After viewing the pilot episode of Men Of A Certain Age, I wondered what Ray Romano had in mind when he conceived the show. Is it a comedy? Drama? Neither word truly defines it. "Bland" pretty much does.
The screener arrived with no additional information about Men, which made getting to know the main characters something of a challenge. Granted, cramming information about three very different guys into twenty minutes could not have been a simple task. But the important facts were as murky as L.A. smog. For instance, I came away from the show recalling only one of the protagonist's names and had no idea what another did for a living.
It’s not as if the show lacks star power. Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher are heavy hitters who do their best to add substance to the scant material. They play three middle-age men who have been friends since their college days.
Romano is Joe, the beleaguered convenience store owner. From his slouch and sad-eyed demeanor, he seems to have enough troubles to fill an entire season’s worth of episodes.
Bakula’s Terry suffers from a critical case of midlife crisis. He is a womanizer, a forty-something who will do all he can to remain twenty-five forever. Behind his back, his friends say they hate him for his way with the ladies. But he comes off more like a smarmy slacker than a Casanova.
Andre Braugher’s Owen is the only one of the trio to earn likability points from me. He is a family man working as a salesman in a car dealership owned by his father. When Owen can’t convince an elderly couple to close a sale (“It’s all so confusing”, they maintain), Dad takes him off the case, replacing him with a younger, more charismatic (and less desperate) salesman. Right there you have to feel for Owen and wonder where he might have gone wrong to end up so beholden to his old man.
The show’s comedic moments seem forced. A bit about Joe hitting a possum with his car then, feeling guilty, running over it again to make sure it is dead is just plain dumb (the animal miraculously survives the battering and scampers away).
Romano, Bakula and Braugher are superb actors who have what it takes to make this show work. But they can't do it alone. It remains to be seen whether subsequent episodes will benefit from better writing and a higher likability quotient for the characters. Here’s hoping it happens.
Men Of A Certain Age premieres Monday, December 7th at 10:00 P.M. on TNT.