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'Men of a Certain Age' recap: I'm not the bad guy

December 27, 2010 | 11:00 pm


It wasn't a great week for Joe.

First, he and his wife Sonia are finally getting their divorce papers in order and Joe (Ray Romano) is reluctant to be the defendant. After all, technically his wife was having the affair. Even though it means nothing, it's gnawing at him.

But that's a pebble in the road compared to what happens next. Deciding to cut out of work for awhile, Joe comes home to discover his high school-age daughter Lucy and her boyfriend Sudheer using his pad as a love nest. The shattering of the image he had of his daughter is compounded when he notices some of his condoms missing. He tries to confront Lucy, who just wants to brush off the incident and move along with her life.

"Did you expect me to go to college a virgin?" she asks. Joe responds that he didn't lose his virginity until he was 22, which gets him sympathy from his daughter. That wasn't what he was looking for, so he grounds her and tells her she can't attend the family barbecue her mother is having that weekend.

This episode gave the underrated Romano a chance to shine. It's easy to dismiss his performance as just a variation of his character from "Everybody Loves Raymond," but that is shortchanging Romano. He is becoming a master at doing a lot with a little and more than holds his own with Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula. He conveys perfectly the frustrations of a father dealing with a daughter growing up too fast and an ex-wife moving on. If the producers are looking for an episode to submit for Emmy voters, this one should be on the short list.

As Joe deals with the official end of his marriage and the fact that his daughter is no longer a little girl, Terry (Bakula) is tempted to try acting again. When his agent comes in to the dealership, Terry's first instinct is to hide, until he has a revelation. "I'm embarrassed to be a salesman? He's an agent."

Turns out, his agent is not there to buy a car. A YouTube clip of the campy 1980s TV dinner ad Terry  did has gotten over a million hits, and there's interest in making a new ad with him and Erin, the woman who played his wife.

Initially, Terry is reluctant. "I'm really not interested in beefing up my sombrero reel," he tells his agent, a reference to one of the ads in which Terry is donning stereotypical Mexican garb. But then Terry changes his mind as he realizes it is a way for him to get closer to Erin and that it might jump-start his acting career.

Unfortunately, although the agency is excited to have Terry back, it doesn't  want to use Erin (Melinda McGraw), who had been reluctant to do the ad in the first place. In a scene all too real, Terry's agent tells him that the company and ad agency think Erin is too old, even though Terry looks a lot worse for wear and Erin is still a knockout. Aware that Erin got out of acting because of what it was doing to her self-confidence, Terry does the noble thing and bags the ad and tells Erin that because he threw a fit over the terms of the deal, the agency walked away. It was a lie, but a good lie.

He then tries to put the moves on Erin and she again reminds him that she doesn't date actors. "I'm not an actor anymore," Terry responds.

While Terry is coming to terms with his new career selling cars and Joe is trying to deal with the reality of both his divorce and his daughter having a sex life, Owen (Braugher) is still trying to crawl out of his dad's shadow. Attending an industry convention in Anaheim, Owen is once again upstaged by the old man.

If there was a weak plot in an otherwise fine hour, it was Owen's. While the dynamic between Owen and his father rings true, it also is getting a little tired and needs to be put to bed. Hopefully, the subplot of Owen's wife Melissa returning to work will lead to fresher story lines for his character.

-- Joe Flint

 Photo: Joe (Ray Romano) gets mad. Credit: Danny Feld