- You may be looking for The Prisoner (US Remake) and not even know it!
No other product of British television graces the shelves of your local Best Buy's ridiculously overpriced foreign DVDs section more than Monty Python, Doctor Who, or Red Dwarf, but the unquestioned king of the discount Betamax Bucket is The Prisoner. A 1967 situational comedy, the show illustrates the counter culture's hatred of the elderly by chronicling the many attempts of a cantankerous old geezer named Number 6 to escape from his nursing home. Each of Number 6's harebrained schemes inevitably fails, and at the end of every episode the viewer is treated to watching large, burly orderlies drag the dreary old bastard back into the dump while he's screaming profanity.
Even though The Prisoner included everything the viewing public loved at the time (spies, sports cars, rock music, abuse of old people and drug references), it wasn't long before the screws at the network figured out that the show was being written by a bunch of anti-establishment hippies, and promptly had it cancelled after only 17 episodes. So for the last 38 years its time slot on ITV1 has been filled with reruns of The Persuaders, as scientific studies have shown that subjects regularly exposed to Roger Moore and Tony Curtis are much easier to control.
Emo Phillips' Restive Village, or the Village for short, is the retirement community Number 6 lives in. Due to budget constraints the program could only be shot using abandoned Dr. Who sets, and therefore The Village is shown as mostly being a collection of phone booths and Dalek bases. The exception was episode 4, "Trapped," in which the members of the nursing home were put on a bus for a field trip to a New Jersey landfill, where Number 6 unsuccessfully attempted to steal a forktruck and escape. That episode was shot on location.
The care level for Village residents seems to be a little above that of a Shanghai brothel, the retirees, except Number 6, being hopelessly cowed into submission by the cold, ruthless doctors and their orderlies.
Considered surreal, in that anything produced by a bunch of kitten huffing hippies is going to be seriously messed up, The Prisoner dealt with many controversial issues of the time, such as recreational drug use, hobo murder and mind control, which today wouldn't raise an eyebrow in even the blandest of children's programming. Most of the narrative is told from Number 6's perspective, and camera tricks typically employed to simulate being "really high" are here used to accurately imitate the effects of being "really old".
For the most part every episode follows the standard formula of Number 6 dreaming up his escape plan, Number 6 tripping balls on his meds, Number 6 trying ( to comical effect ) enact his escape plan, Number 6 being soundly beaten in a tightly-choreographed fight scene accompanied by trumpet music from stock, and finally Number 6 being dragged back into the nursing home. The notable exception being episode 16, Once Upon A Time wherein Number 6 kills the orderlies with a shiv, and spends the entire day outside the nursing home, only to wake up and realise that it had all been a dream.
Number 6: A former spy (the only honest profession in England), Number 6 has been deposited in The Village by some uncaring relative we know nothing about, since he never seems to ever be visited by anyone. Other than that Number 6 is easiest defined as possessing every single negative trait associated with age, including but not limited to rampant nostalgia, crankiness, memory loss, and loose bowels.
Number 2: The head physician in the nursing home, Number 2 is often shown to be the main antagonist of the show, but is mostly remembered by fans for being constantly replaced in the series as each actor who played the role would in turn leave the show to seek more gainful employment as a chimney sweep, or being the Prince of Wales. The in show explanation for this was that each Number 2 was actually a new Number 2, who just coincidentally shared the same name as the previous Number 2. It is rumoured that this may have been part of the show's downfall: having a dozen people with the job description ultimately caused the payroll department to pay them each several dozen times before anyone caught on. Number Two has been played by:
- George Lazenby
- Oprah Winfrey
- Mike Myers
- Sidney Trammell
- Oscar Wilde
- John Cleese
- Oscar Wilde
- Arthur 'Yus my Dear' Mullard
- Wilfred 'Harold Steptoe' Brambell
- Gordon 'Bottler' Brown
- Kenneth Williams
Each episode opened with the same, distinctive dialogue sequence had between Number 6 and whoever was playing Number 2 until better work came along.
- Number 6: Where am I?
- Number 2: In the Village.
- Number 6: What's for breakfast?
- Number 2: Waffles.
- Number 6: Who are you?
- Number 2: The new Number 2.
- Number 6: Who am I?
- Number 2: How the hell should I know?
- Number 6: ...Where am I?
- Number 2: Are you fucking kidding me?!
- Number 6: ...And you are...?
Usually the credits were a little under two minutes long, but in episode 5, "This, That and the Other Thing," Number 6 and Number 2 just kept repeating this for thirty-eight minutes, after which Number 6 realised it was time for bingo.
- Number 6: Do you expect me to talk, eh? Well, then, I'll put up a fight!
- Nurse: You haven't been taking your medication, have you?
- Chef: Hello there, children!
- Number 6: Hey, Chef. What's for lunch?
- Chef: We have chicken fried steak. How's it going?
- Number 6: Bad. Hey, I wanted a salad!
- Chef: Why bad? We have chicken fried steak.
- Number 6: I do not want chicken fried steak! I will choose my food, and it will not be crisped, baked, creamed, boiled, par-boiled or fried. My lunch is my own!
- Chef: Children, get the fuck outta here; you're holding up the line!
Every couple of years a cast reunion made-for-TV movie is released, in which Number 6 is still trying to escape the Village, even though his incredible oldness has reduced the man to a desiccated husk in a motorised wheelchair. Each one is considered heart warming and touching to the writers of TV Guide, but everyone else agrees that they're not as good as the original series.
- Incorrectly assumed by Americans to be a "spy thing", using numbers instead of names is actually an age old English tradition, and every adult in Great Britain has been issued a number since 1812. That the characters in the show have such low numbers implies that they are very, very old.
- The arial shots of the village used for the opening credits are actually of a concept model of EuroDisney.
- It is widely believed that the character of 'number six' is, in fact, John Drake, originally portrayed by Patrick McNee in the earlier popular 60's programme 'Dangermouse'. McNee, in a recent interview with BBC News 24 Unlimited, finally put paid to this persisting rumour, stating that 'number six' was, in fact, the same character whom he had portrayed in a 70's episode of 'Columbo', 'Milo Janus' after whom Janus County was named.
- God, you're still reading trivia? Get a life.