AMC Holds 'Prisoner,' Hopes To Capture Broader Audience, Ad Bucks Too
Ascendant cable network AMC is partnering with the United Kingdom's Granada production company and satellite TV network Sky One to produce the series, which combines elements of science fiction, espionage, action and political commentary. Shooting for the series is slated to begin in spring 2007, for a simultaneous U.S. and UK debut in January 2008.
Charlie Collier, AMC's executive vice president and general manager, says the new program will "stay true and have total respect" for the original series, which was the brainchild of the iconoclastic British actor Patrick McGoohan. McGoohan starred in the program and was co-creator and co-producer, as well as writer and director of several of its episodes. He is not currently involved in the new version.
"The Prisoner" ran for a single, controversial 17-episode season in 1967 on CBS, then was rerun the following summer. The show, a sequel of sorts to the noir spy series, "Secret Agent," also starring McGoohan, follows the exploits of a nameless resigned British government agent who is gassed and taken to an isolated isle called "The Village," where occupants are given numbers instead of names. He is dubbed Number Six.
Although it seems bucolic at first, the small, self-contained town is gradually revealed to be a sinister holding place, rife with surveillance equipment and brainwashing techniques, for suspected enemies of a mysterious global conspiracy. Number Six continuously tries to escape or turn the tables on his captors, with mixed results.
Collier says the first season of "The Prisoner" remake will run for "a minimum of six to eight episodes" and "not be a limited series." That means it could return for a second season if the first is a success. No star has been cast, and no director has been tapped. The series will be written by UK screenwriter Bill Gallagher, who has scripted several BBC TV programs.
Representatives for AMC would not comment on the budget for the series, but various British publications have tapped it at 1 million pounds, or close to $2 million, per episode.
"The Prisoner" announcement, Collier says, caps a banner year for AMC, which boasted the highest ratings of any scripted cable program in 2006 with its Walter Hill-directed western "Broken Trail." It also experienced smaller success with its caper series "Hustle," which returns in April. Another new series, "Mad Men," set in the world of advertising, debuts in July.
"What we're doing with these series is setting up a cinematic blueprint where we can showcase specific genres of movies side by side with our originals," Collier says. "With "Broken Trail," it was the western; with "The Prisoner," it will be sci-fi." He says the network is seeking to license the original series run as well.
Bruce Clark--America Coordinator for "Six of One," the official appreciation society for "The Prisoner," as recognized by copyright holder, Granada--says he is looking forward to the series.
"Anything that brings attention to the genius of the original series is good," he says. "But there is a substantial possibility that this could be done very well, because the themes of "The Prisoner" from the '60s--the rise of the surveillance state, how technology is used to control the masses, the battle of the individual against the system--are just as relevant today, if not more so."