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TV Review: Men of a Certain Age – “The Great Escape”

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TNT’s Men of a Certain Age is back. Although the first season is uneven, the second is solid, including the mid-season premiere tonight, “The Great Escape.” In the episode, Owen (Andre Braugher) considers an offer to sell the dealership. His wife, Melissa (Lisa Gay Hamilton), is totally on board when she realizes Owen will be home with the kids, so she can pursue her writing career. Joe (Ray Romano) comforts his sick friend, Manfro (Jon Manfrellotti), on the eve of his chemo. He also offers solace to his ex-wife, Sonia (Penelope Ann Miller), who has just broken up with the guy she left Joe for. Terry (Scott Bakula) is ready to get serious with Erin (Melinda McGraw), just as she decides to go back to her ex.

While much of the series is not about the three central men’s love life, this episode very much is. And why not? Two of them are single, one by divorce, one because he’s a habitual bachelor. At this point in their lives, it’s time to settle down, not sow the wild oats. As such, it is perfectly reasonable that both Terry and Joe are interested in long-term relationships.

Joe should not go back to Sonia, no matter how much he wants to. His wife cheated on him, and he is far too willing to forgive her mistakes. She trades a stable married life to Joe for a mid-life crisis that is now falling apart. Joe is a nice guy, and he deserves better. While both feel it would be awkward to act on their rekindled feelings now, Joe is certainly planning on letting things build, and trying again. If he does so, Owen and Terry should stage an intervention and stop it.

Very touching is Manfro’s story. It is nice that the bookie is back in Joe’s life, despite Joe’s gambling problems, because Manfro is a good, non-judgmental friend. Unlike Terry and Owen, he has not known Joe his entire life, so his judgment is not clouded by history. He, more than the other two, could possibly talk Joe out of a reconciliation with Sonia. Or at least keep an open mind about it, if that’s what Joe needs.

Even better, Manfro gets his own love interest this week. On the eve of receiving chemo treatment, he meets a kind stripper with a heart of gold. While she does keep relating Manfro’s situation to her father’s, at least she knows what she is getting into, so there will be no surprises. She won’t leave him halfway through treatment. It’s just what Manfro needs, and hopefully more of the happy couple is on docket for later this season.

Sadly for Terry, Erin is not going to happen. While she appears perfect for him, she’s already taken. Perhaps he can go back and see Annie (Carla Gallo), who he runs into this week, at the coffee shop to help him get over Erin? As delightful as Gallo is, she is likely not poised to join the cast full time, and so a long-term relationship between the two probably won’t happen. But in the meantime, any episodes Gallo wants to do will be welcome.

Terry needs to find a girl like Erin, but one who is not in love with someone else. His potential mate will likely be divorced, as it is unrealistic to expect a nice, pretty girl good enough for Terry will still be single at fifty. Unless this woman is in the same boat as Terry, ready to settle down after a long time of playing the field. Her past may make Terry uncomfortable, and provide some growth. Honestly, the second option might be better in the long-term.

Poor Owen cannot escape from his father’s shadow. As much as he’d like to sell the dealership for his family, when the times comes for Owen to tell Owen Sr. (Richard Gant), he only says he is determined to bring a body shop into the mix. Is this the truth? Or he is avoiding a difficult situation? It appears Owen and Melissa have made up their minds, but then Owen chickens out when announcing the decision. It’s hard to tell if he is serious with his father or not.

If Owen does go through with selling, it will likely wound his father very deeply, and justly so. Owen Sr. only recently gives Own the dealership, and if Owen parts with it so quickly, it’s kind of being rude with a gift. On the other hand, Owen Sr. springs a bad financial surprise on Owen post-deal, so it’s understandable that Owen is tempted to get out from under the debt. It’s a complex situation with no right answer. Unhappiness will follow either decision. Let’s hope Owen and Owen Sr., who are finally getting along, can weather the storm and keep their relationship on firm ground.

Melissa, of course, is also a part of the equation. She has given up her life to take care of the kids for many years, and she is right to expect Owen to take a turn when a good opportunity arises. As his wife, Owen should likely put more weight on hurting Melissa than his father. She deserves the chance to do something she is passionate about, and not selling will deeply disappoint her.

Men of a Certain Age is off to a great start! Tune in Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on TNT.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com