Monday, January 25, 2010

Men of a Certain Age, "Father's Fraternity": What's got one thumb and can't act? This guy!

A review of tonight's "Men of a Certain Age" coming up just as soon as I clash with the cumin...
"Everyone gets a turn, and mine's over. I'm okay with that." -Artie
One of the recurring themes of "Men of a Certain Age" is the fear that Joe, Owen and Terry have, to varying degrees, that their prime is over (probably long over), and that life will be all downhill from this certain age. In "Father's Fraternity," we meet Joe's father Artie(*), who's a man of an even older certain age, and who has a stronger belief in - and more supporting evidence about - his own obsolescence.

(*) Artie was, of course, played by Robert Loggia, who, despite a long and distinguished career - which included some time on "The Sopranos" - always makes me think of either this commercial or this "Family Guy" scene. I suppose it's a testimony to Loggia's gravity and coolness that the orange juice people would think of him for such a weird ad.

And, of course, we see Artie in contrast to a story that's heavy on Owen Sr. One father has given up on his vitality, while the other will let you pry it from his cold, dead fingers. And that's had mixed results for the two adult sons. Joe, who never had a father standing in his way, runs his own business, but lost his grip on his family, and Artie's retreat from the world gives him one more thing to be anxious about. Owen, meanwhile, is stuck in a state of perpetual post-adolescence, just waiting for the old man to let him take over the dealership, but it's unclear whether he'd be ready if Owen Sr. walked away, or if he only seems inept half the time because he knows he's stuck as a lackey.

And in the strongest Terry story to date, we get a sense that a lack of any kind of male role model has led him to his own empty life, which makes him undesirable even as a Big Brother two days a week. A lot of this season has been about Terry getting smacked in the face with how the rest of the world sees him, and this was a particularly hard smack. (In contrast, Owen's son got off easy bonking his head on the doorway when Terry's attempt to show up the Big Brother administrator failed.)

If Scott Bakula got his best dramatic showcase of the series so far (albeit in the usual understated "MooCA" style), then the filming of the commercial was Andre Braugher's comic masterpiece. Because we know from his other roles what a gifted and charismatic talker Braugher can be, it's especially funny to watch him portray the many, many, many ways Owen could be terrible on camera. And after seeing the guy swallow one humiliation after another from his father, it was nice to see an episode where Owen Senior and Junior were able to come to an accord: Jr. agrees that his dad isn't that ashamed of him, and neither man wants Owen to have a starring role in the commercial, and the compromise (complete with the "scrappy" salesman poking his head into frame at the end) was a clever, funny touch.

If I had an issue with "Father's Fraternity"(**), it's that it felt like the Joe and Artie story wrapped up a little too neatly. Because the show works in a low key with low stakes, it's been able to get away with either small victories (Owen gets the permit, Terry chooses to not help his old flame cheat on her husband) or half-victories (Joe has to drive Albert to the golf tournament). Artie rediscovering his self-worth and sense of purpose by the end of the hour was too much, too soon. I know that a part-time job at a big box hardware store isn't that important in the larger scheme of things, but for him to go from the half-asleep zombie we met at the beginning of the episode(***) to the Feech La Manna-ish go-getter ready to fix his own damn sink at the end was abrupt. Our three leads have been taking baby steps all season, while Artie (admittedly a guest star whom the writers didn't have as much time to work with) practically leaped out of his lounger and into a new life.

(**) And by that, I mean an issue other than the way the episode liberally bent the laws of time and space so that Joe's "upstate" father could so easily come down to work at the party store, the Big Brother offices would be open on a Sunday morning, etc., etc. All shows have to mess around like this for storytelling purposes, and it doesn't really bug me, but it felt particularly noticeable in this episode for some reason.

(***) Just as a sidenote, I love how quick Joe's kids are to dive into their cell phones - and to not interact with the adults around them - whenever given the opportunity. Then again, as a dad of a young kid who will one day want a phone of her own, maybe I should be horrified.

What did everybody else think?


John said...

