TV Review: Talented Stars Carry ‘Men of a Certain Age’

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CHICAGO – It has yet to approach the writing standards of the best television on the air right now but the stars of “Men of a Certain Age” continue to make it one of the more interesting programs on cable. As Andre Braugher, Scott Bakula, and Ray Romano continue to get more comfortable in the shoes of these three leads, the program around them continues to improve. This is quality, well-written drama without a sci-fi hook or period piece detail. It’s worth your time. Television Rating: 4.0/5.0
Television Rating: 4.0/5.0

Not only do the stars of “Men of a Certain Age” get better with every episode, but the writing and direction (the biggest problems in season one) seem to be improving as well with the start of season two. I’ll still never understand why so much of the show needs to be shot with a handheld camera and usually from a distance and the dialogue can still dip into cliche more often than it should but the direction seems more refined and the script more subtle in the season premiere, airing Monday, December 6th, 2010.

Men of a Certain Age
Men of a Certain Age
Photo credit: Danny Feld/TNT

At the beginning of season two, Joe (Ray Romano), Owen (Andre Braugher), and Terry (Scott Bakula) continue to struggle with common issues of the mid-life American male including decreasing confidence, physical effects of aging, and drowning in the dating pool.

In the premiere, “If I Could, I Surely Would,” Joe has turned a corner on his gambling problem and is trying to focus his energy on securing a spot on the senior golf tour. Owen has finally been given the management position at the car dealership that he deserves but with new power comes new responsibility and it’s not clear that he can be the businessman his father needs him to be. One of his first decisions, to hire the ineffective Terry as a salesman, reminds Owen that friendship and business are never a good mix. Meanwhile, Terry continues to sleep his way through the wait staff of the diner that serves as the background for most of the show’s best scenes.

Men of a Certain Age
Men of a Certain Age
Photo credit: Danny Feld/TNT

Terry/Bakula’s plotlines continue to be a little frustrating. When Terry jokingly says, “I like to hurt women, you like to marry them” it sounds like the cliched TV speak of the over-the-hill player. Bakula is doing his best to try and find something genuine in Terry and he sometimes succeeds but he’s easily the least-interesting character.

Romano and Braugher make out better, especially the former who has taken the cliches of his character in season one and made them real. The divorced dad with an addiction has been done to death but Romano has turned Joe into a completely three-dimensional character. He’s great and getting better with every episode. Watching Joe start to get his sh*t together is actually pretty rewarding. He’s the kind of guy you root for not merely due to TV cliches but because you believe in the guy. He seems real and he reminds us how great it can be to watch a character who feels real get over the hump of life.

As for the final star, there’s not much to say. Braugher is still one of the best actors on television and could match his season one Emmy nomination with one for season two. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Romano joined him on the short list.

Most 2010 TV hits are built around a catchy hook — zombies, period drama, mysteries, etc. The hook of “Men of a Certain Age” is a foundation of cliches. Who wants to watch the very personal experiences of middle-aged men when we have our own to deal with on a daily basis? “Men of a Certain Age” is proof that there can be truth in the cliche. It takes talented actors and writers to pull it off but it can be done.

‘Men of a Certain Age’ returns on TNT on Monday, December 6th, 2010 at 9pm CST. It stars Ray Romano, Scott Bakula, Andre Braugher, Lisa Gay Hamilton, and Richard Gant. content director Brian Tallerico

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