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`Men of a Certain Age' recap: Terry's revenge

December 13, 2010 | 11:01 pm


Sometimes the mark of a good show is the strength of its secondary characters. When the writers can create strong plots and have solid actors for them, not only does it take some of the pressure off the leads, it also makes for more enriching stories.

A great bench has been one of the strengths of "Men of a Certain Age" all along, and in Monday's episode many of those players got a chance to really shine. Owen's wife, Melissa (played by Lisa Gay Hamilton), itching to get back into the job force, was given center stage a couple of times and delivered compelling scenes about a conflicted mother who wants to be there for her kids but also needs to feel more fulfilled. Jesse (Patrick Gallagher), the put-upon head mechanic of the car dealership Owen (Andre Braugher) is now running, is emerging as an excellent foil to both Owen and the flashy salesmen that Jesse resents. Also making the most of their time on the screen were Joe's kids Albert (Braeden Lemasters) and Lucy (Brittany Curran).

Of the three main characters, it was Scott Bakula's Terry who provided the comic relief for the night. Still struggling to adjust to being a car salesman, Terry endures a hazing from his colleagues including Marcus (Brian White) and Carl (the very amusing Eddie Shin), who find an old commercial Terry did on YouTube and mock him. The commercial, an ad for a TV dinner, shows a young Terry morphing into the ethnicity of whatever type of food is being cooked. The gang makes cardboard cutouts of Terry's characters from the ad and leave them around the showroom, making it tough for him to close a sale. One keeps expecting Terry, who always seems to be on the verge of boiling over, to smash things up, but he keeps his cool.

Even the co-worker who seems to be trying to help him is actually playing a slow prank on him. Bruce (Albert Hall), the No. 2 Owen inherited from his father, tells Terry a big shot is coming in to buy a new Corvette. Terry stays late at the office, only to be punked.

Fortunately for Terry, the teasing backfires on the gang. Erin, the woman who played Terry's wife in the commercial comes in to the shop looking for him (Marcus, the hot-shot salesman, posted a comment on the video about where Terry's career had taken him). Erin (Melinda McGraw who had a memorable stint as a Don Draper love interest on "Mad Men") is still a looker and Terry takes her to the bar his coworkers are drinking at to rub their noses in it.

Owen, meanwhile is struggling with assuming the role of boss at work and partner at home. While his sales team respects him, Jesse, his top mechanic, looks at him like a trust fund kid who got to take over daddy's business. Owen is trying to be nice in dealing with Jesse, who keeps dragging his feet on fixing cars to torment the sales crew. Finally Owen has to play the heavy and stick it to Jesse.

At home though, Owen is struggling with the idea of his wife Melissa going back to work. He doesn't think the kids are ready to be without a parent for much of the day. But Melissa is determined and has already lined up a lunch with an old colleague who now runs a magazine. Unfortunately for her, getting back into the publishing game won't be so easy. "Apparently while I was off making babies, the entire world went to crap," she moans to Owen after learning that her friend didn't have a job to offer her.

For Joe (Ray Romano), Monday's episode was about finding balance. He is struggling to make time to practice for the senior tournament and getting flustered at how off his game has become. At work, he's overloaded and is desperate to have his staff take on more responsibility so he can hit the links. Some late night swings brings him in contact with a coach, Roy Park (Damien Leake) who looks likely to become another recurring character.

On the homefront, Joe is worried about Albert's struggle with anxiety. He breathes a sigh of relief when Albert's shrink tells Joe that Albert is actually excited about going to the school dance.

Turns out Albert was just telling the shrink what he wanted to hear, much to Joe's disappointment. So Joe drags Albert to the dance. Albert, being a teen, sneaks away anyway only to hook up with two friends who persuade him to take them to a party upperclassmen are at, including Lucy. They crash the party and get drunk and Albert also takes photos of his sister making out with a classmate.

When Joe finds out what happened (which was easy since Albert puked in his car), he is furious with both. But we see a little smile cross Joe's face after he's done yelling at his son. He's secretly pleased that his son, normally afraid of his own shadow, got out and had some fun like a normal teen.

What was refreshing about that plot was that while Joe was rightfully upset at his kids for being at a party with no parents and lots of booze, this wasn't some moment to show the bad consequences of high school kids cutting loose (beyond the barfing), nor was it an endorsement. It was just real. And real is what "Men of a Certain Age" is good at.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Joe (Ray Romano) tries to offer his son Albert (Braeden Lemasters) advice. Credit: TNT.