Sunday, August 20, 2006

Why I Like The Prisoner

Why I like The Prisoner

It was an accident really. I was never supposed to actually watch it, let alone have it become this mini-obsession of mine.

I always tried to watch Doctor Who on late Sunday nights on WTTW, the PBS station in Chicago. It came on right after Monty Python's Flying Circus. They played three episodes of Doctor Who all meshed together so it was like a little movie and not a silly half hour. I taped a bunch of them, usually just to tape and watch. (Actually, Doctor Who was an accident too. My family borrowed a Fawlty Towers tape from the Baltas that had a Doctor Who episode on it, "The Robots of Death" with the fourth Doctor. I thought I would try watching it one day when I was told that it was sci-fi. Although they compared it to silly stuff and I think I remember it being compared to the 1985 Dune movie. That sparked a little Doctor Who obsession.)

WTTW changed up their lineup a little bit. Whether it was because they didn't make their donation quotas by hawking their little Doctor Who mugs, I don't know, but they decided to play something else in its place. It was at least comparable to the genre. I remember putting a tape in, thinking to catch a show at the beginning. I did it at the last minute-I know it was the last minute because the tape (I still have it) was recorded at SP and not SLP. That ain't like me. I have filled up tapes that only had 15 minutes left on SLP just to get stuff on them. I still have a couple of tapes that are halfway blank queued and ready to be popped in at a moment's notice. I could get six+ hours on a tape rather than just two. So taping something at SP tells me it was a last minute decision. Remember, I am a penny-pinching bastard on the weirdest of things.

I was blown away at the first episode. It was strange. It was intelligent. It was bewildering. It was a concept I had never seen before. I was born in 1973, way too late to really be a part of the sixties counterculture that The Prisoner was filmed in. Luckily, when I first watched it in the very late 80s, I still knew of spies and basic Cold War stuff.

It seemed to stand for something. It wasn't just about some guy trying to escape from a prison. It had themes that were greater than the individual characters. When I watched it, I saw that he was fighting for me. He resisted the machinations of the Village because the greater good needed him to. This show taught me concepts of freedom of elections, questioning your surroundings, staying true to your convictions, the honor of standing tall, and the idea of individuality versus group dynamics. It came at a time when I was first hitting these concepts in high school. In a way, The Prisoner was an education. I simply would not be the same without the seventeen episodes in this series. They have become a part of my psyche, part of what makes up Matt Butcher. Cut me open, and copies of The Prisoner would fall out.

I taped all seventeen episodes off WTTW. I'm going to go through the episodes again. I have watched them so many times now that I can almost quote them. I used to put a tape of six episodes on in the background as I would sit at the computer and do my homework from college at my parents' house. I want to think about all seventeen episodes as individual entities and gleam the concepts and the benefits from them.

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