January 20, 2009

WHO WOULD WANT TO LEAVE GILLIGAN'S ISLAND?:

Why 'The Prisoner' Endures (John Fund, 1/20/09, WSJ)

Mr. McGoohan came up with the rarest kind of TV show: a thought-provoking thriller that raises more questions than it answers. Its cult status rivals that of "Star Trek," and its popularity is so enduring that a big-budget remake of the series will air later this year on the AMC network in the U.S. and on ITV in Britain. In fact, just last week AMC launched a Web site (http://www.amctv.com/videos/the-prisoner-1960s-video/) that allows anyone to view the 17 episodes of the original series. Each of them opens with a prologue in which Mr. McGoohan's character tells the village's administrator, known as Number Two: "I am not a number! I am a free man!" When he asks who Number One is, he is only told that "You are Number Six."

In every episode, Number Six resists attempts to pry information out of him, but his own efforts to escape are also thwarted -- often by a menacing weather balloon called "Rover." As each Number Two fails to break him, that man is replaced by another. The Village itself is filled with people who "know too much" and live a comfortable existence so long as they conform. Various episodes explored profound issues of privacy, individualism and mind control. The whole series struck me as Mr. McGoohan's unique take on George Orwell's novel "1984," but with a sense of humor.

Although the role somewhat typecast him, Mr. McGoohan always identified with his best-known character and his fierce independence.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 20, 2009 10:17 AM
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