TNT’s drama about three aging men, appropriately enough titled Men of a Certain Age, returns for a second season tomorrow (Monday) night. After a ten episode season last winter, many people may not remember the show, and I think that will probably hurt it. Unlike other dramas, it’s not must-see TV, or exciting enough to warrant an event. Though that sounds like an insult, it’s not meant to be. Instead, it’s a really nice, tonally calm story of three men and how they deal with getting older. Which, unfortunately, is not something I would expect to do well after taking nine months off between seasons.
As season two begins, all three of the main characters are dealing with the effects of decisions made at the end of season one. Owen (Andre Braugher) has taken over his father’s car dealership, and as you might expect, he’s having a rough time of it. Sales are down, which isn’t surprising, considering our current economy, although that is never mentioned on screen as a reason for the down turn. In the first new episode, Owen’s father, Owen Sr. (Richard Gant), tells Owen he must woo back old rival (and top seller) Marcus (Brian J. White). If you watched the show, you’ll remember that Owen and Marcus don’t have much affection for each other, and that’s putting it nicely. As such, their meeting is not exactly warm, though I won’t reveal the result. In episode two, Owen is dealing with Jesse (Patrick Gallagher, Glee), a new character who runs the repair shop at the dealership. Let’s just say that the service guys and the sales guys don’t play nicely with one another.
Terry (Scott Bakula) took a job from Owen, and is now trying to make a go of it as a car salesman. As the first episode plays out, Terry has had not a single sale, and things aren’t going too well. It’s not from lack of effort; Terry is taking the work schedule seriously and really trying his best. He just can’t get over the fact that he feels like he’s taking advantage of people if he pushes a sale. While no easy solution to this issue is in sight, Owen Sr. is encouraging. Things aren’t made any easier by the rest of the staff, who haze Terry pretty good, dredging up his past online. Owen stays out of it, thinking that the boss jumping in to defend his friend would probably only make things worse. He’s likely right.
What’s nice about these plots is that Owen and Terry are in the same environment, going through some of the same things. While season one had three distinctly different threads, and that element is not totally gone, Terry’s and Owen’s threads now intertwine more often, making a more tightly connected show. Both Braugher and Bakula handle their characters with such depth and genuine feeling, that even though the story may be somewhat slow paced, I was riveted by both men.
That does leave Joe (Ray Romano) by himself more, though, than the other guys. Which is fine, as Joe has quite a bit to work with. His divorce seems finalized, and he has moved from a hotel into what appears to be a condo. He has several different love interests in the first two episodes, including some familiar faces, though only one is developed much. Thankfully, as most TV dramas spend a lot of time on adult dating already, and it’s nice to see this one doesn’t need to every week. Joe’s store still requires plenty of attention, and his children are going through their own issues. Add to that that he really needs some work to get back in shape for that golf tournament he began talking about last year, and his plate is plenty full.
Sadly, Owen’s wife, Melissa (Lisa Gay Hamilton), does not appear in the first week, but does get an interesting story in episode two. Her plot has just as much to do with her age as any of the guys’ ever does. I consider her fairly essential to the show, too, as Hamilton holds her own in every scene she appears in. Perhaps the title should be less gender specific.
Although the main men’s children rarely get much meat in the stories, Joe’s son, Albert (Braeden Lemasters), does get to work on his anti-social behavior in episode two, which will find him at a party. Yes, alcohol is involved, and no, his parents did not give him permission to attend. The way Joe deals with the situation is incredibly well done, but the writers have also painted a picture far from black and white. Should Joe be proud of the progress his son has made to even attend the party, or furious at his unacceptable actions? My guess is, the viewers who are parents will understand the mixed emotions, but side with Joe’s reaction.
The thing about Men of a Certain Age is that it feels so incredibly real. An extremely talented cast, who must surely allow real life to influence their performances, keeps this anti-drama drama going strong. Season one suffered a little as the show figured itself out. In fact, episodes were aired out of production order, and I doubt anyone noticed. But those growing pains are gone by now, leaving a confirmed serial. The first two episodes were tightly scripted, and set up some good arcs for the season.
And someone gets glasses.
Be sure to watch Men of a Certain Age, which airs Monday nights at 10pm on TNT.