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Get With the Program: Men of a Certain Age, Season One 

Photo Credit: TNT

We’re not sure why we never gave this show a chance. Perhaps we’re the wrong demo, perhaps we missed the promos. We watch TNT and enjoy quite a few of the shows (namely the Supernatural repeats, Rizzoli and Isles, The Closer, and Leverage) so we’re not sure why we didn’t think this show was for us. It could be that we’re women who aren’t currently going through a midlife crisis. Whatever the reason we dismissed this show, we were wrong. We’re ready to Get with the Program.

So, we mentioned we’re not guys right? We really think that’s the reason we didn’t even consider giving Men of a Certain Age a chance. What do we know about how men act? Nothing. What do we know about a mid-life crisis? Nothing. We know, we know. We don’t have to be a doctor or cop or lawyer to enjoy procedurals or dramas so why do we have to be men to enjoy this show? We don’t.

SPOILER ALERT: We discuss events from the first season. You’ve been warned.

Tina’s Take

I’m a little mad at myself for not watching this show when it first hit the airwaves. I had a little bit of a block, I guess. I’m not going to lie. I love Scott Bakula from way back (Quantum Leap); I love Andre Braugher from way back (Homicide: Life on the Streets); but I never tuned into Everybody Loves Raymond except for a couple times; so maybe the fact I don’t really know anything about Ray Romano had something to do with it.

 What I enjoy

  • I know this is superficial but I love the title of the show. It’s perfect.
  • The chemistry is there. It’s like these guys have been acting together for years.
  • I really do enjoy seeing Romano in this different scenario. He can handle the drama but puts his own little comedic flair into it as well.
  • In the beginning of the season, the characters are all kind of sad (and a touch pathetic) in their own little ways. By the end of episode ten, there’s a transition, there’s some hope for the future. It’s cool to watch the characters’ journeys.
  • This show knows how to get real; there are some uncomfortable moments where I just wanted to hit fast forward but I wouldn’t let myself. And I’m so glad I didn’t FF because it was refreshing to see how each character handled their sometimes dire situations.
Photo Credit: TNT
  • Joe: His awkwardness with his wife is interesting. They’re separated and for now, it looks like things are going to stay that way. I really enjoyed Joe moving on and starting to date Dory (Sarah Clarke); I wonder if she’s going to pop back up again in Season 2. But what I love most about Joe is his relationship with his son who suffers from some sort of anxiety disorder. It’s great they both have golf in common and I adore the fact that Season 1 ended on those two.
Photo Credit: TNT
  • Owen: This is a testament to how amazing an actor Andre Braugher really is. I’m used to seeing him as this commanding presence as evidenced on Homicide. But here, as Owen, he’s nothing like that. In fact, his dad’s the one that’s in control at the car dealership. Owen is in this humiliating position at work where for the longest time it feels like his dad doesn’t even like him. He certainly doesn’t think enough of him to choose him as his successor. That’s why the way the character ends up in the finale is so satisfying. Also, Owen’s out of shape and suffering from obesity, diabetes, severe sleep apnea (he has to wear a C-Pap to sleep so he can breathe through the night); and probably high cholesterol and high blood pressure too. It’s rare to see a character at this certain age portrayed this way. Kudos to Braugher for playing such a real guy. A guy with lots of health issues and life issues yet has such a strong core family.
Photo Credit: TNT
  • Terry: This is a good role for Bakula. I’m really just glad to see him again after his character was killed off Chuck. Here, he’s playing an aging out-of-work actor who doesn’t quite want to give up his dreams of making it big. He does a little of this and a little of that like accounting, yoga teaching, building managing. His big “relationship” is with a 25-year-old who doesn’t let him get away with a lot. He’s almost fifty and he’s still just so very lost. Terry’s overly charming ways and lackadaisical life are enough to want to make me not like him. But Bakula finds a way to get me to like Terry. Even as he skates through his LA existence with a small bump in the road every now and then. I wonder how long he’s going to last working with Owen at the car dealership.
  • The non-Big 3: As much as I’m digging the trifecta of Bakula, Braugher and Romano, I’m really liking the rest of the cast and the guest star roles as well, most notably, Lisa Gay Hamilton as Owen’s wife. But also Richard Gant as Owen Thoreau, Sr., Penelope Anne Miller as Joe’s wife; and the women that float in and out of the vicinity of these men: Sarah Clarke as Dory, Alanna Ubach as Michelle and Cynthia Watros as the actress who shut down Terry because she had a significant other already.
  • The diner and hiking scenes: For lack of a better comparison, these scenes are the mid-life male equivalent of the Golden Girls sitting around a table eating cheesecake venting to each other; or the Sex and the City girls gathering around a table for brunch and talking about men. Love that Norm’s and Fryman Canyon are the locations where Joe, Terry and Owen often commiserate and compare their lives. These scenes tie the show together and are simply fun to watch.

