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Five Reasons to Watch 'Men of a Certain Age' From Star Ray Romano

Date May 31, 2011
Five Reasons to Watch 'Men of a Certain Age' From Star Ray Romano 1. The first reason to watch 'Men of a Certain Age'? Well, if you don't want me hounding you -- yes, you personally -- to check out the show's terrific mix of bittersweet humor and low-key but effective drama, then you had better get with the program when 'Men' returns 10PM ET Wednesday on TNT.

2. The second reason to watch the show, which...

Five Reasons to Watch 'Men of a Certain Age' From Star Ray Romano 1. The first reason to watch 'Men of a Certain Age'? Well, if you don't want me hounding you -- yes, you personally -- to check out the show's terrific mix of bittersweet humor and low-key but effective drama, then you had better get with the program when 'Men' returns 10PM ET Wednesday on TNT.

2. The second reason to watch the show, which recently won a Peabody Award: Star Ray Romano says it's not hard to jump right in with the new set of six episodes TNT is airing this summer, even if you've never seen 'Men' before.

"It's not too convoluted," the former 'Everybody Loves Raymond' star said in a recent interview. "It's easily catch-up-able."

Not only is TNT showing several episodes late Tuesday night, in case you want to check out a few installments of 'Men' before the new episodes arrive, this isn't a show with a complicated mythology. All you really need to know is that it chronicles the lives of three friends -- car dealership manager Owen (Andre Braugher), actor-turned-car-salesman Terry (Scott Bakula) and recently divorced party-store owner Joe (Romano) -- who navigate the middle stages of their lives with a good deal of self-deprecating humor and stalwart (if sometimes acerbic) support from each other.

Though the show is full of subtle and satisfying stories and digressions, that's pretty much it. Don't think that you'll be left behind as season 2 resumes. As Romano said, "There isn't a lot left unanswered from" the show's winter run of episodes. Terry, the aging playboy of the trio, still in a tentative relationship with a former actress, Erin (Melinda McGraw), Owen is still dealing with the financial mess his father left when he retired from the car dealership, and Joe's still trying to navigate the dating scene, deal with his gambling issues and help out a sick friend. On the dating front, a woman from Joe's past, Dory (Sarah Clarke), will be back to complicate his continuously awkward dating life.

"There was definitely a connection made there, and it ended abruptly, and it was Joe's fault that it ended that way," Romano said. "She's still out there, and we will see that he hasn't forgotten about her."

3. The third reasonto watch this show? It's has more heart than you might think. Romano said that while the TNT promos for 'Men' "like to show the light moments," the show's "battle" has been to get viewers to see that there's more to it than that.

"I want the people to know that there's comedy in it.... But I think there's a tendency to think it's just three guys talking about boobs and Viagra, you know? And it's not," Romano said. "There's depth to it, there's heart, there's trauma and there's comedy in it."

That's certainly true: Very few shows are better at depicting life's small victories and the unspoken fears of adults who've begun to spend a fair amount of time contemplating their mortality, the worth of their accomplishments and the expansion of their waistlines. Still, even though the final scene of Wednesday's episode made me choke up a little, much of the show's tone is of weary yet winning bemusement.

Five Reasons to Watch 'Men of a Certain Age' From Star Ray Romano It took some time to perfect that tone, Romano admits. TNT's early feedback on the show, he reports was that it was "too glum." "I guess that's the opposite of the show 'Glee,'" Romano said. "I give [the network] credit, because we did find a good balance. There's a sense of hope for each guy. There are going to be moments where one of the guys might be in a bad place, but it's not melodramatic and it's not hopeless."

4. The fourth reason to watch the show: Despite the name, the show isn't just for guys. Most adults will find the predicaments of Joe, Owen and Terry eminently relatable, and 'Men's' supporting cast is full of female characters who are every bit as nuanced as the men (LisaGay Hamilton, who plays Owen's wife, and McGraw have been particularly excellent this season). The ladies might not get "diner time" -- every episode features a scene or two of the guys trading stories and jokes at their favorite restaurant -- but the show takes the women's lives and desires seriously.

5. A fifth reason to watch this show -- and it's a big one: There's some terrific acting on display. Bakula's character could have been just another shaggy-haired Casanova, but he gives Terry's mid-life reinvention and his tentative steps toward full adulthood real resonance, and his budding relationship with Erin, who's as skittish as he is (though for different reasons) has been one of the show's most interesting developments. We expect Braugher to be an amazing dramatic actor, but one of 'Men's' most enjoyable revelations has been that the former 'Homicide' actor is a very skilled, subtle comedian. Owen's scenes with his father (Richard Gant) are full of perfectly pitched exasperation and well-concealed love.

For his part, Romano said that he didn't want to do another multi-camera comedy, and 'Men's' very different single-camera style was one of the most appealing things about it.

On a sitcom, "there is no real subtlety -- maybe occasionally, but you're doing, like, a play in front of a live audience. You've got to heighten things up and be a little broader than you really would be. I love that [on 'Men'], we can show things with just a look, a close-up, a moment," Romano noted. "People say, 'Would guys really sit around and talk like that?' We're not having an Oprah session. We might say one [personal] thing, but then the next thing is, we're pissed off that our salad doesn't have dressing on it. We do things in as minimal a way as possible."

Five Reasons to Watch 'Men of a Certain Age' From Star Ray Romano One more bonus reason to watch 'Men': It's probably coming back for a third season next year, and when it does, episodes won't be split between a summer run and winter half-season.

Romano said TNT realized last year that the show would probably work better as a summer offering but the network didn't want to have the show off for a year and a half, hence the decision to divide season 2 into two segments.

"It's not great," Romano said of the long break between the winter episodes and the current half-season. "You feel like you get a little momentum going, and then it's off again, and you don't know if those viewers are going to come back. But ultimately, [going forward] it's going to be better that it's going to be on in June. At least that's what they tell me."

By the way, that third season isn't official yet, but Romano said the show's recent Peabody win has probably helped in that department.

"They're very excited about [the award] at TNT," Romano said. "We assume this all means there's no way they can't renew us, but you know, it's showbiz."

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