Created by Ray Romano and Mike Royce, and starring Romano, Scott Bakula, and Andre Braugher, TNT's Men of a Certain Age examines exactly what it title suggests – men of a certain age. In this case, the age happens to be their late 40s, or if you prefer, "middle-aged." While it may be wishful thinking on the part of these three men to think that they are only entering middle-age in their late 40s (and of the three leads, only Braugher is actually still in his 40s), if you can suspend disbelief long enough to get past that, you will actually get to experience an enjoyable show.
The three actors star as Joe (Romano), Owen (Braugher), and Terry (Bakula), three friends from college who have managed to stay close for the decades that have elapsed since their graduation. Joe is the about-to-be-divorced father of two and owns a party supply store; Owen is the happily married father of three who works as a car salesman at his father's dealership; and Terry is the single, virtually washed-up actor who works as a temp in order to make ends meet. It is a simple enough setup, and even if the characters initially appear somewhat stereotypical (and they do), the show quickly dives beyond those broad generalizations to create interesting and believable storylines for the characters.
The best of those stories over the course of the first three episodes belong to Braugher's Owen. Owen's father, Owen Sr. (Richard Gant), is an overbearing man who is disappointed in his son's apparent lack of work ethic. Senior treats his son more harshly than everyone else on the lot which, rather than inspiring his son, tends to depress him. The two have an incredibly uneasy professional relationship and consequently seem to have virtually no personal one. Braugher handles the upset about his character's job and father beautifully. Owen is upset and angry and resentful and yet still desperately wants his father's approval.
Romano's Joe, at least in the first few episodes, is a far more stereotypical character as he copes with his impending divorce and tries to find his footing in the world again. He is unsure about how to relate to his kids but does his best to be an everyday – or almost everyday – part of their lives. Joe is a good father, but as any father can tell you, being a good father isn't always the same as feeling as though one has done a good job. Even so, Joe does in fact perform admirably as a parent. From the audience's perspective, the far larger issue with Joe's character is his multi-episode, ever-building gambling problem. Perhaps the worst of the storylines in the show, Joe has had gambling issues in the past and as he is trying to rebuild his life, those issues are starting to reemerge. While being a divorcing middle-aged father has, of course, been done before, the gambling issue feels like one television cliché too many.
As with so many drama series these days, Men of a Certain Age isn't strictly a drama. Though more serious than funny, the show does manage a couple of good laughs in its first few episodes. Many of those are provided by Bakula's Terry. Terry's acting career may not have turned out quite as well as he would have liked and it is something that definitely irks him, but he still manages to coast through life without seeming to get overly concerned about it. He dates younger women, slacks off at his temp job, and still has many admirers even if he doesn't have a job in the entertainment industry.
Despite any issues the show may have with its establishing of the main characters as individuals and not stereotypes, it is the friendship between the men that makes it all work. Whatever their issues may be, the three men are always there for each other, even if it is only to make a joke at their friend's expense. Joe, Owen, and Terry all do care for each other, and are always willing to give advice to each other (though they often seem unwilling to listen when they receive advice). It is the friendship that sees these men through and it is their interactions with one another that make Men of a Certain Age worth watching. Some of their personal storylines work and some don't, but when the men come together to discuss their lives the show excels.
Men of a Certain Age premieres December 7 at 10pm on TNT.