Prison Food

Here's my one-word review of the AMC remake of The Prisoner:

Look, I knew going into this that it wasn't going to stack up, but, like I did with the US version of The Office or Beck's remake of the Velvet Underground's self-titled debut, I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and accept it on its own merits.

That said, this was teh suck.

In full disclosure, I only watched the first two episodes and sort of watched the second two, so maybe it all of the sudden got to be something I'd dig, but from what I watched, I just didn't get it, "it" being "what the heck was the point of it all."

I could spend days talking about how Jim Caviezel was too wimpy to match the macho sneer of Patrick McGoohan's #6; how having a #2 who was a real person with like, a family and feelings and stuff and not a revolving set of people, each as interchangeable and soulless as the last (it's called subtext, people) was wrong-headed and small-minded; how the sense of feverish paranoia has been surgically removed from the show, replaced by messy jump-cuts, flashbacks, unnecessary interpersonal relationships and half-baked unexplained phenomenon.

I think the most telling thing about the remake is the fact that the AMC site has a map of the Village. This right here tells me that the people don't really "get" what makes the source material engaging. (This isn't to say that the original Village wasn't mapped, just that it was never important to the show that it was.) The Village isn't a real place. It's a paranoid state of mind where your dreams can be turned against you, your memories can't be trusted, your personality can be transferred to a stranger and no matter where you run, you can't escape it. Part of what makes the original feel so weird is that you never have any reference point for how big the Village is, where things fit in relation to each other, etc. It's not a place you can map, whereas The Island on Lost *is* that sort of place, it's in the Myst-ian roots of the show to explore this mysterious place full of deserted stations and strange hatches. Not so for the Village. It just is.

And speaking of Lost, this seems less like a remake of The Prisoner and more like a weak, five-years-too-late rip-off of Lost. Let's do the math: a mysterious place that you can't seem to leave + flashbacks to how Six ended up on the Islanderrr uh the Village + weird phenomena like the holes or the glimmering towers or the anchor and seagulls = yeah, you're doing Lost, not The Prisoner. And the fact that this is a post-Lost remake of The Prisoner, it starts to get a little chicken-eggy all up in here because Lost itself borrows heavily from The Prisoner. I mean, if Ben watching Sawyer and Kate in the bear cages in his room full of TVs doesn't make you think of #2 in the observation room, you're not paying attention. It's sort of like if Akira Kurosawa decided to do a samurai remake of The Magnificent Seven, itself a cowboy remake of Seven Samurai; you know what I mean? Snakes eating tails.

It's a shame, because with the NSA/CIA/Insert Yr Favorite Acronym Here looking over our phone records, intercepting our e-mails, security cameras on ever corner and the TSA making you feel like a criminal every time you walk on an airplane, the world is ripe for a paranoid thriller about the dehumanization of people in an age where you can't even trust your neighbor, or, to get all weird on you, even yourself. That's what The Prisoner is about: being confronted with a world where everybody's watching and manipulating everybody else for some invisible machine whose motives and allegiances aren't at all clear and saying, "You know what? I'm not playing this game and you can't make me. I'm a free man. I will do as I please."


I wanted to like it. Really I did. But the smallness of it got in its own way. I think Matt Fraction summed it up best when he Tweeted: "I made it all of 4 minutes into new PRISONER and thought, […] I could be watching old PRISONER."

Amen to that.

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