I am not a number...
I am not a number…

The ironic assertion of Patrick McGoohan in his series, The Prisoner. Ironic, in part, because that is his designation throughout the series (Number Six).  If I described a world where your every move was electronically monitored, where acquisition and possession of information was the source of real power, where mistrust of political leaders was simple prudence and where identity can, in fact, be reduced to a series of numbers, you would think I was describing the world in which we now live.  It does, however, also perfectly describe The Village to which Number Six is taken over forty-five years ago!  His goal is escape while theirs is the acquisition of the information he possesses.  It made for some remarkable episodes and a truly surreal conclusion.

If I had begun this blog back in 2009, I would, no doubt, have devoted a post to the passing of this singular actor.  There are lots of tributes still to be found on Youtube and elsewhere.  Since, however, this post is meant to feature iconic TV series themes, I would be amiss if I left out…

Clocking in at about three minutes for the full intro, there’s a theme for you! (Take that, Lost!)   By the way, you might like to know that The Prisoner was in several respects an inspiration for the writers of Lost.

But how did he get there?

By that, I’m not referring to The Village.  Rather I mean that this series came about a result of his success in a prior one- Danger Man.  McGoohan had achieved considerable success as a theatre and movie actor when he was cast as the lead in this quintessential spy series in 1960.  The initial series was only a half-hour in length and lasted only one season.  It was enough to merit consideration for the role of James Bond in Dr. No… a role which he declined on moral grounds.  His initial contract demands with the producers of Danger Man insisted on the use of brains over guns in plotting the episodes and no kissing!  You can see why he considered himself a poor candidate for Bond!

The success of the Bond franchise did benefit McGoohan however- he was offered a reboot of Danger Man with hour-long episodes and more creative control.  The revised series lasted three more years, beginning in 1964, and made McGoohan the highest paid actor in the UK at that time.  It also provided him with the clout to develop The Prisoner as his subsequent pet project.

This is why I mentioned the “sortof” two series in my previous post.  Each had its own distinctive theme.  First, the original 1960 theme of Danger Man

Now the theme from the rebooted 1964 version…

Now, if two themes for the same series isn’t complicated enough, there’s one further wrinkle.  The popularity of the show in the UK resulted in its adoption by American network television.  The American version decided, however, to capitalize on the popularity of a Johnny Rivers song… so, the series in North America became Secret Agent and its theme- Rivers’ Secret Agent Man

Now, since that was just a taste, here’s Johnny Rivers doing the full version live…

The last word (musically) should go to McGoohan himself.  He was, in fact, a capable boxer (as evidenced in his fight scenes) and, as this clip demonstrates, a passable jazz drummer (from the 1962 film All Night Long).

Be seeing you…


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