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Published: Sunday, 11/15/2009

New ‘Prisoner' isn't captivating

BY BOB HOOVER
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

It takes a village to keep a community of souls together, goes the common thinking, and examples are everywhere. Pleasant places for industrious, law-abiding folks.

There are other villages in America as well that are not so pleasant — the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II, for instance.

It's that sense of official repression hanging over the funky little “Village” of the original The Prisoner series in 1967 that made it a bit of a cult hit at a time when paranoia about government was on the rise.

Questions were popping up then about the Kennedy assassination, the war in Vietnam, and the nasty spy business of the Cold War. The British-made program caught the crest of the wave.

It's now been ambitiously revived by AMC and two English producers and will be broadcast over three consecutive nights on the cable network starting today at 8 p.m. In truth, this Prisoner is so ambitious that only the numbers and the premise have stayed the same. Fans of the original might just as well content themselves with watching reruns.

The characters are called by their number, not name. In 1967, this concept was an Orwellian shocker. In these days of PINS and security codes, it's no big deal.

The setup for The Prisoner is also a little shopworn: Guy wakes up in a strange place and doesn't understand why he's there.

We shan't fault them for their casting, however, led by the superb Ian McKellen as the village boss man labeled Two. He takes delight in verbally torturing and abusing Six, a grim, sweaty Jim Caviezel, sentenced to “The Village” after quitting his spy post at a chillingly created surveillance firm.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bob Hoover is a writer for the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: bhoover@post-gazette.com.



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