bit disappointed, since I knew you hadn't seen the original, and was hoping the remake would make you want to see (and blog about) the original.

Personally, I'm excited about the miniseries. The original is great, and I don't expect this to be, but it looks like it should be well-made fun television, and since they've gone with keeping the same Number 2 during the show, I'm glad they cast Ian McKellan.

And, for all Prisoner fans, the Basic Instructions comic did a great strip this week about The Prisoner. It's worth reading.

http://www.basicinstructions.net/?p=1272

Abby G said...

I'm kind of on the same page as you, Alan. I saw a bit of the original a few years ago and just couldn't get past the weirdness of it. I was hoping that this would be more accessible and interesting (to me, at least) especially with McKellan. I'll give it a shot but I'm not a follower of weird.

William said...

Dammit Alan, now all I can think about is Don Draper in a John Woo-style shootout while a flock of white doves fly past in the background.

Eric said...

I did love the original, and I'll probably watch the remake, but the whole idea of a remake seems off. Someone else compared it to remaking "Twin Peaks." The original was an idiosyncratic work driven by an individual vision, and bringing someone else in to write a sequel/remake seems beside the point.

Anonymous said...

I saw the original back in the day & liked it a lot. And regard it as good campy fun in re-runs. So I may try the re-do...

But I mostly logged in (well, posted as Anonymous because I forgot my ID over here) to repeat remaking "Twin Peaks."

Except with sparkly vampires?

AKA not Bridget

Moor Larkin said...

Back in '68 I can remember my old dad watching the final episode of The Prisoner, after several months of following what was a very entertaining and usually fun series, and he remarked with a grin, "This is rubbish.... but good rubbish!"

I think if you actually watched the original Prisoner, one episode every 7 days, and in the correct order, and ignored all the crap you may have picked up on grapevines about the show ........ then you'd have a really enjoyable 17 weeks, at least one hour of each week anyhow.

This is the trick - to be serious in an entertaining way. And it really was not that weird.The majority of it is very simple.... but with layers of simplicity, so every time you rewatch it (if you choose to do so) you can see something different to the last time, if you are in the mood.

One thing is for sure, if I was made to watch six episodes of the 1968 vintage in just three days I'd probably get a bit sick of that too and I like it.... :-))

Phil Freeman said...

I think I'll be skipping this. I liked the original well enough when I saw it as a teenager, though it's very, very of its time. But the promos I've seen for this new one just seem a little too on-the-nose.

I actually don't think McKellen was a good choice for Number 2, and I say this as someone who loved his work in Richard III and Apt Pupil as much as, if not more than, his work as Magneto in the X-Men movies. Someone less inclined toward lip-smacking wickedness, and more numbly, bureaucratically evil, would have been a better choice - Brian Cox, maybe.

I have no problem with Jim Caviezel - I think he's an underrated actor, and recommend watching Deja Vu and The Count Of Monte Cristo back to back to get an idea of his actual range. He's not amazing, but he's certainly capable. But again, I'll be passing on this one.

JasonR said...

Weird - I am a big fan of weird. Of course, there is a lot crap that is weird for the sake being weird or weird that is hiding the fact that there isn't actually anything there.

Now that I have perused your review and read the quote "Not weird for the sake of being weird" I am in.

P.S. I think I typed weird as "wierd" every single time even though I know how to spell it properly. The muscle memory of typing "ie" more often is apparently too hard for me to overcome. . .

Nicole said...

I am still going to check this out just as a comparison to the original. I never thought the original was weird for weird's sake and I really think that you should watch a few of the original episodes in full, especially the ones with Leo McKern as Number Two. The original deals with issues of that Cold War era in an allegorical way, and frankly is not much weirder than original series Star Trek. I only caught up with the original Prisoner series a few years ago, and still "got it", so I think you would as well. It seems as though this new mini-series didn't see the real point of the series beyond the toys like the Rover (the white bubble) and the weird village.

The original is also an obvious influence on current sci-fi, like BSG, so it's disappointing to read that this new version misses the boat. The original was Patrick McGoohan's vision (among others), so that's probably why Caviezel only seems to be able to portray this character as shouty and bewildered.

