Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Prisoner = LOST


I'd give up Italian Beef sandwiches for LOST to be back on the air right now. Well...I'd at least eat a few Italian Beef sandwiches if LOST were back on the air right now. But about two weeks ago something happened that changed my LOST-loving life forever. Let me back up for a minute and say that for the last 3 years I have been a subscriber to the LOST Podcast on iTunes where the show's creator (Damon Lindelof) and co-head writer (Carlton Cuse) break down each episode and answer fans' questions.

Now, the "break down" is never very extensive or helpful in the sense of predicting what will happen on the show, but one of the main reasons I have listened to the thing is because I am fascinated by what influences the people who entertain, education, and/or inspire me. I want to know who C.S. Lewis read. I want to know who taught Mozart. I want to know who first fed Dick Portillo. Well, on this podcast Carlton and Damon frequently discuss the shows, books, movies, writers, and music that has inspired them to create and maintain the best show ever made by humans: LOST.

I'd say more than a few times these guys have mentioned the show The Prisoner, which originally aired in 17 episodes between 1967 and 1968 on the BBC in jolly ole' England. Like most things British, I was skeptical of it, but I do have enough faith in Damon and Carlton to follow through on many of their recommendations. Because of them I've become a Dostoevsky fanatic. I've watched a bunch of random old movies on TCM that they say they draw upon when writing LOST. I've started a weird blog that other weird LOST fans sometimes read.

I assumed, however, that there was little chance I'd ever find a copy of a British television drama that was discontinued the year Nixon first became president.

Back to two weeks ago...I went to my Comcast On-Demand screen to watch a past episode of the second best show on TV, AMC's Mad Men, and saw an option for "The Prisoner-1967." I couldn't believe my beautiful blue eyes. It was about 11pm at the time, and I had Greek Exegesis homework still to do, but before I could stop them, my fingers had clicked their way to episode one of the show and 4 hours later I was left wondering what had just happened to me and why had I been wasting so much of my life without The Prisoner in it?

The acting was a little over-the-top, the special effects looked exactly like they came out of 1967, but the story-lines were unmistakably LOST-like. (Or I supposed I should say that LOST is very Prisoner-like.) Check out this brief explanation of the show's plot and tell me it doesn't sound like the island:

"The series follows an unnamed British agent who abruptly resigns his job, and then finds himself held captive in a mysterious seaside "village" that is isolated from the mainland by mountains and sea. The Village is further secured by numerous monitoring systems and security forces, including a mysterious device called Rover that captures those that attempt escape. The agent encounters the Village's population, hundreds of people from all walks of life and cultures, all seeming to be tranquilly living out their lives. As they do not use names, they have each been assigned a number, related to their importance in the Village's power structure.

The agent is told by the Village authority he is "Number Six", and they are seeking "information" as to why he resigned; the task of doing this is carried by the ever-changing "Number Two", acting as the Village's chief administrator and proxy to the unseen "Number One". Number Six, distrusting of anyone involved with the Village, refuses to give such answers while at the same time trying to learn for which side the Village works, remaining defiant to authority while concocting his own plans to escape or learn more about the Village. Some of his schemes, while not resulting in an escape, do lead to the dismissal of an incumbent Number Two on two occasions. At the end of the series, the administration becomes desperate for Number Six's information, and more drastic measures follow that threaten the lives of Number Six, Number Two, and the rest of the Village.

The series features striking and often surreal storylines, and themes include hypnosis, hallucinogenic drug experiences, identity theft, mind control, dream manipulation, and various forms of social indoctrination. A major theme is individualism versus collectivism."

Wow, thats good stuff.

Since that fateful night two weeks ago, I've blown through all 17 episodes (although a few near the end get weird and Number Six is a cowboy or something). And the best part of all is that AMC has already done a re-make of the show and it will be airing over three straight nights starting this upcoming Sunday, November 15th.

Check out this extended trailer:

Of course I don't know if AMC will take a fabulous idea and ruin it, but I doubt they will (or can). The story of The Prisoner is so interesting on its own, they've got two incredible actors in the starring roles of Number Two and Number Six, and its on the same channel that makes Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

So set your DVR's or grab a bowl of Dharma popcorn and get to your TV's Sunday night. After the three-night event I will post some thoughts on the show itself and point out some of the subtle and not-so-subtle tie-ins to our favorite show: LOST.

Until then, God's speed.

-John Locke's Pants

p.s. Check out this time line which helps to better explain the pop-culture history of The Prisoner since 1967.