Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Men of a Certain Age, "You Gonna Do That The Rest of Your Life?": Golf in the face of death

A review of last night's "Men of a Certain Age" coming up just as soon as I like to say "the journey"...
"Everyone's great under no pressure, but when you have a little pressure, only some people are great." -Joe
For an episode that opened with a death (albeit the death of a character we'd never heard of before) and had both Joe and Owen contemplating their own mortality, this one felt oddly lightweight. Not that "Men of a Certain Age" is ever that heavy of a show, but there's usually something more satisfying in the shaggy dog-ness of it all than I got last night.

A lot of that insubstantial feeling came from the Terry story. All three main characters have their inner conflicts that the show repeats over and over - Joe struggles with his anxiety, Owen is over-burdened and eats too much, Terry won't grow up - but Terry's always feels the most repetitive, in part because the character was the most familiar to begin with. Scott Bakula's fine, but there's often a predictability to the Terry plots (with occasional exceptions like last week's Big Brother story) that there isn't with the other two guys, and I saw every beat of this one coming, down to Terry using his previously-established knowledge of electrical work to start fixing things around the complex.

(It was fun, however, to watch the other characters react to Terry's usual obliviousness. Carla Gallo is doing some really interesting work as Annie, who knows exactly who and what Terry is and will overlook that, but only to a point she hasn't reached yet.)

Owen's story had some nice moments, as the running gag about his over-eating turned serious (though still offered us comedy like the sound of Andre Braugher saying "jicama" over and over), but like the story with Joe's dad last week, the resolution seemed a little too easy. The difference, of course, is that Braugher's a regular castmember and Robert Loggia isn't. So it's entirely possible we'll see Owen struggle and backslide and sneak some Fiddle Faddle in later episodes. But if this is it, too easy.

The episode's highlight, unsurprisingly, was the return of the Joe & Manfro comedy team (this time written by another "Everybody Loves Raymond" alum, Lew Schneider). I like that there's always this unsettling edge about how the two of them interact. Manfro seems like a goofball, but Joe's always afraid the guy could hurt him. Here, though, Manfro may have given him the inspiration to give the senior tour a try, and I liked the ambiguity of the final scene as compared to how Owen's story resolved. Joe seems determined to stay there all night until he hits 10 in a row, but it's also clear that he's going to be lucky to hit that many consecutively. And after spending so many weeks watching Joe be timid and uncomfortable(*), it was a pleasure to see him kicking ass and taking names on the back nine at the golf course.

(*) Speaking of which, I was glad to have Sarah Clarke back as Dory, but I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop with that character. Between the way Joe behaved on their first date in "Go with the Flow" and his creepy, morbid attitude at Terry's housewarming, I'm wondering why this woman hasn't backed away, very carefully.

No new show next week, with the season's penultimate episode airing on Feb. 15. It's a short season (in this economy, a lot of cable shows seem to be downsizing from 13 episodes to 10), but at least there's already a renewal in the bag so we know the next two won't be the last two.

What did everybody else think?


miles said...

Alan- I rarely agree with you so thoroughly, but this time I do. The Terry and Owen story were too pat--both in the set up and the resolution.

I started watching this show because of Andre Braugher, but it is Ray Romano's story that keeps me involved. If Joe had just decided to do the senior golf tour and wasn't playing ridiculous games with himself at the end, I would've been very disappointed. It would have been three pat stories. Instead, it rang true. Joe is not going to make that decision easy.

Ian C. said...

Joe "stepping up" his golf game to make the douchebags shut up was entirely predictable, but still satisfying to watch.

I really enjoyed the Owen storyline. The whole idea of his son videotaping him to make him realize what he was doing to himself was rather heartbreaking. (Also kind of touching was Owen's father realizing - well, maybe - that he's somewhat complicit in his son's bad eating habits.)

Unknown said...

yes there will be a Men of a certain age on feb 15th

Anonymous said...

Lightweight or not, I actually really enjoyed this episode. Am always said when they end, as they keep me wanting more.

Enjoy Manfro a lot. He is indeed an unsettling guy, full of surprises, such as his exclusive country club membership. With each new detail about him revealed, I wonder what else we'll learn.

Nice touch to have one of Terry's repair guys wearing a uniform with the name "Lew" on it - an obvious nod to Lew Schneider, one of the show's producers.

Oh, and I love Fiddle Faddle too. I think Owen's battle will be hard-fought.