Chengus said...

Such a hater. I swear these days if a show isn't Mad Men or Chuck, Alan ain't having it. He's like Mikey from the Life cereal commercial. Hates just about everything. Next time Alan likes something besides MM or Chuck, somebody yell, "He likes it! He likes it!"

J said...

I enjoy inspired weirdness, as opposed to contrived weirdness. The first series' weirdness made sense both as a symptom of isolation and because I saw it so many years after it was produced (a sort of Kitchen of the Future! stylistic anachronism).

So I'll check at least the first part out to see which weirdness this seems to be. It doesn't help that I just saw Caviezel be horrible in a horrible horror movie (Nature's Grave, which only gets hilarious at the end). I'll try not to hold that against him.

J said...

Such a hater.

That's not fair at all. Sometimes he drinks the Kool Aid deep on shows he likes, but he's just presenting his honest opinion. He couldn't be more upfront on this one: "It's not my thing, maybe it's your thing." Stop being polarizing.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Again, I should say that I think the new version does have a point - albeit one I didn't want to discuss in the review because it gives a lot away about the resolution/explanation.

You may not like it, or you may, but my issues were too ingrained for that. I was really never going to like a version of "The Prisoner," I don't think.

Anonymous said...

This reveals why I love Flash Forward and you don't, which was actually confusing me since I find your tv reviews insightful and generally spot on.

I love the original series and I am very interested in this remake - I appreciate the review being fairly spoiler free. A shouty #6 - well, we live in a much louder world, we all shout more, don't we? I think I can accept that.

IMO, the original series wrapped with #6 going insane, as he would - and the brief appearance in the commercials of that #6 might be a nice nod to that. Can't wait to be thrilled or outraged.

-meopta, having open id errors

Hatfield said...

I'm excited for this because of McKellen. So since I have a high tolerance for weird, I'm in. For one or two episodes, anyway

Brandy said...

Huh, I've found most of Alan's non glowing reviews to be kind of - Meh- as opposed to being a hater.

Since I'd rather not read a whole lot of meh about a show I like, or loath... I get the not blogging the meh.

Hope there is more that perks the good radar though.

I want so much to like Men of a Certain Age so I'm curious about the twitter indicating that Alan might think it's even as good as meh.

Since nobody I know thinks it shows any promise at all just based on casting...

Craig Ranapia said...

OMFG -- could the "Alan's a hater" crowd just give it a rest. I liked what I've seen of The Prisoner enough to give it a solid B (and I do "do weird" and revere the original); Alan doesn't. He loved The United States of Tara; I wanted to gouge my eyes out with a teaspoon.

We could go back and forth like this all day, but at least I can still enjoy the fact that he's an articulate and entertaining critic who knows how to construct an argument, even if I totally disagree with it.

Peter D Bakija said...

I'm a huge fan of the original, and while I'm filled with a great deal of certainty that the new one might totally blow, I'll watch it anyway (the ad spots where Caviezel is run down by Rover are kind of geek-tackular...).

That being said, I find it really, ahem, weird, that Alan is out on weird for weird's sake, and never actually watched the original (which, as noted, isn't actually all that weird, really). I'll point out--uh, Lost? Which owes *way* more to The Prisoner than it lets on. And is endlessly weird for weird's sake. I mean, I like Lost too. But I find it difficult to fathom liking Lost and then being all like "Uh, yeah, not really into The Prisoner. Too weird..."

Alan Sepinwall said...

There are characters I grew attached to on Lost before the show got incredibly weird. And the storytelling itself is fairly linear (or was until the time travel season).

Similarly, I got into Twin Peaks because of the murder mystery and indulged the weirdness around it. Once they solved Laura's murder, the show went off the table for me.

Trust me: watch the new Prisoner and you'll understand why I felt it crossed the Too Weird threshold. The storytelling style is extremely, deliberately, trippy.

Craig Ranapia said...

Similarly, I got into Twin Peaks because of the murder mystery and indulged the weirdness around it. Once they solved Laura's murder, the show went off the table for me.

