Beginning Sunday at 7 p.m. on AMC
There is a very good reason why I am not tripping on LSD right now: I have no desire to be disoriented for six hours. There's also a reason why I am not conking myself on the head with a croquet mallet, but "The Prisoner" somehow has the same effect.
This AMC remake of the groundbreaking, beloved '60s series is not to be entered into lightly. Patrick McGoohan co-created and starred in the British version. The Mel Ferrer lookalike died last January, but you may remember him as "Braveheart's" Edward Longshanks.
The original was surreal and counter-cultural, about a former spy named Six who has found himself stuck in a prison that seems a lot like a resort. He was forever facing off with No. 2, who was played by various actors and who reported to a mysterious No. 1. All 17 episodes are available on Blu-ray DVD, but suffice to say that the finale made extremely ironic use of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love."
In the remake, Jim Caviezel steps in as Six. Nobody can convey suffering quite like Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." Every time violence threatens, I want to scream, "Not the cheekbones!"
Six's prison is more of a desert village, where identical A-frame houses are everywhere. It seems like a nice little existence to me, but Six is not interested in barbecuing with faux families. "I am not a number!" he shrieks, and tries to dissect occasional flashes of memory.
He thinks he remembers working for a company called Summakor in New York City, from which he angrily resigned. (Tip to young employees: Don't use red spray paint if you hope to get references.) He thinks he remembers meeting a sultry brunette, but is she on his side, or a Summakor spy?
This is where it gets all confusing, all the time. Among the questions you'll hope to have answered if you make it to hour six:
What was Six's job?
Why did he quit?
Where is he now?
Is everyone in on the pretense, or are they victims, too?
How can he get out?
Why is a giant, white, bouncing balloon consuming everyone he cares about?
The acting is top-notch, with Ian McKellen playing the enigmatic No. 2 with a memorable twinkle in his eye. He's got his own problems: His wife appears to be in a voluntary coma, and his son is gay in a town where the dating pool is limited, to say the least.
The son, named 11-12, is played by Jamie Campbell Bower with a sullen sensuality befitting a Calvin Klein ad campaign. He sure has the credentials: He's been in Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd," will appear in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," and has been cast as a Volturi vampire in the pantingly anticipated "New Moon." Pre-order your copies of Teen Beat now.
"The Prisoner" is beautiful. I suspect I would have appreciated it even more with the sound muted. Everything is bleached-out, with the men in summer suits and the women in chiffon head scarves. There are crystal towers in the desert that can never be reached. You can hear the ocean, but you can't get to it.
For art's sake, I tried to stick with the psychological thriller to the end, so that I could at last console myself by saying, "So THAT's it." But, my friends, that moment never came.
It was in Hour Five, when Six suddenly appeared with a doppelganger called "Two Times Six," and Two started wandering around town calling himself "UnTwo," that I wanted to cry.
Every line is a riddle. "UnTwo will grant your wish whether you wish it or not," said UnTwo - or was it Two? - right around the time my brain imploded.
Maybe you can appreciate this series without the fear that you will be expected to write a thesis on it. But I urge you to heed my advice: Opt out while you can.