When TNT’s “Men of a Certain Age” debuted in late 2009, it was a bit like the characters: slow, uncertain, not quite in the rhythm.
But as the show enters the second half of its second season, the writers and three main actors – Scott Bakula, Ray Romano and Emmy-winning Andre Braugher - are shooting on all cylinders, having found their voices. The show brings pathos, humor and humanity to their characters in fine balance, making you root for them even when they’re screwing up.
Bakula’s character Terry is arguably the most stunted of the trio. As an actor, he grew up feeling entitled and uncommitted to anything and anybody except his friends. Approaching 50, Terry’s acting opportunities dried up so he became a car salesman at Owen’s dealership. There, he struggled, then found his calling. He became quite good at it. He also met a girlfriend he was falling in love with as evidenced by his reactions during the colonoscopy trip.
He was actually growing up.
But don’t expect this to be a linear experience in the next six episodes, which Bakula said is “huge in terms of all the story crammed into them.” Terry gets some jarring news and does not react well at all at home or at work. Ray’s character struggles with his gambling and his golf game. Owen gains confidence as the leader of the dealership, even as he tries to figure out how to dig the place out of the financial hole his dad had dug him into.
“A little bit of the old Terry comes out but so does a little new Terry,” Bakula said. “I call it a roller coaster.” Hitting 50 throws him for a loop, too. The real Bakula, who is 56, said he celebrated his 50th birthday in New York City after running a marathon.
Bakula said the show had a problem season two in terms of scheduling. Season one aired in the winter of 2009-10. They were not ready for the summer of 2010 and the network didn’t want the show to go 18 months without airing. So they came up with a compromise that didn’t please anybody: six episodes in the winter, six more in the summer.
“If we get picked up for a third season,” he said, “it will just be a summer show. We can hope these next six episodes save us and gets us into a consistent time slot.”
Bakula, best known before this as Sam Beckett on “Quantum Leap” and Captain Jonathan Archer on “Star Trek: Enterprise,” is nothing if not honest. He was not pleased that TNT aired the winter episodes against “Monday Night Football,” then college football bowl games. The show opened season two last December with 2.8 million viewers but only had 1.6 million by the winter finale January 10.
He said the solid critical notices and awards such as the Peabody have helped. “We’re hoping that’s another positive bullet in the gun,” he said. But the bottom line is more eyeballs.
Bakula said the season finale is not written with a “finale” in mind. “I’d be disappointed if we ended it there,” he said. “Each character is constantly trying to resolve issues. We’re not always successful.”
Just like life.
“Men of a Certain Age,” TNT June 1, 10 p.m. (six episodes)
By Rodney Ho, firstname.lastname@example.org, AJCRadioTV blog