Tuned In

The Morning After: Men Coming of Age

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TNT’s Men of a Certain Age finished up its first season last night, having emerged as one of this TV season’s unexpected pleasures. It’s a talky, deliberately paced basset hound of a show—”Low-key” somehow sounds too overdramatic to describe its laid-back sensibility. But it used its comedy-drama explorations of small moments to big effect, with one of the unlikeliest cast combinations on TV.

The obvious surprise was that Ray Romano has dramatic acting chops: with Joe, his gambling-addicted, newly single dad, he took the melancholy streak that was always present in Ray Barone, and simply turned the dial a few notches to show us Joe’s pathos without making him pathetic. It’s not so much of a surprise to see Andre Braugher turn in a great performance, of course, but the twist for him was that the most accomplished dramatic actor in the cast took on the most quiet and introverted of the three lead roles: showing Owen as a tired, but not broken, family man working in his dad’s shadow, he gave a quiet dignity to his life of small humiliations (which made it all the more satisfying to see him assert himself in the finale).

And I have to say, never having been much of a Scott Bakula fan, I was surprised by how likeable he made Terry, the aging actor who could have been thoroughly skeevy as he held his age-inappropriate gal (played by Carla Gallo) in his craggy gaze. (Is there a craggier actor on TV than Bakula? I mean, he’s handsome-craggy, but the man looks like he was carved out of an apple.)  Bakula laced Terry’s optimism with a note of sadness, especially as, having landed a small acting gig, he finally comes to face how his life hasn’t lived up to expectations.

Men, on the other hand, lived up to my expectations and then some, and I look forward to season two. Has anyone in Tuned Inland followed it besides withered old men like me?