Patrick McGoohan, a man ahead of his time

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Legend has it that Patrick McGoohan was the first choice for the role of James Bond in the inaugural 007 film, Dr. No, but he turned it down, at least in part because he felt the character was too promiscuous. That probably says it all for McGoohan, one of pop culture's great contrarians. In 1968, he would subvert the then white-hot spy genre by creating The Prisoner, perhaps the ultimate cult TV show of all time. Through its cerebral and surreal 17 episodes, McGoohan portrayed a former secret agent, known only as Number 6, who is imprisoned on a mysterious island where everyone has numbers instead of names. At the end, he escapes—or does he? It's implied that he was perhaps his own jailer, and that in our high-tech, mass-media society, freedom is just another trap. In the Internet age, with instant access to information about everyone and everything, The Prisoner's message has never seemed more prescient. "Be seeing you" was the show's catchphrase. Both comforting and discommoding, it was as ambiguous and open to interpretation as McGoohan himself. He died in Los Angeles this week at age 80. Be seeing you.

—Posted by David Gianatasio