Men of a Certain Age returns for its second season tonight on TNT and it picks up right where season one left off. I’m not talking about some suspenseful cliffhanger that left fans hanging all summer. Instead, I’m talking about quality. Men of a Certain Age is not only one of the finest hours on television, it’s a strong contender for becoming my favorite television series now that Lost has gone off to that great shining light and Friday Night Lights has entered its final quarter of play. This TNT drama starring Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher is made from the same cloth as FNL, combining drama and comedy to create a realistic portrait of men entering middle age.
In watching the season premiere and the second episode (which airs next Monday), I also kept recalling Barry Levinson’s Diner. In addition to scenes of the three lead characters meeting up to commiserate and catch up over food at a local diner, the tone and handling of the characters as real people and not just stock characters recalls the naturalistic story and direction of Levinson’s classic film.
When season one came to a close, Romano’s Joe had come to terms with his gambling addiction and taken the steps to deal with it, Braugher’s Owen had been handed the keys to running his father’s successful car dealership, and Bakula’s Terry decided to abandon acting and get a full time job working for Owen. As season 2 opens, Joe has traded his gambling addition for a new obsession: trying to improve his golf game to make the senior golf circuit. He has a couple run-in’s with his old bookie that may or may not lead to trouble down the road, we’ll see. At the same time, newly divorced Joe is still trying to navigate the world of dating in the 21st Century.
For Owen, he has huge shoes to fill taking over the family business. He’s unsure of himself, struggling to gain the respect of his employees now that he’s running things. As for Terry, well, he’s still trying to get a handle on waking up at six in the morning on a regular basis. All signs pointed to him quitting the dealership by the end of the premiere, but a sudden change of heart may mean he’s selling cars for awhile.
In addition to the professional lives, there are also the home lives of the three friends. In episode two, the writers revisit his son Albert’s anxiety disorder, a plotline that was integral to season one and the development between the father and son on the show. Braeden LeMasters, who plays Albert, does an excellent job of showing us Albert’s fears and the small little victories he achieves. Moreover, the rapport that he and Romono share on screen is touching. It’s nice to see another authentic depiction of parenthood come to the small screen.
The same can be said about the examination of married life. In episode two, Owen and his wife, Melissa (Lisa Gay Hamilton), deal with her decision to return to work just as Owen’s job is beginning to consume his life. The handling of this big decision (they have three kids, including a toddler) is handled gracefully with humor and some tears. I adore watching Hamilton and the great Braugher act together. As a TV couple, they may become my favorite fictional spouses on a series once Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton of FNL are only available on Netflix.
Men of a Certain Age doesn’t hit a false note. Laughs, drama and heartfelt moments; the show has everything you want in an hour long series. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Romano and his co-creator, Mike Royce, have in store for the rest of the season.