Television Review: "Men of a Certain Age" Premiere

12/14/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Todd Larkin

As the second act in Ray Romano's TV career, “Men of a Certain Age” is the opposite of a midlife crisis and a complete change from “Everybody Loves Raymond.” It's a series that takes a well-worn theme and makes it unpredictable, freshly funny and sometimes moving.

The men are Romano as Joe, who is separated from his wife and the owner of a party-supply store; Scott Bakula as Terry, a single, mostly unemployed actor whose laid-back manner still can charm younger women; and Andre Braugher as Owen, a tense, overworked car salesman whose dealership is owned by his father.

Any one of these characters could slide easily into the clichés of a thousand movies or TV shows about middle-age craziness, but Romano, who created “Men” with Mike Royce, one of his “Everybody Loves Raymond” producers, manages to layer in the complexities while nurturing a tone of raw, sometimes raucous humor. It's an hour-long show that plays like a sitcom with depth.

The premiere is spent filling us in on who the guys are. We see these Los Angeles buddies trading bad-luck stories and jabs over lunch. We glimpse them at work, where each has hit a wall that's left him dissatisfied and itching for change. And we learn the chinks in their armor--Joe has a gambling habit that has caused the separation from his wife; Terry feels self-loathing since he has to audition for TV-movie jobs he considers beneath him; and Owen is cowed by his father/boss “Richard Gant.”

The premiere really convinces you of the show's quality. The laughs are solid and not over the top. For instance, when Joe and Owen witness Terry nuzzling with a much-younger waitress, Joe razzes him, "Now you're gonna have to see all the Twilight movies." Sometimes, the drama becomes intense, such as when Owen's wife (Lisa Gay Hamilton) upbraids her father-in-law for publicly insulting Owen, the poor guy is just further humiliated.

I even enjoy the music--it adds a nice mood to the show and adds an additional sense of feeling. The theme song is the Beach Boys' "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)," which is pretty fitting.

I worry a bit that what makes "Men" so interesting could also prevent it from being a success on TNT, home of female-driven powerhouses such as “The Closer” and lightweight action dramas such as “Leverage." I suppose it's a better haven than any broadcast network would be for a subtle show like this, but I urge you to support these men anyway. These fascinatingly troubled guys need all the help they can get.

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