Summer Preview: 'Men Of A Certain Age'
Beginning today, TNT rolls six out all-new episodes of Men of a Certain Age, starring Ray Romano (who also co-created the series), Scott Bakula, and Andre Braugher. I'm still too young to be within the show's midlife demographic, but what works about Men is that you don't have to be of a certain age - or even a man - to appreciate what makes the show tick. The circumstances and underlying issues are common for many of us.
For example, there's a moment early on in tonight's episode ("The Great Escape") where Terry (Bakula) meets current girlfriend Erin (Melinda McGraw) for lunch, only to also run into an ex. If you haven't had that specific awkward moment, you've probably had some variation of it, so it's easy to understand just how uncomfortable it is. Terry's subplot is my favorite of tonight's episode, because it deftly handles how far he's come from being the perpetual bachelor we met in the first season, but also shows some of the consequences of his maturation, leading to a conclusion that's both poignant and, if you think back on the show's entire history, expected - not in a "that's boringly predictable" way but an "if you know the character, this was probably coming" way. I am always appreciative of shows that allow their characters to grow but never lose sight of who they fundamentally are, and Men of a Certain Age is one of those series. Some remarkable acting by Bakula is just the icing on the cake.
Meanwhile, Joe (Romano) is thrown when his ex-wife Sonia (Penelope Ann Miller) starts losing a few marbles. Seems she's been dumped by the guy that she left him for, which naturally brings up the question of whether or not Joe and Sonia will reconnect. Again, if this hasn't happened to you or someone you know, you can at least make an educated guess at what the characters are going through. I should say that I'm not one of the people who loved Everybody Loves Raymond, but Romano's far from sitcom schtick on this show. His fairly monotone line delivery works for a character who doesn't have a clue how to deal with everyone else's problems; the droll tone only helps to establish him as the one person who might not have a screw loose.
And Owen (Braugher) gets a buyout proposition from a rival, leading him to ponder the future of the family business, and what it means for his family. Owen's family drama, particularly his contentious relationship with his father, was a big part of the first season and is another universal theme. We might not work with our parents, but we certainly all know what it's like to want to make them proud, or at least get them off your back - and certainly know how we can end up fighting with them. There's a great scene where Owen proves that one should not contemplate important life decisions while sleep-deprived and/or under the influence. Nothing good ever comes of either of those things.
The back half of Men of a Certain Age's second season (these are episodes seven through twelve) is pretty much the same as everything before it; if you liked the show before, you're still going to like it now, and if you didn't, then nothing here will really change that opinion. While enjoyment of the show itself isn't necessarily limited to the older male demographic, perhaps its approach is reminiscent of TV for that more mature audience - the biggest moments happen quietly and simply. There are no histrionics, no big dramatic moments to be hyped, just adults going through life. Therein lies the charm. The characters are too old to put up with games and the show doesn't play any either. You'll either love it or hate it, but you'll recognize it - even if you're not of that certain age, you will be.
Men of a Certain Age has its summer premiere tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on TNT.