Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"I am not a number... I am a free man!"

Few TV shows really hit me where I live like the 1967 cult classic 17-episode The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan. (About the only other worthwhile series from that time is Fawlty Towers, but I digress.) And today I read that studios are in talks with Christopher Nolan to direct a film version of The Prisoner (Nolan's most famous accolade is the superb Memento).

Never heard of The Prisoner??? For shame...

A British secret agent, trying to quit his job, wakes up in a strange place, "The Village", where he's only known as No. 6, from which there is no escape, and any attempt to escape is blocked by mysterious floating bubbles called "Rovers." As Number 6 tries to escape, his cheery superiors and neighbors try to get "information" about why he wanted to retire...

In my mind, Number 6's most famous refrain comes when his superiors continue to call him by his number, and he responds: "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own." In this age of encroaching hegemony, can't everyone relate to that statement?

I loved McGoohan in this role. It was something about the way he used his hands, his facial expressions—they always seemed to hint at his churning anger and frustration. Like Christopher Walken, you couldn't stop watching this guy because you wanted to know what he was going to do next. It's also a little bit like Alias where you had this guy trapped by government types and though he usually seemed like he'd accepted his fate, you knew he was so smart (hello... he's a spy!) that he was just keeping up appearances, that deep down you knew he was working on his next prison break. And, of course, you were always right.

Another twist in the tale is The Prisoner came a year after a series called Danger Man (also known as Secret Agent Man), which also starred McGoohan as a secret agent doing secret agent things. So if you'd been a fan of Danger Man, then seeing him play the previous secret agent role in a different series, as a kind of a quasi-sequel, would be surreal at a bare minimum.

There have been talks to film The Prisoner as a feature for almost as long as the show went off the air, but choosing Christopher Nolan to direct will cinch it this time. The original series was unapologetically enigmatic, a non-stop mindgame of a storyline, so choosing someone like Nolan is the best fit for this kind of story. They might even revive the series, which—if done properly, like the short-lived Mission: Impossible TV remake in the 80s—could be killer.

Finally, I know the film is going to get made this time, and it's going to be good, for one other terribly relevant reason: this news was posted was August 21st... my birthday! That's kind of weird when you think that this series is as old as I am.

Be seeing you!

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