Some Issues

Occasionally I wonder how these three even became friends in the first place. I don’t know anything about Season 2, so I don’t know if this has been done already, but I’d love to see some sort of origin episode. Also, this is just a me thing but I’m not a big fan of stories that are focused on gambling or gambling addiction so I kept hoping and praying that things wouldn’t get too crazy out of control for Joe. Thankfully, I liked so many of his other relationships/storylines that I just endured the gambling stuff. The sports thing I love. The gambling thing I don’t love. But that’s just me. It gives me much pain to even see a TV character’s hopes and dreams riding on whether the Knicks are going to cover the spread. In the finale, Joe says he’s giving up the gambling. Let’s see if that’s going to last.

Having said that, as much as I’m not into the gambling side of the story, I thoroughly enjoy the relationship Joe has with his bookie, Manfro. It’s a very intriguing relationship, one that’s often awkward and uncomfortable. And then other times it’s hysterical. Jon Manfrellotti is doing a great job being both menacing and charismatic. It’s a borderline friendship developing between the two men. Keyword is borderline because there are so many reasons a friendship could never happen.

Kara’s Take

I was never a fan of Everybody Loves Raymond so that was strike 1 for me. Strike 2 was the subject matter. Men going through a mid-life crisis? Pass. Strike 3 (at the time) was an insanely full load of summer shows. I just couldn’t justify taking a show on that didn’t spark my interest. 3 strikes and you’re out. But as I started hearing good things about the series I thought maybe I had prejudged it too harshly. I mean, I didn’t even give it a chance. So Tina and I decided we wanted to catch up before part two of the second season premiered on TNT. That’s not going so well (since it already premiered), but we are catching up.

A Great Cast

Photo Credit: TNT

I’ve always loved Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher and I will always love Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher. As I mentioned, I didn’t watch Everybody Loves Raymond but I knew Ray Ramano had some comic chops. And it just so happens Joe is the focus of my favorite episode from this season, “Go With the Flow.” I love that the story is told in flashback and I love that – in typical Joe fashion – he makes a longer story even longer. I laughed, I winced, I cared. It was a great episode. And Owen and Terry giving Joe such a hard time throughout that episode? I love them for being themselves.

I’m also enjoying all the supporting characters we’ve met. In Joe’s world I like his ex, his bookie, his kids, and his employees. You might recognize Emily Rios from Friday Night Lights. I guess technically she got this job first though.  I like the vast number of people in and out of Terry’s life. I like Carla Gallo better on Bones, but she’s good here too. It was fun seeing Terry play a married man with Cynthia Watros’ Erica. I want him to make a real connection, find a real partner. I’ve heard that happens in season 2 so I’m excited for that. I also hope he finds a job or a calling to be passionate about. In Owen’s world his immediate family is his rock. It’s great to see Lisa Gay Hamilton again. She is so perfectly cast in this. The challenging relationship he has with his father has been interesting – and sometimes hard – to watch. I also like his relationships at the dealership.

The Complex Simplicities of Their Lives

The writers manage to make the mundane interesting. These guys are getting older and living their lives. They have many of the same challenges, hardships, rewards, and small victories that us normal people have. I like that. I feel like I might actually understand to these guys if I ever met their real-life counterparts. I like that.

What I’ve Liked About the Evolution of the Show

At first the tone seemed a bit whiny and sad sack. Quite frankly, there is only so much of that I can take before I tune out. But I was given enough in the earlier episodes to make me keep watching. As I’ve gotten to know these characters more I’ve laughed and cried with them. I’ve cared about them and I’ve rooted for them. I loved it when Joe started dating again. I loved when Terry got excited about acting again. I loved it when Owen stood up to his daddy. So I guess you can say I’m not a fan. I’m glad I got with the program.

OK, assignment 1 is done: we’ve watched the first season of Men of a Certain Age. Now onto Season 2. The second half of the season just started airing on TNT and is on Wednesdays at 10/9C. Our next task is to track down the first half.

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