Friday, September 19, 2008

It still takes a village...

From Kolchak:

Much like Number Six himself, I'm back in the Village.

Production has started on the remake of The Prisoner, the cult classic TV show from the 1960s, and, so far, even a hardcore fan like yours truly can't find much to complain about. There are still some questions that need to be answered--which is only fitting for The Prisoner, I guess--but the producers of the new show may actually know what they're doing.

Hey, it could happen.

The original "Prisoner." for the record , is a British television series from the late 1960s, which also ran here in America. It starred Patrick McGoohan, who also co-created the show and wrote several episodes. Over the course of 17 episodes, the show went from being a weird variant of the then popular spy shows to a surrealistic parable about paranoia, identity and the misuse of technology. My first post about The Prisoner here at the Blatt was back in April, and it looks like I'm going to geek out again. But don't worry: I'll wash my hands afterwards.

The new "Prisoner" is a co-production of ITV in Britain and AMC. It will run for six episodes on AMC in 2009. It will star Jim Caviezel as the title character, Number Six, and Ian McKellen as Number Two, Number Six's jailer and the man trying to break his spirit. As one website put it: it's Jesus versus Gandalf.

I've not seen Caviezel in anything, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this (though I have to wonder whether going from Jesus to Number Six qualifies as typecasting).

I think Caviezel may have benefited from some old-school networking, for whatever that's worth. McGoohan worked with Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart, and during the promotional drive for that movie, McGoohan said that Gibson would make an excellent Number Six. If they're still friends, it's easy to imagine Gibson recommending Caviezel for the part.

This isn't really on-topic, but I can't resist mentioning it. I went to the Internet Movie Data Base and called up The Passion of the Christ, in order to double check the spelling of Caviezel's last name. There are a number of pre-set categories in IMDB's basic listing for each movie and one of them is "Plot Keywords." The first words under this heading were "Spoiler Alert!" The story of the crucifixion needs a spoiler alert?

As for McKellen , I've no doubt he'll do a fine job as Number Two. His casting, though, does represent an interesting departure from the original. In the original series, a different performer played Number Two every week. The only exception to this rule was Leo McKern, who appeared in three episodes.

I think they should've kept this system. If nothing else, the parade of Number Twos in the original series could be interpreted as a victory of sorts for Number Six, which was much needed, since he clearly wasn't escaping. Still, that may not be needed in a shorter series.

I'm a little more concerned about the casting of a woman named Hayley Atwell for the remake. She's describing her role as Number Six's "love interest", and the original series did quite well without giving Six a love interest. Oh, there were women in the original show.There were even women serving as Number Two, which was a fairly progressive idea for the time. There wasn't much in the way of traditional romance, though. I'm hoping the phrase was slip of the tongue on Atwell's part. But we could be in for an unpleasant surprise there.

On the other hand, there was a pleasant surprise concerning where the new "Prisoner" is being filmed. Originally, the role of the Village, the bizarre town where Number Six is held captive, was played by Porteirion, a resort in Wales. The Victorian design of Portmeirion made a striking contrast with the surveillance and mind-control technology operated by the overseers of the Village.

So I was getting ready to go into a geekfit when I read that the new version would be filmed in Swakopmund, Namibia. Err, excuse me a minute. My spellcheck just threatened to quit.

Okay, we're back. When I googled the name, though, I quickly learned that Swakopmund is a resort town, settled by the British and many of the buildings have a pronounced Victorian look to them.

I'm still not positive as to why the show is being filmed there. Money is the usual reason, but is really cheaper for a British production company to go to Africa than it is to Wales? In any case, I was pleased to see that the creative staff is respecting the look of the original series.

There are some good, if small, photos of Swakopmund, at Another good source of information is at

AMC is promoting the show through a blog at There is also a site called www.seekthesix.comwhich is probably going to lead to some sort of game or viral promotion. If anyone can unlock the first image, let me know, will you? I haven't had any luck so far.

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