But the weirdest thing about "Twin Peaks", at least for me, was just how buttoned-down and straight it was. Seriously, take The Little Man from Another Place and Bob out of the mix, and are you watching anything besides a very well-produced night time soap?

J said...

And the storytelling itself is fairly linear (or was until the time travel season).


I get what you're saying. But the beauty of Lost is that it was always a time travel show. Integrating actual time travel into the proceedings was simply a matter of realizing the show's formal traits into narrative traits. But I totally get being into it just for the characters and action and stuff, too.

Number Five said...

This is the kind of show where you have to put out your fan preferences, so I will say I mostly enjoy weird, and The Prisoner is one of my favorite shows of all time (my name should be a hint!). Thanks Matthew L for the comic link - I try to avoid being the bald guy!

To add to what others have said, for most of its run, the original show combined a surreal/menacing atmosphere with relatively straightforward plots. Even the later gimmicky episodes weren't hard to understand. Most of the show's reputation for craziness rests on its final episode, which pretty much invented the televised mind-(four letter word). And while it's awesome and responsible for a lot of the show's enduring influence, there is a clear difference between it and the rest of the show (there were only 17 episodes total).

I was glad to read about the Namibian location and its bizarre architecture, because I didn't know how they could top the original setting of Portmeirion (the Welsh town Alan refers to in the review), which was perfect.

I'm looking forward to the miniseries. While no one could ever remake McGoohan's original, I don't see anything wrong with taking the basic premise and putting another twist on it. Obviously there's terrorism replacing the Cold War, but today technology has given societies more tools to potentially spy on their own citizens than McGoohan could have dreamed of in 1966.

I'm disappointed Alan isn't planning to do further posts, but I'm glad for the chance to comment on this review. Whether you watch the miniseries or not, I recommend all fans of television check out the original show. Be seeing you!

Peter D Bakija said...

Alan wrote:
>>There are characters I grew attached to on Lost before the show got incredibly weird. And the storytelling itself is fairly linear (or was until the time travel season).>>

Ah, fair enough. Yeah, The Prisoner really only had, ahem, 1 character, and getting attached to him wasn't really the point.

>>Similarly, I got into Twin Peaks because of the murder mystery and indulged the weirdness around it. Once they solved Laura's murder, the show went off the table for me.>>

Well, that is totally understandable. But not 'cause the show got too weird after they solved Laura's murder, but 'cause the show just got indescribably awful after they solved Laura's murder...

>>Trust me: watch the new Prisoner and you'll understand why I felt it crossed the Too Weird threshold. The storytelling style is extremely, deliberately, trippy.>>

Totally reasonable. I'm sure I'll probably be disapointed by the new one, but again, I'll watch it anyway.

As a public service to the world, I'll suggest that as a TV reviewer, you should watch at least one episode of the original (as really, other than the finale, the whole show is a series of 15 essentially stand alone episodes), and I'll suggest Chimes of Big Ben as the best episode ever. That isn't even all that weird. Just mostly a straight forward sort of action/adventure/spy story.

Anonymous said...

So far, AMC's The Prisoner is getting absolutely savaged in the reviews. Alan's is actually one of the more generous treatments. My expectations are pretty low now, so I'm not so worried about being disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Bro, I love your blog but how can you be a TV reviewer w/o having seen the original Prisoner??!! That's like being a movie reviewer w/o ever having seen 2001 or GWTW.

I don't think it's hyperbole to say there's never been any show before or since remotely like the original and, given the unusual circumstances that gave McGoohan the freedom to do whatever he wanted, I doubt we'll ever see anything like it again -- certainly not of broadcast TV.

Jim Treacher said...

I do weird!

I'm kind of dreading this, but if it renews interest in the original series... "This is a dreamy party!"

Pamela Jaye said...

I don't do weird. I struggle to keep up with Dollhouse. I saw one ep of Nowhere Man (I still have Journeyman on the DVR, maybe I should watch that).

