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Men of a Certain Age

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Men of a Certain Age

Returns June 1 on TNT

If you’re anything like us, the first thing you thought of when Men of a Certain Age debuted on TNT in December 2009 was Well good, finally a show about Ray Romano and his family life. Seriously, there are enough shows about men and their growing pains already, thank you very much—see also: Two and a Half Men, Mad Men, House, Justified (a special thank you to Timothy Olyphant for staying on television and wearing that hat), etc.—as if men are finally free to have insecurities and emotions and all that crap as opposed to their closed-up and/or absent fathers. But Men of a Certain Age is good. Really, really good.

Romano was on the Late Show with David Letterman just the other night talking about his recent Peabody win for the show and how it’s a totally intellectual award for television, which blows him away. And then he riffed about growing older and the changes that he’s noticed, such as getting emotional while eating pistachios and his balls’ slow race to the ground—which was unfortunate, because he gave the impression that Men is all about dealing with gray ear hair, and it isn’t.

The premise is solid: Three best childhood friends continue to be best friends as they quickly approach their 50s, and the cast is well seasoned and tight. Scott Bakula plays Terry, failed actor and single ladies man; Andre Braugher plays Owen, the family guy, longtime married to his spitfire wife Melissa (Lisa Gay Hamilton), and heir to the Thoreau car dealership built by his domineering ex-Laker father Owen Sr. (Richard Gant); and Romano plays Joe, the divorced father of two teenagers, owner and operator of a party-goods store, and gambler. Yeah, Joe has a gambling problem, and when he bet his house down payment at the end of last season and won, he excitedly told the sweet and funny dental hygienist Dory (Sarah Clarke) he had just started dating all about it like he was proud—and she abruptly stopped returning his phone calls.

A gambling problem is so much more fun to watch than drinking or drugging addiction, but when the second season started in December 2010, Joe had kicked it, was feeling less destroyed by the end of his marriage to Sonia (Penelope Ann Miller), who in turn was feeling less angry with him, and was training to try out for the senior golf tour. Owen was dealing with his retired father haunting the Chevy dealership. And Terry was selling cars. Six episodes later and Joe’s making “mind bets” with himself and hanging with his old bookie Manfro (Jon Manfrellotti), Terry is in love, and Owen is in charge of a business that’s in the red. Three months later and the second half of season two starts June 1 followed by five more episodes—we’ve seen them and they just keep getting better, in turns funny and tragic. Much is at stake in Joe’s life, but he is slow to learn his lessons; Romano should start talking about that when he’s out promoting the show.

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