Archive for Monday, December 7, 2009

Will everybody love Romano’s new show?

December 7, 2009


Ray Romano of “Everybody Loves Raymond” gets serious with “Men of a Certain Age” (9 p.m., TNT), serving as star, creator and executive producer. “Men” follows the middle-aged malaise of three guys, pals since college.

The recently separated Joe (Romano) owns a party store in an LA mall. Terry (Scott Bakula) is a shaggy, professionally single former TV star still coasting on the fumes of his fading celebrity and forced to work as a temp by the dwindling number of acting opportunities. Andre Braugher portrays Owen, an overburdened husband and father of three, toiling in his father’s car dealership, seething under the old man’s condescension, hoping one day to take over the business.

“Men” follows the guys as they go for their morning hikes in the LA foothills and chat over coffee and lunch. Romano does a credible if slightly one-dimensional job as the sad-sack Joe, a man a tad too eager to talk about his many crises and his alienation from his wife, his children and his sense of himself.

“Men” is a daring move for TNT, a network that has done a good job establishing itself as a go-to place for drama, but almost exclusively women’s dramas, like “The Closer.” It will be interesting to see whether men or women of any age want to see older guys talking and complaining about their pre-AARP status. Some women viewers may be intrigued by its peculiar suggestion that when three straight men get together, they talk about their feelings.

“Men” has hints of “City Slickers,” another effort about middle-aged men trying to rediscover their spark. But while that two-hour Billy Crystal comedy was intentionally funny, “Men” strives to avoid overt jokiness.

The show’s use of pop music as a personal touchstone and generational divider also reminded me of “The Sopranos” and how that show, for all of its Mafia operatics, was essentially about the many crises of a middle-aged male. But while “The Sopranos” surrounded Tony with strong female characters, “Men” is notable for their absence. In the pilot episode, Joe’s wife remains unseen, Owen’s is reduced to a few supportive hugs and Terry’s principal relationship is with a young coffee shop barista.

This emotional void explains the woes of both the characters and the show itself. There’s probably nothing wrong with “Men of a Certain Age” that a few good women couldn’t fix.

• Musical numbers and costume changes abound on “Carrie Underwood: An All-Star Holiday Special” (7 p.m., Fox).

The brief reel provided didn’t include any Christmas songs or fake snow, but Underwood does duet with Dolly Parton.

Tonight’s other highlights

• The voices of Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney animate the 1970 special “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” (7 p.m., ABC).

• Ballet companies from all over the globe compete on the third annual “Battle of the Nutcrackers” (7 p.m., Ovation).

• The four-hour miniseries adaptation “Alice” (8 p.m., Syfy) concludes.

• The documentary “Born Again” (8 p.m., Documentary) looks at a family divided by religion.

• A star of the drag world needs a Christmas cake on “Cake Boss” (8 p.m., TLC).

• A census worker’s last inquiry on “CSI: Miami” (9 p.m., CBS).

• A witness suffers amnesia on “Castle” (9 p.m., ABC).

Cult choice

A nice young man (Cary Grant) tries to shelter his fiancee from his family’s homicidal tendencies in the 1944 comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1:15 a.m., TCM).


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