I never saw the original and apparentl, all these years I've been confusing Partick McGoohan with Patrick McNee
(I figured this out just before I typed it. my mother used to watch the Avengers (the show with the most dead bodies/acts of voilence in one hour of television))

Oh well. (I'm still kind of unhappy Cougartown & Community weren't canceled. They are still on the machine and I am still avoiding them)

I wish I could find something that I can delete after watching...

btw, Target is selling Gilmore Girls for $15 per season this week

last night I watched a 3 hour PBS documentary on the Kennedys.

Anonymous said...

This shows blows chunks.

Peter D Bakija said...

Well, watched the first hour. Not impressed so far. Other than the old guy (93?) who was clearly supposed to be MgGoohan (who was unavilable due to either taste or being dead), the whole thing wreaks of incoherence.

I'm an hour in. I still don't know the premise of the show. The original gave us the premise in the first 5 minutes, and then spent the next hour supporting the premise. So it made complete sense, if a weird kind of sense. This one? Caviezel shows up, is confused, takes a cab, wakes up an an infirmary, and is convinced he is in a prison and declares his intention to escape. It is kind of like an hour of episode where things were set up correctly got accidentally edited out.

And the idea of having everyone in the Village supposedly not know that the rest of the world exists? Completely preposterous (and not something from the original, for those who haven't seen it). And I'm not buying Caviezel as anything other than kind of verging on hysterical (and not the funny kind).

Uh, yeah. Well, I'll give it a couple more episodes.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And the idea of having everyone in the Village supposedly not know that the rest of the world exists? Completely preposterous

All I'll say is keep watching on that one. You may (may) find that part less preposterous by the end.

jim treacher said...

The biggest impression I'm left with is how little of an impression it made. I watched the whole thing and I have almost no opinion on it one way or another. Completely inoffensive.

The one thing that stood out about Caviezel's performance was Six's occasional flashes of amused defiance. He's not nearly as good at it as McGoohan was, but at least he's on the right track. He's also a hell of a squinter.

His lady friend on (presumably) his last night as a "free" man was alright, eh? Please let her put him out with sedative gas through a keyhole.

arrabbiata said...

When this project was announced, I couldn't figure out why it was being done. The original was the definition of a cult series, very narrow appeal. (even our favorite tv reviewer has yet to see an episode of what was one of the most groundbreaking and influential shows of its era) As far as I know, no crowds of people were demanding a new Prisoner series, especially without McGoohan's involvement. My best guess- a labor of love from someone who loved the original series and thought that a modern reworking could find an audience.

Having seen the first 2 hours of the new series, I can say that it's almost nothing like the original. That's not a compliment.

I'm not going to bother listing all the difference here; anyone who has seen both already knows all that. What bothers me most is that these were two of the dullest hours of television I've subjected myself to in quite a while. McGoohan's Number Six was a caged animal, throwing himself against the bars of his cage at all times, using all his experience and valuable abilities to try to find a way out. There may be a debate as to who was running the Village, but no doubt that Number Six would be a valuable asset to any government or agency. Caviezel's Number Six is a confused mental patient, who has wasted the first third of this miniseries wandering around aimlessly, and we have no clue as to why he would be brought there, much less why this Village exists.

Having said that, I'm probably still going to watch the remaining episodes. There's nothing else I watch that night anyway, and maybe over the next 4 hours we get the enough payoff to make it worthwhile. Or at least to see the point of all this.

And seriously Alan, you need to go back and watch some of the original series, if for no other reason than to see what all the fuss is about. Supposedly McGoohan (who not only co-created the series, but also wrote and directed many key episodes) had listed the important ones as these:

Arrival
The Chimes of Big Ben
Free for All
Dance of the Dead
Checkmate
Once Upon a Time
Fall Out

The first is the origin, the last two are the 2 part conclusion. All are worth watching, though admittedly Fall Out is one of the weirdest hours of tv ever.

belinda said...

I do do weird, but I haven't watched the old one or the remake, and now I'm kind of interested to - but which one - the new one (which I can watch pretty much right now), or the old one (which would require a bit of time to acquire - it is out on dvd or something, I hope) - would be worth my time, for those who like the series?

arrabbiata said...

