Free At Last

More death talk at Eyestrain Productions? Well, what do you expect from the writer of Ashes to Ashes?

This is a big one for me though, because Patrick McGoohan was somewhat of a personal hero of mine. My admiration began in high school, when PBS started running ads about some old British spy show from the ’60s they were bringing back. It was called The Prisoner and it looked seriously demented. And I couldn’t wait. When it finally aired, I watched it religiously week after week, and then would spend most of history class the next day discussing what it all meant with my friend Ron. He was the only other person I knew who was into the show and wanted to know the answers to all those mystifying questions concerning why Number Six resigned, and who Number One might be. If you’ve ever seen the show, you can image how bamboozled we were after the last episode, probably the most ambiguous hour in television history.

“I got away with murder on that one,” McGoohan told me years later.

A little over a decade ago, I had a couple of phone conversations with Patrick in regards to a bit of film biz work. And yes, I can call him “Patrick” because we were on a first name basis. He told me so the second time we spoke. I remember the conversation vividly because I was talking to my hero — the star, co-creator, and frequent writer/director of The Prisoner — and also because I was secretly recording it. Shh! Don’t tell anyone.

“Hello, Mr. McGoohan, it’s Shane Simmons calling,” I said.

“The name’s Patrick,” he insisted in that voice that could intimidate paint off a wall. “The only one who calls me Mr. McGoohan is my wife.”

After talking shop, his screenplay for a proposed Prisoner feature film came up. Although the possibility of a big-screen remake of The Prisoner continues to be bandied about to this day, back then the project was meant to be a direct continuation of the cult classic series. It was to be a final story to wrap it all up, answering many questions and posing many more. And Patrick knew I’d read the draft in progress.

“What did you think? Critique me!” he demanded.

I think I crapped my pants a little bit. Why the hell was Patrick McGoohan asking me what I thought about the conclusion of his magnum opus? Whatever I stammered was probably completely lame, but it was nice of him to ask. Terrifying but nice. Then we moved on to more comfortable subjects that involved him badgering me about when I was going to get married.

I heard about his health issues for awhile after that. I never expected him to last another ten years, but he was a tough old Irishman. I still fondly remember my conversations with him as my favourite celebrity encounter. To this day, Patrick McGoohan remains my hero, The Prisoner remains my favourite TV show of all time, and the Hollywood remake remains unproduced. And may it always remain so.

As for that ITV remake for British television that just wrapped, well… I guess we’ll just have to see.

*

Speaking of remakes, this is the best one I’ve seen in years. Whoever this girl is, she plots better than Lucas.

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