Not Very Captivating

Re the new Prisoner: It’s a thankless task to recreate a role originated by one of television’s greatest, oddest actors in one of the greatest series of all time. So: no thanks to Jim Caviezel tonight. Ian McKellan was pleasantly sinister as Number 2, though.

As my son pointed out, the stuff that doesn’t echo the original is kind of interesting. When they fall into remake mode, it just reminds you how much better the original was.

Somnolent pacing and very poorly motivated action in tonight’s first two episodes. I might give it another look tomorrow, but unless it improves dramatically I doubt I’ll watch to the end.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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11 Responses to Not Very Captivating

  1. scbutler says:

    I missed tonight’s episodes and shall follow your reviews closely to decide what I want to do.

  2. jeff_h says:

    I’ve never seen the original, but I thought the first two episodes were not bad. Though if this mini-series was longer than 6 episodes, I’m not sure how long I’d last. As it is, I’ll see it through.

    • JE says:

      AMC was hosting the original episodes on its Prisoner website for a while; I’m not sure if they’re still up. The original was an artifact of its time (pre-eminently, the Cold War) and I think the remake misses that tension. But if they figure out a way to do their own story, it might work. I admit I’m not filled with hope, though.

      • scbutler says:

        What I love best about the show was it’s paranoia. So paranoid, in fact, that no one knew what the show was ultimately about, including McGoohan.

        • JE says:

          There’s something to this. And, although we are as paranoid as ever (if not more so) these days, it seems like a more xenophobic paranoia than the chilly isolation that produced the best stuff in and about the Cold War (including The Prisoner but also the spy novels of Le CarrĂ© and Greene, Leiber’s You’re All Alone, etc.).

  3. fpb says:

    Isn’t it curious how many of what are regarded as the pinnacles of TV series have been cancelled after one season? The Prisoner, 16 episodes; Fawlty Towers, 12 episodes; Firefly, 12 episodes and a movie… It seems that it is only after the cancellation that people really stop and realize, gee, that was good, wasn’t it?

    • JE says:

      The Prisoner was conceived as a closed arc, I think, and I seem to remember that Fawlty Towers had two seasons (though Beeb-sized short ones of six episodes).

      But I agree with the more general point: sometimes it takes a little sifting before people can tell what was fluff and what is lasting work.

  4. davidcapeguy says:

    I don’t get AMC, so I’ll not have a chance to see the new Prisoner until it’s dvd’d, but when you see someone remaking a classic, I almost always find it a missed opportunity to truly take a great concept and take it somewhere new. This one, for instance, simply creates a new Village. Why not make it more interesting, and let No. 6 find himself imprisoned in, say, an area of six square blocks in London or Manhattan or Madrid or Hong Kong? In that six-block domain, he can come and go (mostly) as he pleases, but beyond that…no way out. He finds himself held captive in a crowd, with no way of knowing who are his jailers, who are his fellow prisoners, and who simply happens to live down the street. And if he tells anyone he’s “forbidden” to cross certain streets, he’s dismissed as a madman or a kook.

    Total agreement about McGoohan — a fine actor, with a style more than distinct, and with that wonderfully sarcastic voice. The only actor I can think of who might’ve played Number 6 equally well would be a young Michael Caine.

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