Belinda,

You can see from my previous post that I definitely favor the original.

Over the years it has been released on video cassette, DVD, and a Blu ray edition just came out. Over the last month a cable channel (IFC I think) was showing the whole series, a few years ago PBS ran them every week, and I first saw most of them about 20 years ago when my local CBS was showing them weekly in a 4:00 am slot.

The show is not for everyone. I'd recommend renting or looking for a broadcast first, and buy them only if you like what you see.

Wes Covington said...

The earlier comment comparing the new "Prisoner" to "Flash Forward" is a little off base. The former is trying to be weird. The latter is just dull.

Based on the reviews I'd read, I was expecting the worst from "The Prisoner" but I found interesting enough to make it all the way to end.

However, it will never match up to the original. And, it's impossible not to make the comparison.

The people in "The Village" of today don't act all that much differently from the people in 1967. They are given nicer clothes.

Although I do wonder why Lenny James had to lose his accent.

Anonymous said...

J said "I enjoy inspired weirdness, as opposed to contrived weirdness." That is my feeling about Weird exactly. I love Weird, but you have to follow the proper Weird standards. Too soon to see if this show is doing that, but it can't get much inventively odder then the original. On the other hand, if it tries to go off onto it's own weirdness for the sake of doing something different-weird on it's own, that will be no good.

I'm giving the remake a chance and attempting to view it with no comparisons, as difficult as that is. I'm beyond-bored with dark, morbid, dirty-metal SciFi, and a shiny dystopia in the desert is a nice change.

LOL Alan and Peter, I agree about Twin Peaks.

Wow, Nowhereman, that was a prety neat show while it lasted.

Thanks for telling us about the film location Alan! I imagine their customers might increase a bit after this series airs, I'd go there now if I could afford it.

Jann

belinda said...

Thanks, arrabbiata. I merely skimmed the comments (so I don't spoil myself much) so I wasn't aware of your preference, and from Alan's review I wasn't sure if the original is any better than the new (other than both being a weird sort of show, which got me intrigued). :D

Either way, thanks! I'll try and netflix the originals first to test the waters.

Nicole said...

For those who are interested in watching the original (and better) Prisoner it is available on the AMC site. I recommend anyone to check it out (especially Alan), because it makes far more sense than this mini-series. Even being familiar with the original made me go "what the hell" several times.

As much as Ian McKellan is a superb actor, the writing and conception of the story lets him down. Why does he have a son? The whole point of the original was that Number 2 was interchangeable, using several different actors to play Number 2. This was a basic concept in the original that apparently wasn't understood by whoever wrote this new version.

I worry that this poor version will discredit the original for people who haven't seen the latter. I think the original series would be a great candidate for Summer Burn off theatre, and since it's available for free on AMC, everyone would have a chance to see it.

Peter D Bakija said...

Alan wrote:
>>All I'll say is keep watching on that one. You may (may) find that part less preposterous by the end.>>

Fair enough--I hope it all comes together at some point, 'cause let me tell you, that first hour certainly doesn't come together :-)

I'll watch the second this evening, and maybe a semblance of a story will come together, but so far, I'll second the comment that Caviezel seems much more like a mental patient that anything else. Which might very well be the case, but then, not much connection to the original source material.

Just in terms of telling a cohesive story, the orignal "Arrival" has the basic premise set up in an extended, dialogueless opening sequence. Then we get McGoohan discovering the boundaries of where he is (including the virtually identical initial cab scene and buying a map scene), #2 explaining why he is there and what they want from him, and then there is an adventure involving an old friend helping him escape which turns out to be just the first of many Village double crosses. A very well structured, solid hour of weird TV.

Again, I enjoyed the "This Old Guy Was Clearly Supposed To Be Played By McGoohan" aspect of the first episode, what with the appropriate costume, and his cool, groovy apartment. But still, it seemed like a good half hour of cohesion was edited out. We'll see where it goes...

Karen said...

There's a marvelous review of the new version, along with both an explanation of why the changes made from the original don't work and also a nice meditation on the inherently different approaches that the British and Hollywood bring to such subject matter here:

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2009/11/15/review-the-prisoner-by-adi-tantimedh-look-it-moves-22/

Anonymous said...

