One and a Half Torches (Out of Five)
You may think it’s easy being a television critic, getting paid to watch television on all day.
What you’re forgetting is that I have to watch television even when it’s bad.
Even when it’s a six-hour mini-series!
And I don’t get overtime.
AMC’s remake of the classic (and wildly influential) 1960s cult TV series The Prisoner is bad.
But you’re very lucky: I slogged through all six, slowly-paced hours, precisely to tell you that you don’t have to.
The story is similar to the original: a man (The Passion of the Christ’s Jim Caviezel) wakes up in a picturesque, seemingly “perfect” small town that everyone simply calls “the village.” People don’t have names here, but numbers: the man is suddenly called Number Six. The village is overseen by Number Two, a creepy, but well-mannered old guy in a white pressed suit (Gandalf himself, Ian McKellen).
Unlike in the original series, Number Two doesn’t clearly remember his past, but he does have vague memories that he recently resigned from a secret agency. Is this pay-back?
Before long, he learns that he’s a prisoner in this town in the middle of a desert — anyone who tries to leave is consumed by a giant white globe that looks a little like the giant, marauding breast in Woody Allen’s Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask.
Soon Number Two is searching for answers. To bad it takes him so long — six moody, talky, interminable episodes — to find them.
Do the answers, when we finally learn them, make the mini-series worthwhile? Alas, no.
For some reason, we’ve entered a weird, frustrating period where entertainment companies think they can make money by remaking tried-and-true old properties rather than greenlighting all the fresh, new stories that writers are dying to tell. Apparently, this must make business sense, even if it usually makes for crappy movies and TV.
Of course, many of these original properties have great, indelible endings, but when remaking them, producers must feel like they can’t just reuse these original endings, which are often the most organic to the story, for fear that the audience will feel cheated.
So they invent new endings that technically “explain” the preceding events, but that are so complicated and/or ham-fisted that you end up just rolling your eyes. It happened with Tim Burton’s terrible remake of The Planet of the Apes and last week’s The Box.
It’s also what they do here. The ending is simultaneously way too simple – it’s the first explanation I thought of when I started watching – and way too complicated. It takes almost the whole last episode to explain.
Fun fact: Number Two’s gay son is played by Jamie Campbell Bower, who was recently cast as Wayner Royce in the pilot for HBO’s upcoming Game of Thrones.
The Prisoner airs on AMC from 8 PM to 10 PM, Sunday to Tuesday.