I never thought I would be able to watch Romano and not think think of Ray Barone, however, it's Pembleton I can't forget when I see Braugher. I keep waiting for him explode and make someone confess for something.

alynch said...

Here's my quintessential Loggia moment: "Tailgating is one thing I cannot tolerate."

Pamela Jaye said...

I really like Robert Loggia, despite the fact that the one time I got to speak to him, I embarrassed myself by forgetting that he did not one but two movies with Scott. (Me: I loved the movie you did with Scott! Him: Which one?)
Granted, I watched the second one about 38 times more than the first.

So, the fact that at the end, he was telling the customer what he needed, just made me cheer.

Owen doing bad acting... was okay. I loved that Owen Sr's phone kept ringing, though - it had to be more than just Melissa.

And it was cool to see "Lady" again.

I never saw Homocide.
What I remember an hour later is Terry remarking that Joe does all the talking at the diner (and how much I miss the hiking!! please more hiking!)

I liked that Joe's dad seemed to hit it off with Joe's employees.

I did notice the screenaholism, but then, I can't go to lunch with my brother without sharing his with his blackberry. Maybe I should just IM him from the other side of the table.

Yup, more hiking, less eating.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't envy Carla Gallo. (especially since they didn't have sex actually) I do miss Scott having romantic scenes, although on Quantum Leap, they were less... distributed. I mean it's easier to have a girl in every port when you can't remember every port. You can maintain an air of innocence. But then we know Terry isn't innocent. Such is life. At least we get men talking about real stuff - or even just *talking.*
Compared to the eps of Cougartown I saw before giving up, this is great. Of course, I'm biased.

At least the guy who was putting in posts (?) knew the reasoning behind, whatever it was Dad was advocating.

So, I can't speak literately about this show. Still, at least I'm far happier with it than I was with Enterprise.

btw, if anyone lives near LA, the three stars are hosting the SAG (foundation?) golf tournament, in April.

Pamela Jaye said...

oh, and I noticed almost every pre-commercial break scene ended in silence (followed by a loud commercial intro)

and the walk Joe took with his dad reminded me too much of hanging out with my mother before she died. Unlike Joe, she lived too far away for too long so she "got old" when I wasn't looking. It was (when combined with her being really really hard of hearing and saying it was cause *I* mumbled) a virtual loss before the real loss, and it was hard to be reminded of.

Mapeel said...

I didn't think Artie's "recalled to life" was too abrupt. At any age, you can fall into a funk if the world takes no interest in you, and that can change on a dime when something connects you back and you feel valued again.

Nick said...

Completely agree with your take on this Alan. Really liked the Owen and Terry stories all the way through and took to Joe's even more up until that all too neatly wrapped up ending. Still, this one might be my favorite thus far. That scene of Owen attempting to get through the filming of the commercial had me laughing hysterically.

I'm so impressed by how likeable and easy to watch this show is. I could probably get through an entire season of episodes in one sitting with no problem at all. Not many shows I could say that about.

Pamela Jaye said...

wow. I just saw this site. It looked familiar.

Is there any recourse to having someone('s computer) steal your entire site and post it as their own?

Going back to investigate more.

Andrew said...

He doesnt know this, but Robert Loggia once won me a bag of Dots-like candy at FAO Schwarz.

They had two guys doing a demonstration of the piano scene from "Big" and asking trivia questions about it, like what song they were playing and what not, and one of the questions was "Everyone knows Tom Hanks was in the scene but who was the oth-" and before the guy could finish I yelled out "Robert Loggia!" (bc I had just been watching The Sopranos season he was on). The performers were impressed, and told me that no one usually answers that quickly on that question.

Needless to say, I felt pretty proud of myself, and it was delicious candy. I owe him one

WilforkForFood said...

Though I like Robert Logia- I can't hear him speak for more than a few seconds before I start saying out loud "R, as in Robert Logia..." which is not appreciated by the girlfriend. I blame Family Guy for this. Alan you also forgot to mention his other pivotal roll as a grandfather in Over the Top.

