The Prisoner Turns 50

Friday A/V Club: Celebrating half a century of an individualist TV show


The Prisoner—a science fiction series about a former spy confined in a mysterious totalitarian enclave—was both the most experimental and the most anti-authoritarian TV program of the '60s. It first aired 50 years ago today, so I'll mark the occasion with one of my favorite installments: "Living in Harmony," the episode that answers the question, "What would a western written by Philip K. Dick look like?"

If you've never been exposed to this show before, this would not be the place to begin; half the story's pleasure comes from seeing a familiar series reimagined in an entirely different genre. But if you've experienced the series a few times but never encountered this episode, you're in for something wonderfully weird.

For yet more from Reason on The Prisoner, check out this article by Larry Niven, this article by Emmanuelle Richard, and this video by the fine folks at Reason TV. And last year, when we hit the 50th anniversary of the day the series started filming, I devoted a different Friday A/V Club post to another Prisoner episode. I make no apology for taking another bite at the apple: Surely this is a show worth watching at least once a year.