THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

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Patrick McGoohan explains "The Prisoner"

YouTube - Patrick McGoohan "The Prisoner Puzzle".

I am grateful to reader Peter Gardner for drawing my attention (in a comment to my recent post) to these YouTube videos of McGoohan being interviewed about The Prisoner. The past really is another country. Two grown men having an intelligent conversation (over cigarettes!) in front of a polite audience asking intelligent questions! And no shrieking harpy of the left denouncing their thought crimes. When I enter a modern office building, fretting and fussing at the airport style security (or indeed as I regularly experience the security theatre at airports), I shall smile at the memory of McGoohan complaining about merely having to sign in to the studio before the interview. Enjoy.

I am not a number

This remake of classic series, The Prisoner looks unpromising to a fan of the original. Yet perhaps there was never a great show that more needed to be remade. Its themes are certainly as relevant as in 1967. In those far-off days, despite the horrors of Soviet Russia, Red China and Fidel's Cuba many still saw collectivism as a gentle dream.

Sir Ian McKellen, luvvie deluxe, unexpectedly gives a quote worthy of a libertarian blogger;

“The original Prisoner was very much dealing with the life of the individual as he might get caught up in Soviet Russia… Well, here we are 40 years on and we are living in a land where people accept without question being fingerprinted, having their eyes registered at airports, taking off their clothes at the airport, opening up their luggage, not being allowed to do this, not being allowed to do that, photographed in the streets by cameras that are put up by you’re never quite sure who. All this adds up to a society that perhaps isn’t quite as democratic and careful about the freedom of the individual as we would like.”

Perhaps the delicately understated final sentence is not quite so bloggerish! One cannot imagine Devil's Kitchen, for example, languidly observing that our society;

"...isn't quite as ... careful about the freedom for the individual as we would like".

I imagine McKellen had fun with the role of "Two", but I cannot picture Jim Caviezel in the McGoohan role as [Number] Six. From the trailer and advance publicity, I fear it may finally deliver on McGoohan's dishonest promise to his backers that it would be an action series. For all its failings, the original series was a thought-provoking, intelligent work. It would therefore never have made it to the small screen without McGoohan's deception. It was his project; he was co-creator, star and wrote some of it himself. We owe him for that; it's hard to imagine a remake that won't make our authoritarian leaders uncomfortable and their sycophants furious.

A genuine individualist himself, McGoohan navigated bizarre story lines carefully, somehow retaining sympathy for a character far from being loveable. Ultimately, Number Six was not even entitled to say; "I am not paranoid. They really are out to get me." The series ended in a full-on 1960s schlock episode in which Number Six is revealed also to be the mysterious, never seen but much talked-about, Number One. Symbolically, he was his own jailer and "I am out to get myself" is not quite such a good punchline. I suppose McGoohan was hinting that no man can truly be unfree without consent. It was a call to arms, perhaps, but hardly rousing.

I loved the original series, though I was a teenage collectivist when I first saw it. My strict, always-in-the-wrong, upbringing felt like life in "The Village" to me and I thought the village itself a perfect metaphor. My mental image of tyranny is a village, like the one I grew up in, where everyone knows you, there is no privacy and your every move is likely to be reported to "the authorities" (or in my case at the time, my parents). I felt cheated by the finale though. Like much 1960s culture, you needed to be on acid to appreciate the logic; which is another way to say that it had none.

The Prisoner was great television, but hugely flawed. Stylistically, it was too much of its ludicrous era. Everything good from the 60s needs to be remade, so for once the producers can do better than avoid adverse comparisons. They have something to shoot for.

Guardian TV poll: let's keep up the pressure

Poll: What's the best TV show of the decade 2000-09? | Media |

Come on, ladies and gentlemen, please click on the link above and infuriate the Guardianistas who are posting such exasperated comments as;

Top Gear is not fit to grace any list that has the likes of the office, the west wing and arrested development on it.

The Wire is catching up fast on Top Gear with one day of polling still to go, so if you want to see Jezza ending the show with the poll results and the words "...and on that bombshell..." you need to get over there and vote. Urging on family, friends and work colleagues, not to mention posting a link to the poll on your blog (and in comments to every blog you frequent) would do no harm either.

