Cast shines in “Men of a Certain Age”

By Tom Comi

You really have to hand it to Ray Romano. While many comedians with a hit sitcom under their belt would greedily attempt to recapture that magic, the former Everybody Loves Raymond star knew better.

Instead of jumping at any chance to do another sitcom when Raymond went off the air in 2005, Romano waited patiently for the right project. And even he had to be shocked when he realized that right project was a one-hour scripted drama about three men experiencing the wrong side of middle-age.

Aptly named Men of a Certain Age (a new season premieres tonight on TNT at 10pm ET), the serious-but-funny show follows the lives of three longtime friends who are juggling the challenges of their respective personal and professional lives. The smartest move Romano made — in addition to eschewing opportunities to do another sitcom — is compiling an ensemble cast that also includes Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula.

Together the actors give us a trio of characters who are flawed but human, and that gives us a rooting interest in each of their lives. Romano plays Joe Tranelli, a divorced father of two who tries to run a party store while fighting his gambling addiction. Braugher portrays Owen Thoreau Jr., a married man who attempts to run the family car dealership after taking over for his over-bearing father. And Bakula takes on the role of struggling-actor Terry Elliott, who has to take a job working for Owen to make ends meet.

The beauty of the is show is the similarities the men share in their day-to-day struggles despite the differences in their respective lives. Whether it’s on their morning hikes or breakfasts at a local diner, the friends gather frequently to vent to one another about their ups and downs. More often then not, the sessions lead to each of them taking a ribbing from the other two for not appreciating the good things they do have.

And therein lies the beauty of Men of a Certain Age. The topics can be very heavy at times (including gambling, family turmoil and dating and professional struggles), but the writers rely on enough humor to make the show not only watchable but enjoyable.

And it’s yet another reason for everybody to love Ray Romano.

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Credit: Danny Feld/TNT

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