Daily Archives: February 4, 2011

Trying to like “Men of a Certain Age”

If you asked me to name my favorite actors, Andre Braugher is always at the top of the list (in no particular order other than thinking of them): Patrick Stewart, Andrew Braugher, Jim Caviezel, the late Michael Zaslow, Anthony Hopkins. . . . Hugh Laurie would be a recent addition to the list, not yet on the automatic speed dial in my brain

They all have a similar intensity and depth. For years, I hoped for an Andre Braugher guest appearance on _House, MD_, as, given Paul Attanasio’s involvement with both shows, I call Dr. Gregory House the “anti-Pembleton.” When Braugher did appear on House as the title character’s psychiatrist, I anticipated a battle royale, but it seemed to fall short, especially as Braugher’s intended season long recurring role was cut short by his involvement in a simultaneous project.

Last summer, I watched almost all the episodes of TNT’s Men of a Certain Age online, though I missed the pilot. This year, I’ve watched it as it aired, except for the last four episodes of the season, which were DVRed while I was on vacation and then in the hospital.

I had four episodes on DVR, and I finally watched one of them the other day. And I’m so bored that while I immediately thought of this blog post, it’s taken me three days to sit down and write it.

Braugher is amazing. Sadly, I just learned from his Wikipedia entry that he is not, in fact, a practicing Catholic as I had always presumed. He’s a Unitarian Universalist, though he was educated at Catholic school. But his famous role of Det. Frank Pembleton on _Homicide_ was Catholic, as was his corrupt detective character on _Hack_. Braugher is a family man, and his real life wife has often appeared as his wife on TV.

He decided to leave _Homicide_ at the end of season 6 for the classic reason that he didn’t want to be “typecast,” and since then he’s had only a moderate career, partly because he keeps taking roles that are, in various ways, quite different from Frank Pembleton.

I’ve never seen _Gideon’s Crossing_. His acting was good on _Hack_, but his corrupt character was unappealing.

Then you have Ray Romano, who has some of the same advantages of Andre Braugher, and one wonders if they’re friends in real life: Romano is also quite famously a family man, who had members of his real life family cast in cameos and recurring roles on his long running eponymous sitcom _Everybody Loves Raymond_ . Romano is Catholic, of course, and like Braugher, played a character who was, for the the most part, a positive portrayal of a Catholic.

_Everybody Loves Raymond_ is not a show that I watch over and over. I enjoy it, but it can be too much. It is, for me, in the category of show that you can pick up for a few minutes, or maybe a whole episode, and enjoy, and then put down for a while. I appreciate the fact that TV Land has it on late in the evenings, because it’s a good show to put on in the background while we’re trying to get the kids to go to bed.

Then there’s Scott Bakula. There is a certain kind of actor I find annoying. Bakula is in that category, along with Kevin Costner (though I have to give Costner credit for some of his more recent parts; I liked _Message in a Bottle_, and some of the movies since then have been pretty good). They’re actors who parallel a certain kind of actress: not particularly talented, and not particularly good looking in the face, their main claims to fame seem to be based upon their physiques and an apparent “charm” to the opposite sex.

I only watched _Quantum Leap_ once or twice; same with _Enterprise_. As for typecasting, Bakula tends to the same kinds of roles as Dirk Benedict, Don Johnston and David Hasselhoff, all of whom are better actors, and that may not be saying much.

So, the three of them come together for TNT’s _Men of a Certain Age_, a show created by Romano. Thankfully, it is not reflective of his real life.

If Ray Barone had an addiction and no family support network (however stressful that network may have been), he would be Joe Tranelli, a divorced, recovering gambling addict who owns a party store and dreams of joining the PGA on the senior tour.
Andre Braugher’s Owen Thoreau, Jr., is a devoted husband and father (check), but the opposite of Pembleton, not in his values, but in his personality. Owen, unlike Pembleton, is a complete wuss, and his plots usually revolve around his feelings of inadequacy at work (a car dealership owned by his father; in the first season, he was an ineffective salesman, and this season he’s an ineffective manager) or at home.
And Scott Bakula’s Terry Elliot is an “actor” and womanizer who, in this season, has been trying to cut it as a salesman at Owen’s dealership.

Romano is a comedian, and his role is anything but comic. A person of Braugher’s presence playing a wimp like Owen is demoralizing. Bakula is the only one really suited to his part.

The plots are mostly vapid. There is not really any driving conflict to the show as a drama, other than three losers trying not to be losers. It would be better served as a comedy.

It’s baffling that something with so much potential is so insipid, and yet has managed to make it through two basic cable seasons.