Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Disfunctional Family Pryce

The other night while watching Mad Men, a strange feeling of familiarity crept over me. It had nothing to do with my identifying with Joan or Peggy as I so often do. I looked at Lane and went: "Huh."

Lane is an Englishman working in America who came to these shores as a functionary for a large British concern. He was clearly not particularly valued by his former employers, and really only found some sort of happiness working with a smaller, American company. It is often his job to make difficult decisions for the company, and is sometimes viewed with resentment or dislike, something he is clearly used to. But he's finally starting to make some friends and it's kind of sweet how happy he seems to be included and liked. Lane's happy new life is horribly disrupted however, by the appearance of his disapproving and abusive (and bearded) father.

The entire paragraph above could have been written about Wesley Wyndom-Pryce of Buffy/Angel fame. What is it with the fictional Pryce family of Britain? The only essential difference is that I seriously doubt that Lane Pryce's father will turn out to be a robot. For those who are less familiar with the Whedonverse, having characters turn out to be cyborgs is what the writers do when they want to explore patricidal guilt, without making their lead characters actual murderers (see also: Ted). Unfortunately, Mad Men doesn't have this option in its arsenal, so poor Lane will have to deal with his Pryce family problems the old fashioned way: with seething resentment and custodial arrangements.

Now, I'm hardly the first person to note the Whedonification of Mad Men. With Vincent Kartheiser, Christina Hendricks, Danny Strong and Marti Noxon on board, it's a little hard to miss. I looked at the credits of the actors playing both fathers Pryce, and though Roy Dotrice's (Wesley's Dad) resume is slightly more impressive (having had previous experience playing a terrible father as the elder Mozart in Amadeus), their film and TV resumes bear other similarities. They are both classically trained British stage actors, W. Morgan Sheppard (Lane's Dad) is a former RSC member and Dotrice has a Tony award. They have both worked consistently in television over the past 40 years or so. They have both voiced an impressive array of cartoon villains. But for both, a significant percentage of their incomes has been from appearances in various sci fi and fantasy franchises.

Okay. I know the similarities between the fictional families Pryce are (likely) coincidental. But looking at the long and varied careers of two character actors, neither of which most people would have heard of, is always a worthwhile venture. Both Mr. Dotrice and Mr. Sheppard have well over a hundred credits each on IMDB. Mr. Sheppard is almost 80 and Mr. Dotrice is almost 90 and both are still consistently working in TV, films and voice acting.

(Speaking of fathers and sons, I just realized that Jared Harris who plays Lane Pryce on Mad Men is Richard Harris's son!)

1 comment:

the Belgian said...

I love the fact that Jared Harris played the titular role in "I Shot Andy Warhol"