Unknown said...

For me this was undoubtedly the weakest show so far. All 3 storylines were worthwhile I thought but each probably needed much more time to develop and the result was, as Alan said, very light. But even with a soso show like this I still enjoy these characters very much. (I did find Terry's obliviousness about how he would actually have to do something for a 3k month apt hilarious too though)

Alex Mullane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blinky said...

Tried this show and did not like it. Too depressing and predictable.
I want Frank Pembleton back!

Anonymous said...

I liked the episode. Loved the golf stuff since I play a lot. Loved seeing Joe give it to those guys on the back nine. I thought it was interesting to see that when he got mad he was no longer "disabled" by his anxiety as his bookie "friend" pointed out. In the past, I thought the show went too far with how much his, and his son's, anxiety affected them in everyday life to the point I wondered if they belonged in an institution. I thought this was more realistic.

I love the Joe and Manfro scenes. As bizarre as their relationship is (Joe is never sure if Manfo is going to lose it and kill him at any moment) I think the relationship is good for Joe. Manfro is an in your face type of guy who is not afraid to be himself in any situation which is the complete opposite of Joe who carefully examines each situation before acting. Manfro is the kind of guy who doesn't let you sit on the sidelines but rather drags you into the game kicking and screaming if need be.

I don't think Terry's apartment manager story line is wrapped up yet. Sure, he seemed to buy-in to it by the end of the show but I doubt they will just leave it at that. Devoting himself to an actual job seems way out of character for him so I'm sure there will be more to it.

Brandy said...

I love Manfro. His and Joe's is my favorite relationship on this show. Such a bizarre undercurrent that relationship has and yet it's comedy gold.

Deep love for Scott Bakula made me try this series but right now I really hope they rework his character over the season break. Terry is the least interesting character on the show by far. He's can act with these guys just fine but he's not given much to work with.

That said Joe and Owen will keep me watching the show even if the Terry situation isn't fixed.

Jape77 said...

It should be pretty clear now that each episode will be a self-contained theme/journey with a resolution we can anticipate. However, rather than being a detriment, I see this as strength: it is watching these characters step up to the solution that I so enjoy.

For instance, even if the previews hadn't given away the wave of problems Terry would face as apt. manager, we knew he was completely delusional to think he could now take it easy (I burst out loud when he said "watercolors") -- and then to have the problems literally look him in the eye under the door? Priceless.

rino said...

i couldn't agree more, i really like the show. even though i like annie too, i'd rather see Terry not in a relationship: http://showstowatch.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

I liked how Joe's story ended with the golf shot. I assumed they'd show him hitting a few in and then cut to the tenth with him missing and then just giving up. I liked that he made a bet with himself, then decided he wasn't quitting until he won it (also because I do the same game shooting free throws).

Pamela Jaye said...

Technically, according to Scott, it was Ray's decision to hold it down to 10 eps. Unfortunately I've seen and heard so many interviews, I couldn't tell you which one that came from.

I, of course, was thrilled, when Terry fixed the light fixture. I found it more exciting than Battlestar WhateverVersion, but them of course, I'm biased.

Pamela Jaye said...

I also felt weird, after the fact, about Joe and Dori. It was like she was there as window dressing, when really I wanted to see more.

Someone at Z on TV noted that if Terry was an actor, it sure seemed hard for him to give a speech. I cheered at that, since I've seen Scott speak a lot of times, including to the National Press (Club?) and he was... oh, what did Joanne's husband say? very articulate? So, at least I know he can act (which, for an actor, is a good thing)

Hi Gianna ;-)

Pamela Jaye said...

I got a question in!

Watch Scott try to answer it in this video.

dez said...

Devoting himself to an actual job seems way out of character for him so I'm sure there will be more to it.

He'll probably get bored or overwhelmed sooner rather than later. Of course, with Terry, the universe will conveniently ensure another tenant dies or leaves the complex so that when he has to give up Alice's apt., another will be available for him.

It should be pretty clear now that each episode will be a self-contained theme/journey with a resolution we can anticipate. However, rather than being a detriment, I see this as strength: it is watching these characters step up to the solution that I so enjoy.

ITA. Plus, I don't think Owen's and Terry's stories are complete. Certainly, Owen's own anxieties are not conquered as long as he has to work in that environment with his dad and Marcus, so I expect major backsliding on the diet.

Joe & Manfro should take their act on the road :-)