I love weird but the original Prisoner was way too weird for me and I still don't get it. Prob won't be watching the remake.

momus1 said...

This piece of garbage is one of the worst things I've subjected myself to in many, many years. Prisoner abuse is more like it. How these so called "writers" managed to wreck such a stylistic gem of a series is beyond me, but they have, and it's unbearably awful from tip to top. The lead actor is incredibly miscast and seems to have one expression the entire time, one of dazed befuddlement. Maybe he read the script!

Just an awful, awful remake. Possibly the worst remake ever, and I saw that horrid remake of the Wizard of Oz, The Wiz. This has it beat by a mile for horridness. They threw out every great premise from the original!!! And what have they given us? A boring, pretentious, plodding tome of a train wreck. Really, really bad production. Even worse than the Cleveland vs Baltimore football game that I'm suffering through. I had hoped The Prisoner would be a respite from the game, but it's even more plodding and boring than the Cleveland offense. NO STARS. Maybe a minus star if you can do that.

Amy said...

But my burning question after watching the first two last night: what's with the only food at the cafe being wraps?! Does that get follow up, or just some random inside joke?

GregM said...

I've only seen the first hour, but I'm hooked, and I've seen 16 out of the 17 episodes of the original "Prisoner," including "Fall Out" (which is insane, but not quite as insane as the episode that comes right *before* Fall Out, that basically features McGoohan and Leo McKern playing some sort of word association game. For a full 20 minutes.)

People forget that the original Prisoner was only supposed to be 6 episodes, but then the producer saw dollar signs, and the writers & McGoohan had to scramble to add more episodes. I saw most of the series 5 years ago, and not much remains in my mind.

I think they're doing an excellent job so far in the new version--I like the updates, I'm glad McKellen's #2 all the way through, and I like the fact that we have some insight into his life. We'll see what the next five hours bring.

Peter D Bakija said...

Yeah, ok, done with episode 2 (i.e. the first 2 hours). And I'm losing patience already. I'm a huge geek. I love The Prisoner. I love things that are weird. I am incredibly forgiving of TV in general. And I'm losing patience for this thing after 2 hours. And If I'm not the target audience, I can't imagine who is.

It isn't 'cause it is different from the original. I'm perfectly happy for it to be different. I just want it to be interesting. And vaguely coherent. This show is like (so far) 2 hours of disjointed TV dream sequences. And maybe that is their plan. But it isn't an interesting plan so far.

It has some nice visuals (the Rover scenes at the end of episodes 1 and 2 were both certainly cool looking), but there is yet to be a cohesive storyline. Even a vague and weird cohesive storyline would be acceptable. Sad.

Anonymous said...

New Prisoner: Worst TV show ever made. In many, many ways it reminds me of the utterly stupid, pointless, and self-indulgent Twin Peaks movie.

arrabbiata said...

OK, I've now seen all 6 hours. Had to fight to stay awake all 3 nights. When the answers to everything were revealed, it was hard to care. Going to try to forget this series ever happened.

Anonymous said...

I can't say I understood the ending... or much of the show for that matter. Perhaps the ending is suppose to be up for interpretation, but I can understand why people won't like this version of the series. A few bright spots for me were the set designs, production and acting from certain actors/actresses. I almost want to watch the series again just to see if I can make some sense of it again but I think I'll use four and half hours or so towards something else. Any commentary on the ending would be very much appreciated, thanks

Evan said...

I love the original and the remake has 40 years of experience to make it incredible, but I felt like I was watching Lost in the desert. It was pure tripe. I am so disappointed in this mini-series. Why did they even call it "The Prisoner"?

Pamela Jaye said...

Delete.
Got 4GB back (only?)
thanks

Wes covington said...

Well, that's over.

At least like the 1967 series, you can't "spoil" the ending to this one either.

Maura said...

