How 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.