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Monday, December 14, 2009

Men of a Certain Age

Men of a Certain Age is Ray Romano’s “Stranger in This Town.”

After having the huge television hit, Everybody Loves Raymond, Romano has decided to try something different, much like Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora tried in 1991 when he released his solo, blues-influenced album “Stranger in This Town.”

Yes, Stranger flopped commercially, but its generally considered a good CD. I remember him saying a few years later that he probably leaned too heavily in favor of the purely artistic and not enough on commercial success. But he didn’t really need it to be a success. Bon Jovi had already released multi-platinum disks in Slippery When Wet and New Jersey. Sambora just reached a point in which he wanted to create a product because it was inside him and it had to come out.

That’s the same raw creative emotion that Romano felt.
"This is more in common [with] me than Ray Barone," Romano is quoted as saying in TV Guide recently. "Obviously, I'm not divorced and the situation's a little different, but I think internally . . . there's a point where I'm kind of going through the same doubts that this character is. The same wonderings of where am I going next? That's kind how I felt after Raymond ended. It was exciting to come off of a successful show and something that I was very proud of. But there was a bit of an identity loss there, and a bit of a void from not being able to do something everyday creative."
The program follows the lives of three middle-age men:

[Andre Braugher, from left, Ray Romano and Scott Bakula play three pals who share a mid-life crisis in TNT's new show, Men Of A Certain Age, premiering on December 7, 2009. (Art Streiber/Courtesy TNT/MCT) Photo via Newscom. Content © 2009 Newscom All rights reserved.]

Owen (played by Andre Braugher) is a car salesman at his father's dealership. He's also a husband and father of three kids.

Joe (played by Romano) runs a party store and has a gambling problem which led to him being separated from his wife. He has two children.

Terry (played by Scott Bakula) is an actor who never has enough work and therefore does temp work. He's also a playboy.

I've read several reviews of the pilot episode (which aired a week ago today on TNT; the show will air at 9:00 PM CST on Mondays) and one remark on the Daemon's TV website by someone who has seen more than one episode nailed the reason I enjoyed the pilot: "To be honest, not much happens each episode, this is definitely more of a character study show, so your enjoyment will depend on how compelling you find the characters."

Whether it's reading a novel or watching a television show, I always find character studies more fascinating than plot driven stories.

In the pilot, I found myself winching every time Owen was on screen because he never seems to be good enough for anybody. His father calls him an embarrassment because he's overweight, struggling with Diabetes, and out of breath all the time. Therefore, he's not good enough to take over the family business. Even in the eyes of his wife, I thought I detected a little disappointment in him. I think I'm drawn to Owen because I can identify with him so much, even though I'm not married, nor am I running my father's business. I just feel like him sometimes.

Joe seems to be a likable guy, with the exception of his gambling problem that caused the rift in his marriage. But who can't identify with a person who has a vice of some sort or another?

Terry is a free spirit who may grow on me. I do like the chemistry between him and the barista he visits each day. I'm hoping they become and item and that as a consequence he changes his ways.

Romano considers the show to be a "dramedy," which is probably a good label for it. The pilot drew 5.4 million viewers, so it's off to a great start. I just hope that my seal of approval doesn't kill the show.

That's usually what happens.

If you want to see the pilot episode, you can watch it on the TNT website.


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