Watching it again.
I was and still am a HUGE Mad Men fan from the first moment I saw the coming attraction advertisement on AMC. I knew it was going to be a hit.
And so I watched it faithfully, season after season, and the show didn’t disappoint, with one exception: the Lane Pryce suicide.
In the past month or so, I decided to begin watching Mad Men again on Netflix, and I just recently finished the Season Five episode, “Commissions and Fees”, in which one of the lead players, Lane Pryce, takes his own life.
How Lane got into trouble.
Lane Pryce was a complicated character from the beginning. Something of a puppet for a huge corporate-eating conglomerate, Lane came to NYC to head the newly purchased advertising firm, “Sterling, Cooper, et.al.” At first it seemed his authority was rather broad and that he had a position of uber-power within the UK-based company for which he worked. But that facade began to erode as time went on, and Lane struggled with many a slap in the face – both to his seemingly secure place as The Man In Charge, and literally from his own father.
Money issues soon plagued Lane as well. He made a huge mistake and neglected to allow for payment of taxes on his investment portfolio. That single error almost literally put the nails in Lane’s coffin.
But there’s something very wrong.
The storyline failed Lane Pryce. He was introduced as a man who was the ultimate bean-counter, and one that never, ever, lost a single bean.
So how could it be that the man who dotted and crossed all his letters could have not only overlooked an important personal tax payment, but also fell short of the cash he needed to square that debt? To this actress, who is also a writer, it doesn’t fit the character’s mold. Not at all.
The reasons why Lane Pryce committed suicide were flimsy.
To say the least. As much as I love the show, and all the players, I thoroughly disagree with the way that Lane Pryce was dispatched. He was smarter than that. Had more business savvy. And was far more classy than to hang himself from his necktie in his office, with a boilerplate (the word actually used by Roger Sterling) letter of resignation left as an explanation.
Let me go into more reasons why the Lane Pryce suicide in Mad Men did not make sense:
- Lane was an astute business man and had a way of turning pennies into dollars like no one else at Sterling Cooper ever had. Therefore it made no sense at all that Lane would be short of cash, much less a mere $8K, which was just over pocket-money for some of the partners of the firm.
- Lane knew tax laws. He had to know them, otherwise he would never have excelled in business on either side of The Pond. Another reason why Lane’s suicide made no sense whatsoever.
- Lane could’ve easily approached Don or Roger and asked about an advance, instead of pushing way too hard for Christmas bonuses for the partners, and then when that didn’t work, writing a check to himself forging Don Draper’s signature. No. No. And no!
- My final reason why the Lane Pryce suicide in Mad Men was completely out of character was that if not for Lane, the Sterling Cooper name would have died when the company was to be sold along with other “assets” to another conglomerate that was sure to dismantle the advertising firm and sell it off piece by piece. Lane was the key figure, and actually the only one who could’ve pulled it off, when Campbell, Cooper, Sterling and Draper wanted to leave and take their accounts with them – once again establishing themselves independently. So how, I ask, could Lane Pryce be anything but very well compensated for being such a valuable asset himself? And then surely had the means to survive an $8K tax bill?
Love re-writing shows.
I do love writing as much as I l love acting. Both arts call out to me equally. And so I love to take apart a story, ask tough questions, and many times re-write at least part of it.
In the case of the Lane Pryce suicide, I would have left it at an attempt (which was hilarious when he tried to kill himself by sitting his his car, a brand new Jaguar XKE, after running a hose connected to the exhaust pipe and placed in the driver’s window, but the Jag, true to its reputation back then, would not start!) and made that attempt be enough to jar him back to reality.
I would’ve then kicked Lane back into high gear, and had him get the bank statement that included his cancelled check, destroy it, and replace the money he took from the company, with interest. All done with a touch of business-genius – and perhaps calling in a favor or two.
I’ll be making videos on YouTube of my TV and movie reviews – and you can bet I’ll be talking about how I would have written the story in many cases!
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