I was not expecting to automatically like TNT’s Men of a Certain Age when it debuted last year, not having been a huge fan either of Everybody Loves Raymond nor of most of TNT’s scripted schedule. But the show turned out to be a huge, if modest and low-key, surprise. (Really it should be in the TV dictionary under “modest and low-key.”) It was an honest but funny and non-maudlin picture of friendship in middle age which drew its power from conversation and observed moments, not contrived drama. And while a fine Andre Braugher performance is no surprise, Scott Bakula really impressed me as a long-in-the-tooth actor—and what do you know, Ray Romano acted the hell out of a role that was not simply a retread of Ray Barone.
The show returned last night, with its three male leads going through change—but because this is Men of a Certain Age, not really changing all that much.
Rather, as it did last year, the return episode found the characters trying to continue the personal development they struggled with last year: Joe getting comfortable with being single, Owen trying to establish himself at work outside his father’s shadow, Terry looking for an identity beyond his good looks and his past.
I didn’t blog Men regularly last season for a number of reasons, but I’ll try to check in on it periodically this season if there’s interest. Having seen a couple of episodes of the new season I continue to be impressed with how much it expresses about the characters with feeling the need to ratchet up “the stakes”—you could make a pretty long list of the times in the show where another drama would have gone for a manipulative high-drama moment and Men passed. (Maybe the most out-there storyline this season is Joe’s effort to qualify for the senior golf tour. Golf.)
I hope it’s not an old-man thing to say, and that you don’t have to be an old man to appreciate it, but the truth that Men understands is that just getting through the day is drama enough. Here’s looking forward to another year.