I’ve just learned that AMC is remaking The Prisoner, the rather spooky and incomprehensible but wildly engrossing Cold War series that the BBC made in the late 60s.
The original version of The Prisoner starts out like a James Bond story, but then gets very weird. The hero, played by Patrick McGoohan with a constant smirk and raised eyebrow, is a man known only as Number Six. The titles show us that he has resigned from some spy agency, then was kidnapped. He awakens in an isolated seashore community called the Village, from which he can’t escape. Why is he there? Who are these other people in the Village? Why can’t he leave? Who is Number One? It’s all mysterious, and it’s also surreal — the colors, the images, the giant white bubble that captures and returns anyone who tries to escape.
“Be seeing you” is the main catchphrase from the show. It’s how the characters say “goodbye”; there’s no escape, so of course they’ll be seeing you, but also the community is full of spies and security cameras, so at any time someone is seeing you.
The uneasy sensibility of The Prisoner fit the Cold War period perfectly. It also suits our current day, with the erosion of personal liberties by government as well as the loss of privacy via our lives on the Web and the constant sharing of personal data. (Giant Eagle Advantage Card, anyone?)
AMC is already my new favorite cable network, what with the classic movies and novel programming like Mad Men. Soon I won’t need any other channels. Be seeing you, indeed.