What the..? OK. I really liked the first two hours. The middle two weren't as good, but I was fine with them. But, holy cats, the last two hours were a muddled TV disaster. There's a huge difference between ambiguous and incoherent. Not to mention twisting the premise of the original series. Now I understand what the reviewer meant when he said this (from the link posted above by Karen):

Hollywood writing needs its safety nets to reassure everyone that things really aren’t that bad. [snip] The best UK satire takes pride in pushing things not only up to the edge but right over it, whereas Hollywood fears that doing so would offend and alienate audiences, which is bad for business.

Rewriting the story isn't a crime in and of itself. But keeping the spirit of the story is mandatory. I haven't been this pissed off by a remake since the first Mission: Impossible movie.

David J. Loehr said...

I also do weird, but it's got to be more interesting than this. The original was compelling from the opening montage; I can only imagine how it must have played originally with only the "John Drake/Secret Agent/Danger Man" associations for McGoohan.

In the end, thanks to Dan Fienberg, I did sit back down and watch with a more open mind. I appreciate that it did have a point, or thought it did, as opposed to something like "FlashForward" which started with a cool concept and little else apparently.

But so much of what happened made little sense, and not in the good way. Trying not to spoil anything just in case, but in the end, what was the point of the Village construct itself? Or any of the arbitrary features, like numbers for names, etc? As far as I can tell, maybe Caviezal's character saw the original Prisoner series and that's why...

It also veered away from McGoohan's oddly Randian idea of the individual and more toward the idea of "It Takes a Village," which I can only hope was an intentional joke. But coming to that conclusion at the end of this weird, totalitarian battle of wills is more than just a little nihilistic.

I'm okay with variation--despite being an old school Trek fan, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the new Trek film even as it played havoc with the canon. But again, that was gripping from the first moment. Like the original Prisoner, it focused on telling a story instead of stringing together dreamy sequences that looped in on themselves.

I think James Poniewozik nailed it: "In a nutshell, if the big reveal for your series is among the first theories fans were offering for The Island on Lost, you might want to rethink it."

DonBoy said...

Spoil-spoil, now:

Round about hour 2, I said, "Oh. This is going to be yet another Philip K. Dick knockoff."

Sure enough. See, it's all "just" a hallucination, but one that's caused and controlled in a specific science-fictional way, and whose content is not random but has real-world meaning. And, in this case, shared with others. Now I think about it, the episode from the old series "Living in Harmony" falls into that category as well. But mostly it dealt with odd things really happening, and had the nerve to persist in that. Yes, even the end.

At a higher level, here's the problem: in the original, you knew what was happening by the end of the first hours, which laid down all the ground rules; you just didn't know why. That's intriguing. In this version, you have no idea what's going on, period, so who cares? Ultimately, I watched quite of lot of it in TiVo FF, which runs 3x normal, mutes the sound, and leaves the captions up if selected. And I'm not sorry.

I mostly enjoyed the parlor game of noticing the stuff that was adapted from the original. (VERY subtle piping on some characters' jackets, for instance.) And at the very end, I actually thought there had been some potential in the new setup, because it brings us to the same decision point at the end: one way or another, the Village begs Six to lead them. (Or NUMBER Six, as I kept wanting it to be. It does indeed sound different, to different effect.)

But my favorite bit is the confident announcement that swine breath has been shown to alleviate the problem of ambient weather anomalies.

DonBoy said...

Editing error: I meant

But mostly the original dealt with odd things really happening, and had the nerve to persist in that.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Fienberg's take on the meaning of the finale, and the series.

Pereking said...

"in the original, you knew what was happening by the end of the first hours, which laid down all the ground rules; you just didn't know why. That's intriguing. In this version, you have no idea what's going on, period, so who cares?"


Exactly. At the end of the first hour I was really intrigued, and I just figured that everything was so incoherent because of how 6 is currently seeing things in this new world he woke up in, but instead of clearing up and letting us focus on the mystery of how he got there etc., they kept everything incoherent throughout the whole series, which really disappointed me.

And there I was hoping I would enjoy this as much as I did "The Lost Room". :(

Nicole said...

I did my best to keep an open mind, but I was bored through most of it. It probably would have worked better as a 2 hour movie because the middle parts felt like filler.

