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'Men of a Certain Age' recap: A Day in the Life

June 2, 2011 |  8:00 am

MOCAJune1

Life is about the little things we do that either bring us happiness or blow up in our faces. We think about the girl we didn't go after on the subway platform more than we do the job we took that didn't work out the way we hoped.

That's what makes TNT's "Men of a Certain Age" so poignant. Creators Ray Romano and Mike Royce get how the placement of a toothbrush can determine our fate. The series about three middle-aged men -- Joe (Ray Romano), Owen (Andre Braugher) and Terry (Scott Bakula) -- struggling to find themselves and their place in the world has returned in a new Wednesday 10 p.m. time slot. Think of it as a cool evening breeze after a long sticky day.

The toothbrush in question belongs to Terry (Scott Bakula), the lady's man who is suddenly hoping to find a soul mate in Erin, a former actress turned schoolteacher that he's been romancing. Of the three main characters on "Men of a Certain Age," it is Terry who has changed the most. A struggling actor for most of his life, he has finally thrown in the towel and is working for Owen selling Chevys. He's also trying to grow up when it comes to dating. Normally, he prefers to date young girls who won't tie him down, but now he's pursuing Erin, an age-appropriate (for TV anyway) actress-turned-schoolteacher.

Unfortunately, Terry's still not fully mature. He gets himself locked out of his own apartment by the owner because he's not fulfilling the obligations of being something of a handyman for the building. That means he has to cook dinner for Erin at her place and crash there for a few days until he can make peace with the owner.

There is a touching scene in which Terry, putting his toiletries away in Erin's bathroom, debates whether to put his toothbrush in the same cup as hers. Although he's a commitment-phobe, he takes the plunge and lets his brush touch bristles with Erin's.

Dinner goes great. "The secret is to become an actor and never get work," Terry says to Erin when asked where he learned his culinary skills. The two end up in bed together and Terry even woos her man-hating cat.

But when Terry wakes up and hears sobbing he heads to the bathroom to see what's up. Erin is crying in part because seeing the two toothbrushes together has reminded her of her previous relationship that she's just not ready to throw the towel in on yet. Terry ends up on the couch and soon enough out the door. If he doesn't put his toothbrush in her cup, she doesn't think about her other relationship. It's on such seemingly trivial gestures that a man's future may be decided.

As Terry is trying to establish a new relationship, Joe flirts with picking up an old one. Seems his now-ex-wife Sonia is single again after having discovered that the man she left Joe for was cheating on her. Joe could use this news to gloat and slam his wife, but instead he takes the high road and offers sympathy instead of spite.

That pays off because later in the evening, she invites Joe over. He had been with his bookie buddy Manfro, who is getting ready to go in for chemo and wants a night out at a strip club. Joe's awkwardness is in full force at the club while Manfro manages to bond with a stripper over cancer treatment.

After leaving, Joe gets a call from Sonia. Once again it was a random act that leads her to call him. Manfro had grabbed Joe's cellphone and was messing around with it and called Sonia. Joe grabbed it back and hung up, but that was enough for Sonia to call him later and ask if he wanted to come over.

He did, but some reunions are not meant to be. Getting physical didn't feel right to either of them. "I feel like a creepy home-wrecker," Joe said. Fortunately, their son comes home early and Joe has to sneak out the back, where his run-in with some garbage cans is attributed to possums.

While Terry and Joe struggle with relationships, Owen's issues are work-related. Rival car dealer Scarpulla wants to buy Owen's business so he can expand. Initially dismissive of the offer, in part because he knows his father will never go for it, Owen starts to have second thoughts after talking about it with his wife, Melissa. Now the trick will be figuring out if he can either use the offer to sell out or to get his father out of his hair once and for all.

This is the first of six episodes of "Men of a Certain Age" and how it does in this limited run could determine the show's fate. Although this space is generally reserved for recaps of the show and not the business behind it, the decision to air six episodes late last year and another six now seems poorly thought out. For this show to work, it is going to need to establish a bigger audience, and that can only be done by having more than six episodes on in a given time period. Consistency is the key. Whether this was a TNT strategy or the preference of the creators doesn't matter. It's the viewers who are losing, and we're the ones who count.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: TNT's "Men of a Certain Age." Credit: Danny Feld /TNT

 

 

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