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'Men of a Certain Age' recap: Don't let bad Joe win

June 30, 2011 |  9:00 am

Ray Romano in 'Men of a Certain Age'

Sometimes you can outrun the past. Other times, the past catches up with you and knocks your tooth out.

On Wednesday's "Men of a Certain Age," Joe (Ray Romano), Owen (Andre Braugher) and Terry (Scott Bakula) are all struggling to reinvent themselves. Joe is trying refocus his efforts on running his party supply store. Owen wants the car dealership to have better commercials and Terry is trying to go from confirmed bachelor to taken man.

Of the three, only Terry seems to be starting a new chapter without any paper cuts. He is settling into domestic bliss with Erin, and there has yet to be a fight about whose toothbrush goes where or whether the seat should be left up or down.

Owen already has a happy home. It is his work life that is driving him crazy. Now he has yet another issue to deal with: panic attacks. He's having trouble catching his breath from the stress of trying to make ends meet at the dealership and escape the long shadow of his father, Owen Sr.

Up early one morning and checking out his dealership's site, Owen is distraught to see an ad from rival Scarpulla on his home page. He decides it is time for a new ad campaign and that Terry, a former actor, will become the agency's new pitchman.

Of course, Owen hits a roadblock when his father assumes he'll still be the star of the commercial. The two share the spotlight, but there's only one problem. The ad, Terry observes, is "totally forgettable." He has a point. While it is a nice sentimental spot, Terry knows that viewers need something "seared into people's brains."

Taking charge, Terry decides goofy is the way to go, and he replaces himself and Owen's dad with Lawrence (Matt Price) and quickly cuts spots for every season and holiday. The ads will no doubt not be forgotten, but they are not to the liking of Owen Sr., who storms off the set.

Lawrence's antics set the stage for the hour to end on a light, amusing note. But that's not the style of "Men of a Certain Age." In one of the darkest scenes in the show's brief run, Joe learns that he still has some debts to pay for his gambling relapse. Manfro (Jon Manfrellotti), the cancer-battling bookie, finally learns that Joe stole one of his clients and briefly set up shop for himself. A weakened Manfro still has enough moxie to trash Joe's freshly painted and cleaned up store and in the process cause Joe to lose a front tooth. For a few brief moments, "Men of a Certain Age" turned into "Reservoir Dogs."

Terry happens to be on the way to the store to return some costumes Lawrence wore during the shoot. He rushes Joe to his dentist, where he runs into the hygienist he dated last year who left him because of his gambling.

As if being beaten up by a guy battling cancer and weak from chemo wasn't bad enough, now Joe has to face a woman he was falling for who dumped him. Hitting that bottom below the bottom, he tells her she did the right thing. She advises him not to let "bad Joe win."

"Men of a Certain Age" is not a show that lends itself to recaps. What matters is not who did what to whom and what happened but the way the characters move from moment to moment. This is a program about, as my girlfriend puts it, "the ache of life."

Shows like that don't come around every year and usually don't appeal to the masses. This being the second-to-last episode of a six-episode summer run, creators Romano and Mike Royce are faced with not only wrapping up the season but also quite possibly the series, should TNT decide not to bring back the critically acclaimed drama about three men in varying stages of midlife crisis. Ratings for the show are not as strong as TNT's other shows, but hopefully TNT will stick with it as HBO did with "The Wire" and "Treme" because sometimes quality matters as much as ratings.


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— Joe Flint

 Photo: Ray Romano in "Men of a Certain Age." Credit: Danny Feld/Turner.