I am not against remakes per se, but this was a pale beige version of the original.

buzz said...

Oh well. This version didn't quite make it, did it?

I will say this: the producers of this version still deserve praise for having the balls to TRY. Roger Ebert often makes the analogy that a movie that takes on important themes in a big way "Swings for the fences". That's what the original and this did.

Alan, you said you stayed away from this because it was too bizarre. Let me tell you, this version does not even begin to approach the original's levels of bizarre. You still should see the original when you have time

Peter D Bakija said...

So 4 hours in. And my assessment: the producers (writers?) of this version seriously misjudged what made The Prisoner a great TV show.

Yeah, The Prisoner had the weird. And the allegory and metaphorical wackiness. But what it had going for it, more than anything else, was that each individual episode was a great, well conceived, well implemented story. That was entertaining and worked despite the weirdness, not because of the weirdness. And yeah, the final episode ("Fall Out") was incredibly bizzaro, but not the be all and end all of the series. The Prisoner was 16 hours of great, kinda wacky stories and one hour of pure weirdness (well, ok, maybe 15 and 2, but ya know, whatever), but the one hour of pure weirdness tends to overshadow the other 16 hours that were infinitely less weird.

This remake *could* have been 6 hours of "Free For All", "Many Happy Returns", and "A, B, and C". Instead, apparently, it is 6 hours of "Fall Out". Which, ya know, wasn't the optimal plan. And clearly, a very serious misunderstanding of what made the show originally work as well as it did.

Anonymous said...

Coming to this a bit late...I haven't seen the original series, and I actually kind of liked this one. It's a little muddled and far from perfect, but I did find it thought-provoking. OTOH I was also not paying 100% close attention to it at all times, and yet I don't think I missed much.

Except that i totally missed any explanation for the wraps, if there was one. Someone help me out here?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Except that i totally missed any explanation for the wraps, if there was one. Someone help me out here?

In the real world, McKellen's wife (whose mind created much of The Village) loves wraps.

Jim Treacher said...

Well, that wasn't the first time Ian McKellen had something blow up in his mouth.

radiomd said...

Testing Wes covington's assertion that spoilers for this show are impossible:

1. I dreamt that I dreamed a world in which everyone's subconscious could be invited to participate. Suddenly I awoke with a wrap.

2. We are all just prisoners here of our own device.

3. Cogito ergo Summakor.

Anonymous said...

I never saw the original, but I got into this one and couldn't understand a thing that was going on. So weird. Please someone explain what the heck this movie was about. Was the Village in everyone's subconsious? I was frustrated after watching it because I didn't understand it at all.

Peter D Bakija said...

And...it is done. Yeah. Ok. So, like, as a work of some sort of wacky, mind bending fiction, not a total travesty, but not great. As some sort of a remake or re-imagining of The Prisoner? Complete failure.

It had Prisoner window dressing, but all of it was completely irrelevant to the story. Why were they numbers? No reason. Why was he referred to as a "prisoner"? No reason. All the little visual references (the penny farthing bike and guys looking into little windows in the night club; "I Was Clearly Supposed To Be Played By McGoohan's" costume and apartment; the various "Way Out" doors) were completely irrelevant. Rover (the big ball thing). Completely irrelevant. Number 6 resigning in real life. No bearing on anything at all. They could have made the exact same story, completely removed all Prisoner trappings and the name, and the story would have been completely unchanged.

So in the end, much like the later half of Twin Peaks? The problem with this "Prisoner" was not that it was too weird. It was that it was not good.

Kirian said...

Well, I only just found this discussion. I hope its okay for me to comment now anyway.

I love the original series. I didn't expect much from this remake, and I was still disappointed. Gallagher's work was a very dumbed down mish-mosh of McGoohan, PK Dick, and The Matrix, with a little Star Trek holodeck thrown in for good measure. To make bad writing worse, Jim Cavaziel would have been an unconvincing 6 all on his own. He was cast opposite Ian McKellen, however, and that inevitably created a comparison that was unfortunate for him.

The best thing about the series were the Direct TV and Geico commercials during it.