What’s On TV – The Prisoner

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 166/501
Title: The Prisoner
Episodes Aired: 17
Episodes Watched:
Year(s): 1967-68
Country: UK

I think it has become quite clear to me that, depending on the TV show that we choose to cover, this is one of those lists where my blog entries are going to be quite sporadic.

The Prisoner is one of those TV shows that has had a ridiculously large effect on pop culture. Even if you’ve never seen an episode you will likely know about the “menacing” white balloon or the famous quote, “I am not a number, I am a free man”. If you’re anything like me your first exposure to some of this would have been on The Simpsons where Homer is kidnapped and taken to an island where he is repeatedly gassed and drugged.

Watching The Prisoner was choice of hub as he has been wanting to talk to me about it for a number of years and we have never gotten round to seeing it until now. At only 17 episodes this really should not have taken over a month to get through. I don’t think it helped that we still had a lot of Iron Chef left to watch.

I’m going to start out by saying that I did not at any point take the side of Number 6. I don’t know why, but he always really annoyed me. Of course you’re not going to be happy to be kidnapped and interrogated by the inhabitants of a wacky village, that’s a given, but he is such a dick about everything. It is not as if I’m incredibly pro establishment, I just liked seeing the very smug Number 6 taken down a peg or two.

Having watched it from start to finish I can see why the creator, Patrick McGoohan, originally wanted to make a lot less episodes. In the earlier episodes as well as the final two there are flashes of genius. The finale has been the subject of many years of critical speculation – for a very good reason: it is utterly batshit! Then again, with a series like “the prisoner” how could you make a satisfying finale that was not utterly batshit?

To be honest, for every three good episodes there was one great one and one terrible one. The worst episode for me being when it suddenly turned into a western. I get what they were trying to do and it was a noble experiment but there’s only so much you can do with drugs and cardboard cutouts. For a show that thrives on fridge logic even this was a step too far. And yet one or my favourite later episodes featured a twist of it being a story the whole time – this twist should have annoyed me but it was so delightfully manic that I just went along with it.

On the whole, I really did enjoy the show. Sure there were times when it became frustratingly camp, but that is how people enjoyed their TV shows back in the sixties. I mean look what they did to Batman! For the sake of his influence I’m very glad I watched this even if it means I will never work at a white balloon or a cup of tea the same way again.


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