After the jump, a sneak peek of my review of the new version of "The Prisoner," beginning Sunday night on AMC.
I will add links to a companion piece on the reinvention of old pop-culture concepts; Saturday's print Heldenfiles (with items involving Sue Thomas and LeBron James), and my usual Sunday DVD column, once they are online.
Busy weekend so far. Friday night was another sports double-header, UAkron men's soccer (a MAC tournament win in the second overtime) followed by an ugly loss by the UAkron football team (leading by 10 early, then losing by 39). We were there until the end of the soccer, gone from football after the first half (when Akron was trailing by 18). And today is a Saturday shift at work.
The latest vidcast about "Dancing With the Stars" is here.
And on to "The Prisoner."
When The Prisoner first aired on American television in 1968, it quickly became a cult favorite with its blend of spy games and sheer spaciness.
‘‘I am not a number, I am a free man,’’ became a catchphrase for fans of the show (or at least for those who heard it in many CBS promotional spots). Patrick McGoohan, already blessed with a following thanks to his work on the Secret Agent series, became even more admired both for his performance and his writing for The Prisoner. And the show has endured, with the entire series recently released in a beautifully remastered Blu-ray package.
So, of course, someone was bound to try a remake. Or updating. Or ‘‘reimagining,’’ to use a more recent buzzword for the reworking of old concepts. ...
The new The Prisoner premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday on AMC, with two hours airing each night through Tuesday.
I could carp about the changes from the original, which was about three times as long as the new one as well as being clearer in the early storytelling and much odder at the end. But the basic point is that you do not need to have seen the original to watch the new version. It's not all that interesting either way.
Jim Caviezel stars as the man known as Number Six, who awakens one day to find himself in a mysterious, isolated community called the Village. Everyone in the Village has a number for a name, with the leader (Ian McKellen) being Number Two.
Number Six has lost large portions of memory of his life before the Village, but he knows that he wants out. But the Village, or at least Number Two, wants something from Number Six. A convoluted cat-and-mouse game ensues. At times, it involves other people in the Village (such as 313, a doctor, and 147, a taxi driver, played respectively by Ruth Wilson and Lennie James). At times it involves flashbacks to bits of the past that Number Six can recollect.
All of this is presented with plenty of atmosphere: the seemingly merry trappings of the Village contrasted with the grim surroundings that make it inescapable, people speaking in shadow, ominous music and Caviezel's being in what appears to be a perpetual sweat -- a nervous contrast to McGoohan's cool.
The cool one here is McKellen, once again blending the charm and menace in a way that makes him somewhat likable, even though you suspect he is up to no good. His performance makes The Prisoner more watchable than its narrative schemes. They all feel like variations on a common theme -- and I don't mean the flourishes taken from the original. Where the '60s series was a departure from the television of its day, the new version lives in a world with other deliberately obscure and confusing shows like Lost and FlashForward.