Today's post was originally just going to mention (and link to) episodes of the cult 1967-68 TV series The Prisoner, now being made available for downloading from the AMC web site. But sadly, the recent passing of the show's star/creator Patrick McGoohan a few days ago has overshadowed that news.
Created by McGoohan, with some assistance from script editor George Markstein, The Prisoner was a mad combination of genres. It was the only TV series which could be compared to the works of both Franz Kafka and Ian Fleming, with a touch of George Orwell thrown in. The series revolved around a nameless British Intelligence agent (McGoohan), who, after angrily resigning his job without saying why, is kidnapped and taken to a seemingly innocent looking English village (called "The Village" by all who dwell there).
The residents all have numbers instead of names, all had important jobs or postions of power where they knew too much, and are all expected to cooperate with the mysterious Village authorities (led by the unknown "Number One" whose policies are carried out by a succession of Number Twos) for their stay there, which ends only when they die. Number Six (McGoohan), who refuses to tell the Village authorities why he resigned from his job, proceeds to engage in a battle-of-wits with his captors, which always ends up with him back where he started from, in every episode.
An intellectual and social-political allegory, as well as an exciting blend of the science fiction, action-adventure and spy thriller genres, The Prisoner was basically the story of one man's struggles against the system (represented symbolically by The Village) to gain his freedom, albeit in an compelling and entertaining way. All 17 episodes were released some years back by A & E and can be borrowed from the library here.
The AMC cable channel announced last year that they would air a remake of the original series (with James Caviezel as Six and Ian McKellen as a seemingly more independent version of the "Number Two" character) sometime in 2009. Promos for the new series, along with interviews with the cast and crew, can be found at AMC's site here. As I pointed out earlier, AMC is offering downloads of the original series at their site here as well.
I've no idea how the new series will compare with McGoohan's original one-of-a-kind production. But however good (or potentially poor) the new show will be, the original Prisoner will always stand as one of the most consistantly well-crafted and provocative works ever televised, and all thanks to the vision of Patrick McGoohan.