That said I really thought the Joe storyline was forced this week. teenagers not turning their attention away from their electronic devices, however grounded in reality it may be, is played out. How did writers demonstrate bored kids twenty years ago? The hardware store scene was similarly predictable and it left me wishing they had a more original resolution for Joe's father.

On the flip side I enjoyed the other two story lines. Particularly the second diner scene with just Owen and Terry- a really nice moment between two friends who know when to hold back on the good-natured ribbing and offer support to one another. The final scene where they wrapped up Owen's and Terry's stories was enjoyable as well.

LDP said...

Not my favorite episode, but still worth it just to see Andre Braugher play someone who can't act.

Anonymous said...

Without fail, I would crack up every time Owen said, "May savings." That car going into the basketball hoop…why?

Alan Sepinwall said...

That car going into the basketball hoop…why?

Because Owen Sr., as we learned in the school auction episode, used to play for the Lakers.

JLan said...

anyone else finds it weird how Beaugher calls his father daddy all the time. He might have taken years of emotinal abuse and been belittled but hes not 7.

Unknown said...

I loved everything about this episode except the ridiculous and pat scene in the hardware store where Artie gets to help out a customer at *just* the right moment to show the manager that he is knowledgeable and would be an asset to the store. I mean, when does that happen? Ever? Except in fantasyland? And this show is anything but fantasyland, usually.

cathy b. said...

I haven't laughed this hard in years ... "May savings". Braugher is, once again, fantastic!!

dez said...

Does anyone know how soon TNT puts the eps online? My DVR didn't record this last night and for whatever reason, TNT is not repeating it later this week. Dang!!

Anonymous said...

Such a good point:

LDP said...
" but still worth it just to see Andre Braugher play someone who can't act."

And he sold it. I loved the ending..he didn't look like a total loser and the
"thumbs up" moment made me laugh out loud.

And I still associate Robert Loggia with "Jagged Edge". He was the best part of an overwrought movie and he's a world class swearer.

Mike F said...

really strong and enjoyable episode...I'm still really enjoying this show and I hope its on for at least a few years

Unknown said...

agree with everyone's comments - another very strong show full of terrific and funny moments.

one thing though - they've done an excellent job seperating Joe from Ray Barone - and Robert Logia is a terrific actor BUT from the time Joe and the kids walked into his condo all I could think of was Peter Boyle. Maybe it's because his discription of him when he was talking to the guys sounded so much like Frank Barone (distant, doesn't talk much, etc)

Anonymous said...

What is the song that is played while Joe's father is in the store helping out? It has the lyrics, " got your own thing, your own thing going on".

Anonymous said...

"Own Thing" by the Dynamites

Pamela Jaye said...

dez - the first week it was Friday.

captcha - ducterea
can think of two definitions for this, neither of them pleasant

dez said...

Thanks, Pamela Jaye! I'll look for it tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Joe's dad generally came alive when he was talking shop, which makes sense when you have a guy who, as it was repeated multiple times, had his own store for decades. To me he was like the WB Frog - if you had him going about hardware he'd perk up, otherwise he was a bit limp.

I thought the way they handled the dust up between Owen and Terry on the issue was nice. In some ways, Owen talks to Terry the way that Owen's father talks to him. The "are we good" after was dead on and a nice paralel with the father/son moment that Owen and his father had.

dez said...

Finally got to see this today (and boy, that TNT player is quite good!) and I loved it. The ep just flew by. I didn't have a problem with the resolution to Artie's story, either (I like the WB Frog comparison).

Favorite part was Owen filming the commercial. Andre Braugher acting like he can't act was sublime.

Pamela Jaye said...

and I am reassured that the eps do indeed go up on Fridays. :-)

thegue said...

Perfectly summarized! The Loggia plot line was a little too neatly wrapped up. I told friends to watch the show, but I called and apologized at the last commercial break, as I thought it was the weakest episode to date.

Then Andre Braugher pulled off a comedic effort as a person who couldn't act. It almost saved the episode.

Koozies said...

I short , A good post