Comic-Con gets a peek at AMC's 'The Prisoner': Will it capture fans of the classic series?

Prisoner-Jim-Caviezel_lHow does AMC’s reboot of The Prisoner — one of the finest sci-fi television shows ever made — look? I’m not entirely sure. I’m so used to — and in love with — Patrick McGoohan’s ’60s show, that I’m finding it hard to wrap my mind around the new version.

AMC unspooled 9 minutes of footage at its Comic-Con panel, establishing Jim Caviezel as the mysteriously named No. 6, trapped in the equally mysterious Village, with Ian McKellen crushing it as 6’s captor/jailor, No .2. According to costar Lennie James (Jericho), before the actors signed on to shoot the six-part miniseries they were only given the first five scripts. If they wanted to know how it ended, they had to sign on.

AMC VP of Production Vlad Wolynetz told the audience that The Prisoner is a conscious attempt for the network to swing for the fences. They needed to establish a formidable new entity in the wake of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and The Prisoner was the perfect way to do it.

Series writer Bill Gallagher said, “I knew I couldn’t repeat what McGoohan had done, I could only respond to it. McGoohan’s [original series] was about the assertion of the individual. Mine was more about ‘What if the arrogance of the individual became our undoing?'” Noting the difficulty of translating certain elements of the original series, like the scary white balloon known as Rover, Wolynetz said, “You have to respect the original, but you can’t be afraid of it.”

In a side note, Passion of the Christ star Caviezel revealed that he keeps a Breathalyzer in his car. The last thing he wants, after having a glass of wine, is to see the headline: “Jesus busted for DWI.” Or “From Jesus to Prisoner,” for that matter.

It’s always hard to parse the network-speak from the truth in a Comic-Con panel. The cast always loves each other, the material is always brilliant, we’re respectful of the fans but trying something new, etc. The proof is in the pudding. What we saw was not enough to draw a real conclusion. All 9 minutes of footage can do is prick our ears, jab our interest. I’ll say this: The Prisoner will either be brilliant or catastrophic. But I doubt it’ll be boring.

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Comments (8 total) Add your comment
  • John

    Tell you what, AMC is damn-near invincible with its original programming, so here’s hoping third time’s the charm.

  • topazbean

    I really hope this show goes well, because if it does they might open their books to more intelligent genre programming and give Joss Whedon a post-Dollhouse gig. I can dream…

  • so sick of remakes, reboots, regurgitation

    a few years ago, there were rumours of a Christopher Eccleston Prisoner film. That would’ve at least made up for the pointlessness a bit. But Jim Caveziel? For real?? Just that is enough to make me want to pretend this doesn’t exist. Why, Ian McKellan, why?

  • Shaun

    I’m not so sure abut this either, and I agree with the guy who questions the casting of Caviezel… From what I know of his beliefs, they would seem to run counter to the very ideas McGoohan was presenting in the old show. As for the original show, it’s certainly a product of its time, but it still holds up really well. I think I’d prefer they just leave it alone. Then again, there have been rumors of a Chris Nolan-directed feature film of The Prisoner for awhile… I have to admit I’m curious to see what he would do with the material. After seeing “Children of Men” I could imagine Clive Owen as No. 6.

  • Brett

    Caveziel’s beliefs have nothing to do with the production; he’s an actor in this, not a writer or producer. The question will be whether the vision holds up on its own. While the original series is a cult hit, and I am one of its many fans, the vast majority of today’s TV audience are unaware of the original. I think it will go down as a memorable miniseries.

  • JK

    So i’m under the impression that Ian McKellen will be the only No. 2? That’s quite a departure from the original series, where one of the most unique characteristics was its lack of recurring characters and a different No. 2 each episode…

  • Ken

    “McGoohan’s [original series] was about the assertion of the individual. Mine was more about ‘What if the arrogance of the individual became our undoing?’”

    O. My. God. Would it be possible to go more off the rails on everything of substance that made this show unique and interesting. “The arrogance of the individual is our undoing” is the kind of thing No 2 might have said to No. 6 as he tried to pry open his mind. This remake sounds perverse, a complete disaster.

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