EW's TV critic answers ''classic'' questions. From Nick at Nite to ''The Prisoner'' Ken Tucker responds to reader mail

By Ken Tucker
Updated May 21, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

EW’s TV critic answers ”classic” questions

I’ve been watching ”Two and a Half Men” and ”The O.C.,” two shows I didn’t expect to like. What shows are you surprised to find yourself watching? — Charles Bryan
Since I’m David E. Kelley-phobic, my addiction to the retooled ”Practice” with James Spader and guest star William ”Denny Crane” Shatner was a self-stunner. I also like The WB’s sassy ”Reba,” I’m not ashamed to say; McEntire is one of prime time’s more unappreciated comic actresses these days. And I’ll extend my fondness for sassy to the news: The sly, debonair host of CNN’s ”Anderson Cooper 360°” makes it my guilty-pleasure news show.

Of all the current shows, which do you think will become a Nick at Nite ”classic”? — Dan
”Threat Matrix!” Naw, just kiddin’ you, Dan. The departing ”Frasier” deserves the Nite-life fer sure; as uneven as it could be, it’s got that necessary timeless quality. Among hour-long shows, ”Gilmore Girls” certainly has a shot. Looking back a season or two, I’d also say some wise Nick exec should rerun two short-lived Fox shows: ”Andy Richter Controls the Universe” and the live-action version of ”The Tick.” After that? Hmmm…if it hadn’t already been rerun to death in syndication, ”Everybody Loves Raymond” would have to be a contender, especially its early seasons. That’s a problem: Too many sitcoms, like ”Raymond” and ”Friends,” seem too familiar right now, but may take on the luster of a classic down the line. Oh, oh, I just thought of another ripe one. A show I think is underrated and may well prove to be a future treasure, especially for folks who don’t watch it now, is — drumroll, please — ”The Parkers,” which recently ended its five-season run. That Mo’Nique, she’s a stitch, I’m tellin’ ya.

What are your thoughts on the late-’60s show ”The Prisoner,” with Patrick McGoohan? Is it available on DVD or cable, and any possibility of a remake? — Ron Larson
Ron, ”The Prisoner” is one of the best cult shows television has ever produced, as I’m sure you’ll agree. For readers unfamiliar with this British series that aired here on CBS in 1968 and ’69, it was about a government agent who resigns his high-security position and is whisked off, against his will, to a weird yet quaint village. Someone wants his top secret knowledge — but who? McGoohan, who created the show, had dash and a clenched jaw as the prisoner known only as Number 6 (almost everyone in the village was reduced to a number). He was interrogated regularly by the malevolent Number 2, and remember the gelatinous giant balls that enveloped people who tried to escape? Orwellian, Kafkaesque — critics tossed around the usual lit names to describe the bizarro premise, but ”The Prisoner” was wily, often campy, yet also exciting and alarming. Its 17 episodes are available on DVD (A&E $149.95), and I hope they never do a remake of it, on the small or big screen. It deserves to be rediscovered by a new generation of people whose minds will be blown.

(Got a TV-related question for Ken? Post it here.)