Men of a Certain Age
is actor-comedian Ray Romano's exceptional second TV act, a bracingly honest comedy-drama about the joys and pitfalls of middle age. Created by Romano and Mike Royce, an Emmy®-winning writer and producer on Everybody Loves Raymond
, the series follows three college friends as they wade into the deep end of their 40s--recent divorcé Romano, who pines for his lost marriage and missed life opportunities; car salesman Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street
), who chafes under the command of his boss, who's also his father; and actor Scott Bakula (Enterprise
), who clings to a Lothario lifestyle while facing a faltering career. Although the show addresses many of the expected issues associated with men in their middle years, from impotence and workplace relevance to maturing children, the tone is respectful and bittersweet, and mines the material for its human qualities instead of sitcom gags. Emmy winner Braugher and Golden Globe recipient Bakula handle both sides of the show with typical skill, but it's Romano who offers the greatest surprise; his performance--light-years from the hapless Ray Barone--sketches a man struggling to carve out a new identity in subtle, carefully balanced tones. Fans of Raymond
may not find an abundance of laugh-out-loud moments here, but the interplay between the leads generates many wry moments, and the supporting cast, in particular Jon Manfrellotti as Romano's Runyon-esque bookie, shoulder much of the humor with ease. Given the time to develop its already appealing characters over the course of several seasons, Men of a Certain Age
could become a top television drama, one that could stand comfortably next to Romano's achievements in comedy.
The two-disc set of Men's first season offers a handful of entertainment extras, most notably a pair of very funny commentaries by Romano, Royce, Braugher, and Bakula for the pilot and season finale. In between good-natured digs at Braugher's Julliard education, the show runners discuss changes made to the pilot and the origin of several story elements (in particular, the pilot's seemingly indestructible possum). The deleted scenes offer the material cut from the pilot, as well as from subsequent episodes; all contain intriguing bits of character development and dialogue instead of the usual extraneous throwaways. Gag reels are usually painful experiences, but Romano's comic skills make this a highlight, as does a jaw-dropping barrage of improvisations by Manfrellotti during the Chinese restaurant scene from "The New Guy." A brace of short, network-provided interviews with the leads, as well as a series overview, closes out the set. --Paul Gaita
Men of a Certain Age
explores the unique bonds of male friendship among three men experiencing the changes and challenges of mid-life. They have been best friends since college but now, in their 40s, are navigating through the second act of their lives. Joe (Romano) is a friendly, slightly neurotic, recently separated father of two who had dreams of being a professional golfer. Now he owns and runs a party store. Terry (Bakula) is a laid-back, handsome actor who seems to breeze through life (and women). Lately, he’s spending more time working as a temp than as an actor. And Owen (Braugher) is an overstressed husband and father of three who endures constant criticism from his father, for whom he works as a car salesman.