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Reviewed by Will Harris
iven that the broadcast networks have all but placed a moratorium on producing any series that makes a conscious effort to appeal to an older demographic, it should come as no surprise that it would take a cable channel (TNT) to have the balls to greenlight a show entitled “Men of a Certain Age.” You’d think the actors who play the “Men” in question – Ray Romano, Scott Bakula, and Andre Braugher – would have been enough to inspire rating confidence in any network, but no, the stigma of three men in their 40s focusing on the fact that they’re getting older was too hot to handle. After watching “Men of a Certain Age: The Complete First Season,” however, you’ll be shocked that anyone would pass on a show as well-written as this one.
So who are these men?
First, there’s Joe Tranelli (Romano), a recently-divorced father of two who’s easing back into the world of dating. He owns a party supply store and is doing okay financially, but he’d be doing a heck of a lot better if he wasn’t constantly gambling away his profits. Then, there’s Owen Thoreau, Jr. (Braugher), happily married but unhappily employed at his father’s car dealership. Lastly, there’s Terry Elliot (Bakula), a struggling actor who’s playing the field both with his relationships and with his career. These guys have basically known each other for their entire lives, and given the performances in this show, you’d think the same was true for the actors who play the characters, too.
They say that slow and steady wins the race, and that’s very much the case with “Men of a Certain Age.” This is a study of these three characters, each of which has been thoroughly fleshed out by the end of the season. At first, we’re sympathetic to Joe because his wife has left him and he’s all alone, but as things progress, we realize that he’s responsible for a great deal of the situation in which he finds himself, having gambled away his marriage to the point where, outside of Owen and Terry, the closest friend he’s got is his bookie. We want to think that Owen’s father is the bad guy, not respecting his son enough to give him the reigns to the dealership, but we soon discover that, frankly, Owen’s not a great salesman, he’s got a sense of entitlement that keeps him from putting his full effort into his job, and he doesn’t give a shit about his health, which leaves him lethargic as often as not. And Terry? Geez, that guy’s the worst of all. He wants to be an actor, but he doesn’t want to audition. He wants a relationship, but he doesn’t want the monogamy. He wants to be financially solvent, but he doesn’t want the responsibility it requires to make that kind of money.
The tone of “Men of a Certain Age” is very much that of a dramedy, but if you’re looking for the funniest episode of the season, there’s no contest: it’s “Go with the Flow,” where Joe goes on his first proper date since his divorce and gets a black eye in the process. Henceforth, you will never be able to hear the words “leg cramp” without laughing yourself silly.
There’s no excuse for the fact that “Men of a Certain Age” only pulled in a single Emmy nod in its first season. Kudos to Braugher for getting noticed, but the series as a whole deserves recognition: the cast is fantastic, and the writing is, too. The show may be slightly out of place on TNT, given that the network’s other series tend to be more action-driven, but hey, they put it on their air, so kudos to them for recognizing its excellence.
Special Features: Though not packed to the gills, the first season of “Men of a Certain Age” does offer a few bonus items, most notably two audio commentaries which feature the trio of Romano, Braugher, and Bakula and are consistently hilarious throughout. There are also a few behind-the-scenes featurettes which have been recycled from the original promo campaign for the series, as well as several deleted scenes and a gag reel.