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SDCC: The Prisoner Looks to Escape the Odds

Prisoner panel @ comic-conIt’s always daunting to remake a classic. In TV circles, it doesn’t get much more “classic” than The Prisoner.

In a press conference at Comic-Con International Friday, the cast and creative team from AMC’s six-episode remake discussed the rigors of re-envisioning Patrick McGoohan’s landmark show.

Series stars Jim Caviezel and Jamie Campbell-Bower joined writer Bill Gallagher to greet the press after presenting a nine-minute trailer for the show to a packed Comic-Con panel.

More from TV Squad‘s report about The Prisoner after the jump.Caviezel expressed nothing but confidence in the show: “I know the expectations are very high, but I think fans are going to be pleased. This is a special production. I was drawn to it because of its quality — not just to remake a classic show from the past.”

Series writer Gallagher said, “I didn’t think I could match (the original). You have to respect the original, but you can’t be afraid of it.”

The nine-minute trailer that premiered before the press event didn’t unveil much of the series’ plot, but the premise looks much the same. A man wakes up in a strange environment (The Village) without knowing where he is, why he’s there, or (most importantly) how he can escape. He’ll match wits and wills with the Village’s all-seeing leader, Number Two (Sir Ian McKellen).

A couple of elements are obvious from the preview footage. This looks to be a more violent version of The Village. The original series had its share of fight sequences, but we’re seeing explosions and dead bodies in this new vision.

Also, the design of the new Village captures that creepy, soulless atmosphere of the planned housing community. The Village is evidently located in a massive desert, and its architecture wears the bland coloring and polished uniformity of the newer areas of Las Vegas or Phoenix. The only atmosphere is no atmosphere, and that was a stroke of genius by the art department.

Still, I could tell little else from the preview footage. Worse still, Gallagher had a line during the open discussion that makes me worry: “McGoohan’s (Prisoner) was about the assertion of the individual. Mine was more, ”What if the arrogance of the individual became our undoing?’”

First of all, this is still McGoohan’s Prisoner. It may be updated, but the premise belongs to him — no matter how a new writer seeks to possess and re-present it.

Second, if Gallagher’s remarks are an indication of the thematic soul of the show, it’s as far removed from McGoohan’s Prisoner as it could possibly be. I’m left with a nightmare vision of a Prisoner urging the individual viewer to act in the best interests of society or the state. Please tell me this isn’t going to be a 2009 Hollywood’s populist wet-down on a classic celebration of individual will and rights. The Prisoner should rise above current politics and examine greater themes of philosophy and civilization.

Maybe the writer just misspoke, because writers don’t often get the chance to yap in front of a big crowd. But, he still left me very worried — no matter what the show looked like for nine minutes.

This post courtesy of our partner site TV Squad.

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