by pat howard

More ‘Certain’ than I expected

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Next Monday, TNT’s quiet dramatic triumph Men of a Certain Age winds down its freshman outing.

Over ten episodes, I’ve grown more attached to Joe, Terry, and Owen, as they each face different midlife crises. The mood I connected with in the pilot has remained mostly consistent throughout, with the exception of Joe’s first-date episode. I was taught in TV crit that television is about presenting heightened reality. I also know that TV success sometimes lies in breaking the rules. Aside from being a brilliant and dramatic second act for Ray Romano and a stunning, long-overdue showcase for Andre Braugher, Men succeeds by playing it low-key and exploring realistic plotlines that are organic to this group of friends.

While complex, emotional women are littered across the prime time landscape, it’s rare to see that approach to the male mind succeed. In part, that’s because it is difficult to do well, and TV writers seem to have trouble with male characters who aren’t career-driven action heroes or awash amid an ensemble. Joe is uncertain of his identity now that he is separated from his wife. Terry’s single life doesn’t feel empty, but it’s not what he expected. And Owen can’t seem to escape the shadow of his father, who’s handing the reins of the family business to an outsider. Here, the life issues drive the story; careers and relationships are external to the narrative. That narrative flies in the face of conventional wisdom that men won’t talk about their feelings. Men is immersive, and it’s more than earned its second-season order.

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