DVD Review: Ray Romano, Scott Bakula, Andre Braugher in ‘Men of a Certain Age’

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CHICAGO – There’s a reason beyond simple truth-in-titling that I put the names of the three stars of TNT’s “Men of a Certain Age,” of which the first season was recently released on DVD, in the headline of this review — they’re the reason to watch. Created by Romano and Mike Royce, “Men of a Certain Age” is an imperfect program with at least one perfect performance (Emmy nominee Braugher) and two that sometimes come close. The “Men” of the title are excellent and if the program around them ever rises to their standard it could become one of the best on television.

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 3.5/5.0
DVD Rating: 3.5/5.0

“Men of a Certain Age” tracks the lives of three male friends who could be put into neat little boxes like “Divorce Guy,” “Family Guy,” and “Denial Guy.” The first is Joe (Ray Romano), a party store owner and gambling addict going through a divorce while living in a hotel. His two life partners on the road to fifty (and on the hiking path trying to get in better shape, drinking while watching basketball, grabbing some lunch, etc.) are family man Owen (Braugher) and actor Terry (Bakula). Owen struggles with health concerns and a horrible job run by his father while Terry still thinks he’s twenty-two as he tries to bed coffee shop workers.

Men of a Certain Age: The Complete First Season was released on DVD on November 9th, 2010
Men of a Certain Age: The Complete First Season was released on DVD on November 9th, 2010
Photo credit: Sony

I’ll admit to being somewhat turned off by the series premiere of “Men of a Certain Age.” Despite the instantly-likable casting of Andre Braugher (“Homicide: Life on the Street”), Scott Bakula (“Star Trek: Enterprise,” “Quantum Leap”), and Ray Romano (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) as three friends with the common problems of the mid-life American male, the writing and direction took awhile to find itself and arguably still needs work. The interesting thing about watching the first season of “Men of a Certain Age” is how the talent of the stars make it so much easier to overlook the problems of the program as the season develops. One can overlook the relatively shallow writing when the cast is strong enough to make it seem deep.

I think it’s partially because one becomes used to the flaws behind-the-camera as they get to know the characters better. What flaws? First and foremost, the handheld aesthetic of the show is just stupid. The men are often seen going on their regular hike and there’s simply no reason for these scenes to be shot with as much stabilty as a Bourne movie and often from a distance. For some reason, the directors on “Men” are always cutting back and forth from one shaky handheld to another, probably in an attempt to create realism, as if we’re watching an actual conversation, but it’s actually more distracting than if the program just looked like an ordinary TV drama.

There are also a few scenes and lines of dialogue per episode that just don’t ring true. What’s most notable about “Men of a Certain Age” is often in what the actors do with the unsaid aspects of their character. Watch the amazing response that Braugher delivers when his character realizes that Joe’s ex-wife (Penelope Ann Miller) was cheating on him before their divorce. Watch nearly every interaction between Braugher and his emotionally-abusive father and how much subtext plays into their dynamic. Watch the little moments in which Bakula’s Terry realizes and then denies his age. Watch the sadness in the eyes of Joe. These moments add up as the program moves on and if the writers and directors of the show could harness them with more believable scripts and less showy camerawork, they could really have something special.

Special Features:
o Behind the Scenes Features
o Deleted Scenes
o Gag Reel
o Commentary

“Men of a Certain Age: The Complete First Season” stars Ray Romano, Andre Braugher, and Scott Bakula. It was created by Romano and Mike Royce. It was released on DVD on November 9th, 2010. It is not rated and runs 432 minutes.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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