Monday, November 16, 2009

The Prisoner 2009: Huh?

By the silence of my Twitter feed, it seems few people checked out AMC's The Prisoner remake last night.

And that can't be a good thing for AMC.

I mean, they really have been hitting the ball out of the park with their recent series (Breaking Bad, Mad Men) so I went into this thinking it would be smart, clever and original.

What I got was...well to be honest with you, I'm not really sure what I got. But let me try to explain...

Full disclosure. I am not an original The Prisoner fan. In fact, I know very little about the original series. I know it starred Patrick McGoohan, his name was number 6, and he shouted a lot about that fact.

I also knew that the original series had rabid fans, it's considered a cult series, it lasted for at the most 20 episodes, The Simpsons spoofed it, and it's been referenced in a bunch of other shows, most notably Lost.

So I think I had a pretty clean slate going into the show last night...

The synopsis of the first 2 episodes...

Guy wakes up in the desert to the sound of gunfire. Sees another guy being chased. Helps chased guy, who we'll call "Beardy" for right now, due to his homicidal Santa Claus beard. Guy utters what obviously is the key to the whole show in a quiet voice which I miss, but I can't be bothered to rewind because I'm mad that the protagonist immediately helps Beardy with no prior knowledge to this situation. I mean, he could be a member of Al Queda. Anyway...

Guy stumbles into a town, gets into a weird toy looking taxi and has a nonsensical conversation with the taxi driver. Non sensical conversations seem to be the norm however in this so...

Yadda yadda yadda...we learn the protagonist is number6; he lives in "The Village;" there is nothing else out there other than the village. During all of this, we also get some flashbacks to a terrible set of New York where 6 is allegedly from.

We also get hints about other people in the Village who are like number 6, and that Beardy was one of those people. There's a cute doctor who may or may not be spying on 6 to get information, and there's a cute waitress from a diner 6 goes to who may be helpful with telling us what's going on in the Village, but don't get attached to her because...

BOOM! the diner explodes with her in it. We're left with the explanation, "stuff like that happens from time to time. And then slowly everything goes back to normal."

We also meet number 2 (Ian McKellan) who is clearly the mastermind in the village and has a son and a comatose wife that he creepily feeds pills to. Oh and he also carries a grenade around with him - though all those sequences may be visions. It's unclear. 2 is very bent on convincing 6 he's part of the Village, and always has been.

By the second episode, we learn 6 has a family in the Village (a brother with a family) which seems to tie into some memories 6 has about the ocean and his childhood. It gets really hazy there.

But we do also learn about 6 through more fake New York flashbacks; how he meets a woman who eventually admits works (worked) with him in a company that seems sinister. You see, 6 was a data analyst who saw someone doing something and when he reported it he was told to "cease and desist." So we know at the very least, this has something to do with him living with the Others - I mean living in the Village.

By the end of the second episode we learn his brother isn't really his brother and there's a balloon that at kills people.

I know that synopis is disjointed and confusing, but I'm going to be honest...that's the way the show is. Flashbacks, weird camera angles, changing film stock, are all used to purposfully confuse the viewer. Even if I can successfully suspend my disbelief at some of the actions of 6 (and I think I did a pretty good job of it) this is not a simple show to watch and get an idea of what's going on, and what will go on.

And I realize that all of that is done on purpose, but I can't shake the fact that it doesn't really have to be. Everything that happens is crazy and nonsensical; in Lost we put up with it because we've come to care about the characters a lot and want to see what happens to them. In the Prisoner, we're not given that chance. Other than a few flashbacks to fake New York, we're in Wondeland where anything can happen, and does.

I am sure that as the miniseries (I think I heard this was a miniseries) continues, more things will come together and make sense. I'm just afraid that they've splashed too much paint on the canvass and there's not enough time to cover everything. I mean I've left out significant chunks of things that I'm sure are crucial to the plot, I just don't have to time to go into that kind of detail.

A show like this may have worked in the 60s due to the culture, drugs, and it was something new. In the age of short attention spans and 100s of television channels, I'm not sure this remake can survive.

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