Tonight, Men of a Certain Age, the highly promoted new series on TNT, premieres at 10:00 EDT. As a man of a certain age, 46 for exactitude, I have been interested in this show since seeing the first preview several months ago. The main characters (Scott Bakula, Andre Braugher and Ray Romano) are men facing the middle of life with dreams unfulfilled, lingering questions about success and problematic relationships. It’s the stuff with which every man deals in some form if he is honest with himself and with those around him.
In an interview published in the December 4-6, 2009, USA Weekend paper, Braugher (Homicide Life on the Street), Bakula (Quantum Leap) and Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond), who is also the show’s co-creator and executive producer, fielded questions about romance, dating and life. Though Bakula is a “player” on the show, all of the actors are married-Romano for 22 years, Braugher for 18 and Bakula for 13 (second marriage). Men deals with the nuances of the dating process, but Romano admits, “I haven’t been on a date with a new woman in 22 years because I’ve been married all that time. If I had to do it now, I’d be terrified.” Bakula adds, “It’s hard to imagine yourself out there, attempting to date. It’s really frightening.”
Many men would think if the Hollywood A-listers are scared to face the possibility, then the average guy who finds himself unexpectedly entering that particular venue again should not feel so bad about their fears.
The TNT website mentions that Braugher’s character, Owen, is married with three kids, who is dealing with health issues and an overbearing father, for whom he works at a car dealership. Terry, played by Bakula, is “the perpetual bachelor of the group…an actor whose laid-back approach to life and love are half-envied, half-mocked by his two best friends, Joe and Owen,” while Joe (Romano) is working in a party store rather than playing golf, as was his dream, and is separated from his wife, though unwilling “to give up on his marriage, even though his wife has no such qualms.” In other words, pick out any three guys, put them in a booth at Waffle House and roll the camera.
That some men struggle mightily throughout their 40’s and 50’s to make sense of dreams gone south, marriages gone dull, kids gone wild and careers gone completely is a given. It probably happens to many more than will admit it, but it happens. I hope that this show gives a realistic picture of such situations without devolving into endless talk about sex; the show is rated TV-MA for language. In the aforementioned interview, Romano revealed that he has already filmed a “semi-nude” scene for the show, which sounds like a great place for a bathroom break to me; maybe TNT will put a warning on the screen.
Hoping against hope, perhaps Romano will bring spiritual content into the programming. Braugher’s breakthrough role as the lapsed Catholic Baltimore Detective Frank Pembleton in Homicide: Life on the Street featured regular conversations about issues of good and evil, God and Satan, fate and sovereignty. Though not always coming down correctly, both sides were generally given an accurate hearing. One would hope that serious spiritual discussion would become a recurring theme in Men since these things are important to men of every age.