Ed Driscoll

Now He'll Really Get To Meet Number One

Patrick McGhoohan, the star of the awesome (at least at its best) 1960s cult TV series The Prisoner died at age 80. Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune notes:

I thought I’d also mention that all 17 episodes of “The Prisoner” are now available for free at the AMC Web site. That cable network is remaking the series with Jim Cavaziel and Ian McKellan for a 2009 release. More information about that version of “The Prisoner” is here.

If you’ve never seen the series, picture a 1960s TV spy as conceived by a collaboration of Ian Fleming, George Orwell and Franz Kafka. Here are the opening titles, which feature (I believe) Vick Flick on electric 12-string guitar, the same man who played the machine gun bass guitar riff on Monty Norman and John Barry’s 007 theme.




As for the show itself, James Lileks once wrote:

I’d stayed up late watching, of all things, the last episode of the Prisoner. VH-1 ran it as part of an Austin Powers 60s spy marathon. In my second year of college I was devoted to the Prisoner, and watched it with religious rapture on Sunday nights, convinced that McGoohan had crafted a perfect show – a paranoid spy drama with Large Looming Themes about the individual and society. But even then in my hemp-addled state I saw the last episode for what it was: an inedible stew of sophmoric allegory that ruined everything that had gone before. So last night I watched it again to see if it was truly as bad as I remembered, and yes, it was. Interesting concepts, but tritely executed. Even so, I’ll give him credit for one thing: having spent 13 episodes defending the rights of the individual to be an individual, he turned the idea on its head at the end, and suggested that absolute individuality corrupts absolutely, that it corrupts society. I didn’t understand that in 1977; I didn’t see that point.

Interesting point, but when it’s being made by 30 robed guys in black-and-white masks pounding a table, you have to roll your eyes and say wow, man, heavy.

That said, the Prisoner was still a good show. What was American TV doing at the time? I Dream of Jeanie.

And The Jackie Gleason Show, in whose timeslot The Prisoner ran on American TV as a 1968 summer replacement.

Update: Frank Martin quotes a remarkably prescient moment from the show.