The Prisoner

Sole season on DVD. (At present, all seventeen episodes are also streaming for free on

I love watching TV shows on DVD, partly because of the lack of commercials but mainly because I’ve never been good with delayed gratification, and on DVD, I can watch episode after episode without having to wait a week or more in between.* When it came to The Prisoner, however, one episode at a time was all I could take, not because it’s a bad show—to the contrary, it’s brilliant—but because it’s so weird and trippy, such a relentless mind-fuck, that I always wanted to stew over an episode before jumping directly into the next.

Simply put, The Prisoner is like nothing else I’ve ever seen before. Sure, you can recognize the classic show’s influence—particularly on labyrinthine, long-arced series such as The X-Files and Twin Peaks and Lost—but the audacity and surreality of the 1967–68 original are hard to match. Furthermore, The Prisoner demonstrates a strong singular vision that TV shows, a relatively collaborative medium, rarely possess. It was championed, cocreated, and produced by one man, actor Patrick McGoohan—who also wrote and directed many of the episodes (some under pseudonyms) and, of course, starred as Number 6—and that matters, I think. The Prisoner feels authored, for lack of a better term. It’s as unfiltered and distinct as a good novel, and as challenging as one, too.