Wednesday, June 1, 2011
"Men of a Certain Age" returns
"Men of a Certain Age," that fine celebration of American male middle age, returns for the second half of its second season tonight at 10 on TNT, and it finds our three heroes -- played with rumpled charm by Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher -- facing some important crossroads.
Owen (Braugher), is coming into his own running his dad's Chevrolet dealership, but still finds himself hamstrung by his father's unwillingness to fully hand over the reins. It doesn't help that some of dad's business decisions have put the dealership in a bad position that Owen is trying to dig his way out of.
Terry (Bakula) is, for once, in love with a woman close to his age and is trying to feel his way through a committed relationship. However, his love interest Erin (Melinda McGraw) might not be as ready to commit as he is. And, of course, Joe (Romano) is struggling with trying to qualify for the senior tour, while being a dad to his two teenage kids and still battling his gambling addiction.
The show is funny, smart and realistic in the way it looks at these guys' troubles. None of them are blameless for their troubles and, sometimes, watching them screw up gets a little uncomfortable. That's especially true of Joe, whose gambling story line takes a dark and somewhat disturbing turn this season. But there's a lot of humor here, too, and one of the joys of the show is watching the easy chemistry between the three stars. I've spoken before of Braugher's surprisingly deft comic touch, never on display in his more dramatic roles. And Romano's comedy chops are, of course, a matter of record after his hit sitcom and long stand-up career. But this set of episodes really reminds us how deft Bakula is as both a comedic and dramatic actor. He gets a lot of good material in these episodes, as his character struggles with the knowledge that he needs to grow up, but quick. There are a couple of episodes where Terry is in free fall and Bakula is amazingly raw, uninhibited and unafraid. He doesn't care if Terry comes off as a jerk, but also gives us a glimpse into the scared man lurking under the guise of this heedless arrested adolescent.
"Men" is a solid, appealing show with one of the bravest casts on television. In a summer season that often provides few outstanding view options for adults, "Men" is a smart, refreshing choice.