Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pilot Review: Men of a Certain Age

Men of a Certain Age (TNT)
Premiered December 7 at 10pm

This show is a first for TNT. It doesn’t fit in with any of the other programs the network airs. It’s not a medical show, cop series, or legal drama. That said, it doesn’t seem quite sure exactly what it is. These men of a certain age are three actors who haven’t really been seen in a while since each starring in a long-running 90s series. It’s certainly a bizarre trio culled from radically different backgrounds. Ray Romano was the loveable but dorky Raymond in CBS’ popular “Everybody Loves Raymond,” whose comic charm came mostly from his unenthusiastic mutterings and bird-like appearance. Scott Bakula is experienced in light-hearted sci-fi, headlining both NBC’s “Quantum Leap” and UPN’s latest “Star Trek” series, “Enterprise.” Andre Braugher starred in NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Street” and briefly anchored FX’s short-lived but spectacular “Thief.” Romano and Bakula are decent actors for their respective parts, but this work is well below the capabilities of a skilled performer like Braugher. His role best echoes that, as a man who struggles to live up to his father and can’t seem to do it despite his best efforts. Braugher can do so much more, and seeing him stranded in this role is a shame. There’s some humor in this show, most of which comes from the bantering between the three leads. The more awkward moments come from Romano, and there’s a lot that still needs to be worked out. These men are stuck in the middle of their lives, and there’s not necessarily anything too interesting going on. I’m willing to give it another go, but I’m not sure this one can live long.

How will it work as a series? Having three leads means that the show can devote energy to three different threads, some of which may be better than others. This was only the pilot, and presumably coming episodes will have a clearer focus on where the show is ultimately heading. If supporting characters like wives, children, and ex-girlfriends become more prominent than co-workers, the show might do well. It’s still too early to tell, and this pilot hardly seems indicative of what the show will actually be like, and if it is, I think it won’t be terribly exciting but overall relatively harmless.
How long will it last? TNT has been fairly kind to its series recently, and even the axed “Raising the Bar” got two seasons before it got cancelled. Launching the show behind “The Closer” is a smart idea, though in three weeks it will be all by itself, airing during the holidays when most other shows aren’t airing. The pedigree of the three stars combined together should help it do well, and I imagine that, in cable tradition, it will be swiftly renewed for a second season. We’ll have to see how the show does creatively in the next couple of weeks, though.

Pilot grade: B-

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