Annoy a Guardianista; vote now!

Poll: What's the best TV show of the decade 2000-09? | Media |

The Grauniad is having a poll on "the best TV show of the decade" and the results are annoying its precious journalists.

Monday 2pm: we are aware that there has been some *ahem* multiple voting and we are investigating how to eliminate this. In the meantime, please keep voting - legitimately

Oh, dear. How shocking. I am sure they would never have complained were, say, Andrew Marr's Sunday Socialist Sycophancy Show in the lead. So which show has people clicking so enthusiastically? Yes, there is justice in the Universe occasionally. It's the one they hate the most (click to enlarge). Delicious!

Guardian pain

Please go over there and add to their pain.

Why must those people spoil everything?

180pxtardisI missed the Christmas Day "Doctor Who" because I was in New York. I am enough of a Whovian for that to hurt, but I was able to catch the repeat. Sadly, that hurt too. Russell T. Davies claims to be a fan, but he has no compunction about littering the show with political points.

The Doctor (as libertarian an anti-authority figure as ever didn't live) scowled at Davies' predictably odious capitalist characters, one of whom was a cowardly cad intent on self-preservation and the other of whom was prepared to kill every living creature on Earth to settle a boardroom feud. I have encountered all sorts of no goods in my business life, but I can't say this is a representative picture.

On the other hand, all Davies' working class characters (of course) are good honest folk with stout hearts This was sometimes, but I have to say not invariably, the case among those proletarians with whom I grew up. Of course, his black proletarians have even stouter hearts, the particular example in the Christmas show reminding me of Boxer from Animal Farm.

I looked forward to watching the Divine Miss Minogue perform. For the first time in her life, she disappointed me. After showing her devotion to diversity by pity-flirting with an implausibly ugly alien, her character made haste to lay down her life for the Doctor, having fallen in love with him on such short acquaintance as to cast severe doubt on her judgment.

How did the man get such a reputation as a writer from such cardboard portrayals? Might it be because his cardboard portrayals satisfy the requirements of the Leftist Establishment? Might his position as the 15th most powerful man in the UK media be based on a sort of sucking-up? Or is he actually as thick as his thin characterisations and richly-bearded 19th Century politics might suggest?

As the closing titles ran, my wife commented wrily, "Right, peasants, now you know what to think." Precisely.

Davies is the sort of Leftist who rarely fails to mention his comprehensive school when interviewed, giving it its full title so as to avoid any suspicion of having been educated. He wears his working-class background as a badge of honour when, logically, that is just as stupid as a Lord being proud of his Norman ancestry. He is so keen to fit the mould of British Leftism that one wonders if even his constantly-mentioned sexuality is genuine. Perhaps his gay partner is a new kind of beard?

Whatever the truth, the insufferably smug Davies, while he is to be praised for reviving Doctor Who,  has gone on almost completely to spoil it with his rancid agitprop. If I could give him his own Tardis, I would. Provided I could rig it to break down on the edge of a black hole.

Visiting with the Sopranos

Link: Tour Sopranos Sites in New York City and New Jersey.

Blogger_with_vitoBlogger_at_dinerDsc_2260Blogger_in_booth I don't think I have ever mentioned here how much I have enjoyed the TV series, "The Sopranos." Although it is uncomfortable viewing at times (your blogger is a sensitive soul with no appetite for violence) it is also witty, clever and well-written.

As I am in New York, I took the chance to join a bus tour of Sopranos locations around New Jersey. I was nervous that my companions might all be geeks and obsessives, but actually I may have been one of the worst Sopranos geeks there. It was great fun. To my surprise, a cast member turned up - Joe Gannascoli, who plays "Vito" in the series - and I was photographed with him.

Here I am on the steps of the diner where two aspiring young mobsters attempted to "whack" Christopher Moltisanti (played by Michael Imperioli). And here is the commemorative plaque in the booth at Holsten's in Bloomfield, NJ where the final scene of the series was shot. I was photographed there too, in Tony Soprano's last seat (click photos to enlarge).

I had a fun day and didn't think about Gordon Brown or the death of civil liberties in Britain once.