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The Prisoner

Everett

You can trace Lost, The X-Files, and every other paranoid show-puzzle in the last few decades to this enigmatic story of Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan) and his attempt to escape a charming little gulag by the seaside. The British series (seen first by Americans on CBS) imagined a deceptively beautiful totalitarian community—”the village”—in which people’s memories were erased, no one could be trusted and the premises were patrolled by the most sinister big white balloons you ever saw. Resonant with cold-war suspicions (who is the enemy? Is it us?), the 17-episode series offered closure of a sort, though fans argue over its details and its resolution to this day. Whatever your theory, this most Kafkaesque of TV series was, well, captivating.

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