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In anticipation of the premiere of their new marquee dramedy Men of a Certain Age, tonight at 10 PM ET, TNT sent out some early looks at the series. However, rather than send the pilot, they sent along a couple of episodes from the middle of this first season. It turned out to be a nice blend, though, as one was a rather somber affair while the other one was fun and engaging.
Maybe it's because of the generation I'm in, but I think nabbing Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher as the three leads gives your show instant star power. What's even better, in the episodes I saw they had instant chemistry. It was totally believable that the three of them are near-life-long friends.
The idea is that these three guys have been friends since college, and now they find themselves facing the challenges of mid-life. There aren't any stereotypical "midlife crises" in the episodes I saw, but the potential is there for one, or even all three of them to go off the wagon at any time.
That's why I appreciated them sending two different episodes. First up was "Go With the Flow," which IMDb says is the seventh episode, while my press packet gives it the elusive TBD moniker. The episode was simplicity in execution. Romano's character, Joe, is recently divorced and his buddy Terry (Bakula) sets him up on a blind date. What we get is the story of the date as told by Joe to Terry and Owen (Braugher) over a meal the next day.
It was a great showcase for writing, as much of the exposition happened sitting at the table. The characters shone through their great interactions here. What was even more impressive was that Joe's date was one of the most authentic and sweetest first dates I've ever seen on a television, even if it did end with Joe having a black eye. It was equal parts feel-good and awkward throughout, but I found myself really enjoying Joe's character.
"The New Guy," currently slated to be the fifth episode, was more of a showcase for Terry and Owen, as they converged on a school charity. Also there was Joe's wife, which spotlighted a very real reality in divorce. While Terry isn't married, Owen has been for many years, and it would appear that she and Joe's wife became and have remained friends.
This was a much darker installment, with some serious emotional crap coming out, but again the caliber of these actors is more than up to the task of handling it. As much as I want Scott Bakula to come back to Chuck as the titular character's father in this upcoming season, if this show is why he's unavailable, I think I can live without him.
I'm not at my mid-life just yet (I hope), but I'm close enough that I can actually relate to a lot of what these characters are talking about and going through. What's even better is that it's all being addressed so honestly. Like Desperate Housewives tackled women in their 40s as sexual, viable and exciting people, Men of a Certain Age is doing the same for men. And they don't have to be dating younger women, or acting like children to be interesting.
It may be the authenticity that impressed me more than anything about the show. Nothing, so far, is over-the-top, either in the situations, the dialogue or the characters themselves. These guys aren't going on wacky adventures or getting into shenanigans. They're just living their lives, interacting and trying to find a little peace and happiness. And that's good enough for me.