A review of last night's "Men of a Certain Age" coming up just as soon as I lick all my fries...
TNT sent five of the first six "Men of a Certain Age" episodes out for review, omitting only "Powerless." Often, when a network skips over an episode in a screener package, it's because that one's a (relative) dud and they don't want it factored into early reviews. And for a while into "Powerless," it felt like that was exactly the reason TNT didn't send it out. In particular, this was the first time it felt like a Joe story dragged, and the moment where Joe tried to deflect his daughter's anger by telling her that Albert ate her fries was the first time a joke on the show felt uncomfortably close to something Ray Romano would have done on "Everybody Loves Raymond."(*)
(*) And I say this as someone who put "Raymond" on his list of the decade's best comedies, and who first noticed that Ray was becoming a good dramatic actor in some of his scenes on that show. But there was a tone and a level of reality to that show that's different from this one, and so some types of jokes don't easily translate.
But the Owen story carried things for a while. Outside of the usual brilliance of Andre Braugher (his sidewalk spaz-out while making a phone call to cut through the red tape was a thing of comic wonder), any man or woman of a certain age (that age being "adult") can relate to the hell that is institutional bureaucracy, and Owen's frustration at being trapped in this circumstance, followed by his joy at briefly escaping it, were captured on the show's usual loving small scale.
And Joe's story ultimately turned around, too, in the scene where he confronted Lucy's stalker ex. I thought that was a really nice piece of writing (and acting from Ray), as Joe found a way to both comfort and threaten the kid, and as it became clear that only some of what he was saying got through. Had Joe come across as an obvious font of wisdom - or had the kid gotten the "Rocky" reference - it would have felt fake, but instead it was the right level of insight and awkwardness.
Plus, I have to give points to Joe (and, I guess, the show) for recognizing that the best part of the "Rocky" score isn't "Gonna Fly Now" but "Going the Distance," which plays over the climax to the first Creed-Balboa fight, which still gives me chills every damn time I watch it.
Terry's stories still interest me less than the other two guys, but I liked Owen's explanation for why Terry is always late - and Terry suddenly understanding the point on his way to see Annie - and I liked how realistic Annie is about her relationship with "the old guy." She knows what Terry is, and isn't expecting to tame him. She just wants to be treated with a little respect for her time, and Carla Gallo plays well off of Scott Bakula.
What did everybody else think?