Men of a Certain Age -- An early look
by Allison Waldman, posted Dec 4th 2009 2:02PM
If you ever watched Everybody Loves Raymond -- or currently watch the reruns -- you might wonder what would Raymond become after a while. What would happen if he didn't have Deborah yelling at him and his family keeping him from being a self-indulgent slob who only thought of himself. Men of a Certain Age shows you the dark side of Raymond, only here Ray Romano is called Joe. Joe and his college buddies, Owen and Terry, are on the wrong side of 40 and they know it.
Watching the pilot, I thought of the song "Is That All There Is?" because that sort of the feeling these characters evoke. Is this what it means to be a grown up? The three men are a triptych of the modern American male; one is divorced and wallowing in his loneliness, the other is married and drowning in family and a life that's oppressive, the third appears to be carefree and breezy, but he's dissatisfied with his lack of accomplishment.
As Joe, Romano has the same hound dog appeal that he showed as Raymond, especially in his neurotic second-guessing of himself. Nothing about Joe is uncomplicated, but he's the one whose mucked it up for himself. It's hard to feel for the guy when he's such a schlemiel. But this isn't Raymond. Joe has an edge; he's a mess even if he thinks he has a handle on his life. He doesn't.
Andre Braugher plays Owen. He's the oppressed guy, a dutiful husband, plagued-upon son and father of three. He hates his job, hates his burdens, but he's trapped. Braugher's submerged anger works perfectly here. He also looks ten years older than the 48 years he plays.
Then there's Terry, Scott Bakula. He should have the world on a string, but his boyish good looks are starting to fade and he's tap-dancing more than he's had to in the past. He knows he's squandered his chances.
It's interesting that I found these three men worth watching, funny even, while another TV critic did a preview (in the print edition) and panned the show vociferously. I don't think he liked seeing himself in these guys, but that's not how I saw it. I liked Men of a Certain Age and hope it continues being an unblinking mirror on the men it's exploring. It's not whining and kvetching; it's the way it is for some people.
Men of a Certain Age premieres on Monday, December 7, at 10 p.m. on TNT.