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September 22, 2014

Review: Men of a Certain Age - Pilot (series premiere)

by Jason Hughes, posted Dec 8th 2009 3:10AM
men_of_a_certain_age_car
(S01E01)
I'm not even sure what I just watched. Here was a show about guys being guys, and yet there were no sexual exploits, and no drinking, watching sports or tinkering with cars. It's as if someone took all the stereotypes about men and threw them out the window. Instead what we got was a raw and honest look at manhood.

It was a revelation. More importantly, it was wonderful.

Ray Romano joined forced with one of his Everybody Loves Raymond cohorts, Mike Royce, to write and develop Men of a Certain Age. As if that wasn't a strong enough pedigree, he got the likes of Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula to join him as the three men at the centerpiece of this exploration of middle age.

The obsession in television is with that coveted 18-49 demographic, but in catering to that, networks have been skewing younger and younger over the years. It's actually a refreshing turn that a show featuring Romano (51), Bakula (55) and Braugher (47) even got greenlit. Even better, it throws away any and all expectations and is a show about the everyday mundane existence of these characters.

What wonderful characters they are, too. In just one episode, we got deep into their hearts and souls to find out what makes them tick. Only Terry (Bakula) remains a bit of an enigma, but his character has that free-spirit thing going for him. Unlike the other two, Terry isn't settled down with a wife and kids; he instead chooses to live his life one experience at a time. He seems genuinely happy both at work, when he bothers to show up, but he's carrying the anxieties of having been a former celebrity, of sorts, unable to find work acting now.

Joe (Romano), on the other hand, is a former golfer turned business owner, who's struggling to deal with the aftermath of his broken marriage. While we know he has a problem with gambling, we don't yet know if that had anything to do with the dissolution of his marriage. But he's still trying -- trying to be a part of his teenage kids' lives and trying, in vain, to reconnect with his wife. He's also living in a hotel room; a place he's been at long enough to have memorized his daily wakeup call recording.

The most ordinary life belongs to Owen (Braugher). He works as a salesman at his father's dealership, awaiting the day the old man will finally retire and hand the business to him. He's also an overweight, out-of-shape Type II Diabetic. He eats out of anger and frustration, and through the course of the episode we can see that his father is the primary cause of that. When his father told him that he was an embarrassment, your heart just fell apart. That's a hard, hard man.

But the most tragic, and so beautifully authentic, moment came when Owen told his wife that he was going to quit the dealership and do something else. He just couldn't take it anymore. You could see that while she loved him and wanted desperately to support him in his time of emotional need, it just wasn't possible. Two kids already and a new baby, they needed him to work. Quitting just wasn't an option. He needed that job, so he needed to grin and bear it.

How many shows would do that, and yet in the real world, we do it all the time. I know I've had to stick with work that I didn't like because the family needed the money. Getting by is doing just that. In the middle class, there's often no room for true happiness, just compromise. It was refreshing to see him throw himself into his work, though, making the best of a bad situation.

The thing that works about Men of a Certain Age is that I believe in these characters. I can buy into their long friendship based on the mundane and ridiculous conversations they have. I believe in their struggles, and I'm beginning to understand their personality quirks. By the time Joe was traipsing through the woods looking for that possum he'd run over three times by then, I was no longer surprised to see him doing it.

I do think those lighter moments are necessary, though, as this is painting a pretty bleak picture of middle age. I'm not quite there yet, but if this is all I have to look forward to, I might as well kick the bucket now. I know they're just establishing the foundation of this friendship and the lives of these characters, but I'm hoping for more of those flashes of humor and lighter moments in upcoming episodes.

It seems like this show has been kind of coming in under the radar in the press, though premiering behind The Closer is about the best thing that can happen to a TNT show. And while it may not seem like it on the surface, I think Men of a Certain Age is every bit as sexy and groundbreaking as the top shows out there.

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JWatts

Men, with its new, believable material is truly a welcome change. And just when you thought all the possible themes and scenarios were used up... I've viewed it twice more to better know the 3 characters. I'm hooked.

December 10 2009 at 8:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brenda

I watched it- and was bored within 2 minutes. Although I liked the characters Bakula and Braugher played, Ray Romano once again was a needy psychological mess. Seriously, I have NEVER met a man with issues so deep that he would have a bookie do a hit on a possum he ran over earlier. If they want to keep viewers, they need to keep the problems on THIS side of the reality line.

December 09 2009 at 9:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jo Anne

I have a new Love!!!! I hope this show will remain around.

December 08 2009 at 11:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Daune Calovini

I commented on an earlier post about this show. I was fortunate enough to get a promo disk with the first three episodes, and I have to say that I liked the pilot, but I LOVED the show after two more episodes.

I think it's just so unusual that I was still trying to get comfortable with it, in the pilot. Joe and his gambling and Joe and women make me very uncomfortable. But, I really enjoy the way the guys relate to each other. I have a four year old who has been obsessed with the Hulk, so those bits were really funny to me. And, I like the balance of seeing so many different facets of each guy's life apart and together.

Initially, I thought TNT was making a mistake pairing Men of a Certain Age with The Closer, because I don't know many guys who watch The Closer, and I thought it was aiming for the male audience. But then, why would they put it up against Monday Night Football? It's the women who love this show and the insights into the man's mind. So, it's a perfect pairing. My husband ends up watching The Closer a lot, because I control the remote, if we're not interested in the game. He likes it. He wouldn't watch it on his own, but he likes it. And, I think men forced to watch will enjoy Men of a Certain Age.

I can't wait to see where it goes. Love the soundtrack!

December 08 2009 at 7:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Eileen

A wonderful, character-driven show that I'll definitely be watching. I love all three actors and found the pilot compelling. Perhaps, like AMC, TNT took a brave step in green-lighting this show, hoping it'd take off the way Mad Men did. I sincerely hope it does!

December 08 2009 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gina

I did like it. (I am a 40 yo woman) I thought it was great not to have to suffer through fart jokes and really see these men as they go through the lives they made for themselves. Will definitely watch again.

December 08 2009 at 2:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

This is good stuff. They spent the right amount of time explaining the characters. They look to be in reverse order of actual age, with Bakula the youngest and Braugher the oldest. I will watch it again though not yet set to record all episodes. Sadly,this is what network TV used to do . . . thoughtful real-life stories with some comedy to get the characters through the day.
To answer an earlier quesion, I think Joe told the bookie he didn't have the money because he wanted to try another risk, knowing he had the safety net all along

December 08 2009 at 12:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lmike14

This 55 yr old, midle class male kinda, sorta liked it. Still, I can't think of any compelling reason to commit an hour a week to further viewings. Funnier might help.

December 08 2009 at 11:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tool

I liked it. A little slow for a pilot. Where was the hook?

Not sure who the writers are writing for. Is the audience men or women? While they could fall into the trap of lots of hot women, cars and fart jokes, they seem to be going a little deeper. Will definitely watch again next week.

December 08 2009 at 11:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Glenn

What a good show. I hadn't had very high expectations for it (Ray Romano in standup, for me, is barely tolerable), but the show was good enough that I'll be watching it again. And it's nice to see Bakula and Braugher back on TV again. Good show.

December 08 2009 at 9:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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