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Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The Prisoner is, without a doubt, my favourite television show.

It's perfect in its brevity and didn't come close to outstaying its welcome. So it was sad news indeed to read that Patrick McGoohan has died. He does so at the age of eighty so whilst it's sad when anyone dies, he had a full and eventful life. Patrick also touched millions of people all over the world with his creation of The Prisoner and the characterisation of No. 6.

I can't remember when I became a fan of The Prisoner but I think it was at some point in the Eighties when Channel 4 did a re~run. I was at an age when Doctor Who wasn't quite doing it for me anymore and was needing something more mature and challenging, and this was it. Each week was an amazing journey (sometimes literally) watching No. 6 battle with 'the man'. And, as the story unfolded, he began to win.

Win, but not escape. I remember watching the episode A Change Of Mind and from the start wondering in befuddlement, "How the flip is he going to get out of this one?" I knew he would, but watching him do so was televisual heaven. As the series came to an end it became even more challenging and bizarre. And the way he spoke! Man, I think I irritated everyone with Be seeing you regurgitated at any possible moment. He could roll his "r"s like no~one's business. For me, The Schizoid Man is where we get a true McGoohan masterclass - plus there's two of him!

As a young man the denouement of the series left me with the realisation that television could be interesting, thoughtful and wildly entertaining. Frustratingly, the legacy of The Prisoner hasn't quite happened. Although very influential in editing and style in terms of its modernity, the ideas and themes have been left on their own island. Seems nobody is willing to pick up the baton in that respect.

Well, not quite. There is a remake (or re~imagining, whatever the hell they want to call it!) coming up. What that will throw up is anyone's guess but I welcome it heartily as the central core of The Prisoner is as vital today as it was back in the late Sixties; identity is in flux and personal liberties are questioned/abused every day. So strong where his ideas and concepts that no~one has been able to successfully replicate them or come closing to approximating the hero/anti~hero of his character, No. 6.

Of course, he did 'other' stuff and Danger Man certainly has its fans but I was more than taken with his numerous appearances on Columbo. I wasn't the only one though, the Goo~Man was awarded a couple of EMMYS for his roles. The chemistry between Peter Falk and McGoohan was obvious and they clearly enjoyed working together with Patrick directing some episodes too.

He kept busy in the Nineties popping up in stuff like Braveheart whilst trying to get a movie version of The Prisoner (Mel Gibson, at one point, was linked to it) produced. One of his last roles, was a thigh~crushingly funny performance on The Simpsons, where the world of Portmerion (the home of the titular prisoner) was recreated (including those suits!) with applomb. A real testament to the man that his creation could feature in the world's biggest cartoon show. It also highlights the inherent juxtapositions of pop culture that McGoohan himself was so fond of; now he himself would be used a sign post for a decade and what it stood for - artistry, expression and freedom.


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posted by Cameron McEwan at 5:20 pm -
  • At 8:16 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I really don't think that "Lost" could have happened if it weren't for "The Prisoner." The themes have been left on an island, just not the SAME island.

  • At 8:55 pm, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…

    Interesting, it is very similar in some respects.

    Certainly not as challenging from a political or personal standpoint but yes, in essence I agree.

    Good point, well made.

  • At 11:42 pm, Anonymous Whelks said…


    I hadn't heard about Patrick McGoohan' escape. Only just got the news now, during my regular visit to the Stuff on TV Blog, for my update on what's going on.

    Sad news indeed - but glad to have picked up that piece of news from your blog, as I'm fairly sure that it was down to you that I first became switched on to the challenges and delights of The Prisoner.

    Time to rake out the DVDs and settle back to enjoy the opening narration (albeit perhaps with a wee tear in my eye)

    "Where am I?"

    "In the village..."

    "What do you want?"


    Sniff. Oh and I agree about the Columbo episodes.

  • At 1:59 am, Blogger Mark Goodacre said…

    Delightful reflections -- thanks. I had the same experience -- first caught The Prisoner on Channel 4 in 1984 having visited Portmeirion often since a child.

  • At 8:34 am, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…


    Actually, when I found out I emailed you straight away but got an "out of office" reply. I can't think of The Prisoner without thinking of you my friend.

    I seem to remember whenever we went out for a drink (very occasionally, *coughs*), we would do the old "vodka, whisky, drambue" routine.


    You won't get it.


  • At 8:36 am, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…


    Thanks for your kind words, very much appreciated.

    I got the chance to visit Portmerion a number of years ago and had a wonderful time. Quite a remarkable place.

    Almost remarkable as The Prisoner itself.

  • At 1:59 am, Anonymous Paul B said…

    Hi Cameron,

    Yup, The Prisoner is definitely my favourite show as well even though I was several years shy of being born when it was first broadcast. I just really dig the fact that the ending isn't neatly wrapped up because it allows for so much interpretation (how many other shows do we still question on its meaning 40 years later?). It's kind of the same way I like reinterpreting Spirited Away every time I see it.

    Out of nostalgia, I was looking for a particular clip and came across a quite interesting and surprisingly intelligent interview with McGoohan about The Prisoner from the 70s that I hadn't seen before. It's particularly notable for the copious amount of chain smoking going on and the slight edge that McGoohan has about him (you get the feeling he could either storm out of the studio or manhug the interviewer).

    That's the first part - there are four in total.

    I often wonder what McGoohan had in mind for the movie version. After watching this, you get the impression that it would be so unconventional that studios wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. It would make people think too much.

  • At 8:08 am, Blogger joy said…

    Ok. I'm giving The Prisoner as fair a shot as I can. I'm only on episode 5, but would agree with your Den of Geek that Chimes and A.B.and C. were excellent episodes.

    I completely agree with anon above, and actually ETA'd today's LOST magnetpost with my thoughts so far on TP. (FYI, I don't know what season ya'll are on over there, so if you haven't gotten to series 4, do not read that post.)

    I will say that I'm quite fearful of white balloons now. Thanks. :-)

  • At 11:56 am, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…

    Paul B

    Like you I am also enamoured of Spirited Away, I lurve Miyazaki.

    Thanks for the link, much appreciated.

    I can even begin to imagine how The Prisoner would have worked as a film. To me it's way bigger than just a single piece of work and, as you say, still open to interpretation.


    Glad to hear you are enjoying The Prisoner. Sadly the white balloons never caught on as a law enforcement tool in this country...

    Lost starts on Sunday over here and I await with increasingly excited, groin~grabbing impatience.

  • At 3:37 pm, Blogger joy said…

    Yeah, it's been interesting. I found I had too much to say, so I just made it into today's magnetpost.

    The more and more I thought about it, the more and more LOST makes sense, but now I'm curious to see if Darlton actually *meant* to model after TP.

    Anyway, enjoy the LOST premiere, I've seen only one bad review on it. I loved it, it's been a while since I've been on the edge of my seat for anything. (Though it may have something to do with my self-imposed LOST catch-up marathon this weekend past.)

  • At 4:09 pm, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…


    I'm looking forward to it greatly. I wasn't really a big fan of it when it started but I got into it during the second and third seasons. I thought the last one was tops.

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