The Prisoner Returns:
Speaking of spying, John Fund reports:
No TV series -- not even "Star Trek" -- has quite achieved the quirky cult status of "The Prisoner," which first ran on British and U.S. networks almost 40 years ago. It now looks as if the show, which still airs in re-runs in some 60 countries, will be making a comeback next year.

In the original 1967 version, Patrick McGoohan played Prisoner No. 6, a former secret agent who is kidnapped to a strange seaside village where everyone is known only by a number and where he is told that "by hook or by crook" the reasons for his resignation as an agent will be extracted from him. For 17 surreal episodes, the series explored profound issues of privacy, individualism and mind control. I view it as Mr. McGoohan's take on George Orwell's novel "1984," but with a sense of humor. The final episode was a kaleidoscope of bizarre images and obscure allegories that still leave Prisoner fans in heated arguments.

The British magazine Broadcast reports that the Sky One channel has commissioned eight new episodes of the series. Executive producer Damien Timmer says they will deal "with themes such as paranoia, conspiracy and identity crisis." The episodes will be partly written by Bill Gallagher, a creator of the BBC series "Conviction," an edgy police drama about vigilante behavior in society.

Sadly, the new "Prisoner" will not be set in the Welsh village of Portmeirion, a strange, planned community with eclectic Mediterranean architecture. Known simply as "The Village" in the original series, Portmeirion attracts thousands of "Prisoner" fans a year who tour the grounds with the help of a new guidebook.

The final page of the guidebook contains the trademark farewell of a show that anticipated today's rampant use of security cameras: "Be Seeing You." You can bet that the new show will attract the eyeballs of a lot of old Prisoner fans, as well as those of new generations who are curious about why the show has attained such cult status.
I remember watching The Prisoner first run with my brother. As I recall, it was a summer replacement series that had been canceled because McGoohan abandoned the project before being aired, so it was always a set number of episodes with a bizarre and, to my mind, hardly satisfying ending. I loved the series, but would now rather watch episodes of Secret Agent, the British-made series in which Patrick McGoohan established the secret agent persona of John Drake, for which he was later taken prisoner (though his character in The Prisoner was never identified as Drake). For a low-budget series shot largely in the studio, it was an intelligent spy show, something rare in the days when spy shows and films quickly became spoofs. The only spy series I preferred in those days was I Spy (and here) with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, which I also admit to having watched in first run. Produced by Sheldon Leonard (and here) (the bartender in It's A Wonderful Life) it was shot almost entirely on location around the world in such locales as Tokyo, Hong, Kong, Rome, Acapulco, Greece and Las Vegas. Even the soundtrack by Earl Hagen was excellent.

I did get into MI-5 ("Spooks" in the UK). It was the first spy show I enjoyed since I Spy, not counting the superb 1988 mini-series Game, Set, and Match.