Men of a Certain Age
First of all I’d like to point out that I most likely do not fit into the intended “Men of a Certain Age” demographic. Something which is fine by me, as I’m pretty sure that demographic includes 40- to 60-year-old American males with a general disillusionment towards life and a desire to see unlikely scenarios posed by being within that age group. Disclaimer aside, there are plenty of other things about Men of a Certain Age, now in its second season, which leave me disaffected.
The story follows the lives of three hapless middle-aged men grappling with some truly pressing age-related issues (think grey hair and weight-related tribulations), having known each other since childhood. Ray Romano plays Joe, who is basically the same character he plays in the insanely long-running family ‘comedy’ Everybody Loves Raymond, but with a thin veneer of adult
subject matter coming courtesy of a now-reformed gambling addiction. Yes, I’m sorry to say that even Ray Romano experiences strife sometimes folks. Oh and his voice has, seemingly against all the rules of biological science, gotten way deeper and considerably more creepy. Joe runs a party store which he doesn’t have all that much interest in, shunning it for his love of golfing as he vies for a spot on the senior tour. He’s also single thanks to his aforementioned gambling problems, has two kids, and for the most part is pretty miserable.
Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) assumes the role of Terry, an out of work and actor trying to bury the proverbial demon of a somewhat embarrassing commercial in which he starred many years ago. Terry maintains the loveable playboy function in the group and has all but given up his attempts at reputable acting gigs, instead working at his friend Owen’s car dealership. I’m sorry to say that at no point does Terry leap through space and time, assuming the role of some of social history’s most provocative figures.
Finally, Owen (Andre Braugher) is heir-apparent to his father’s business selling cars. In a somewhat unnerving dynamic, Owen refers to his father as ‘Daddy,’ sheepishly consulting him on uninteresting facets of their car trade. I don’t know what it is but I find this particularly hard to come to terms with, perhaps because Men of That Certain Age should probably start asserting themselves
within the business they’re supposed to be the inheritor of. Or perhaps because saying ‘Daddy’ at 40-something is inherently weird unless you’re addressing yourself in the third person to your kids.
If I’m completely honest I can imagine liking this show more if I was indeed a little older. There are certainly some genuinely funny moments, one of which comes from Joe’s overbearing neighbor and a standoff with the local grocery store owner and his lack of pleasantry. Unfortunately, these slight glimmers of amusement do little to make me feel any better about growing older and
certainly aren’t offering any convincing means of overcoming issues faced with the modern man. The characters seem likeable enough but even Sex and the City-style lunches in diners do little to inspire the viewer or indeed make them feel as if this group of people are anything other than just acquaintances.
But the worst part about Men of a Certain Age isn’t the subject matter, uneasy character cohesion or even the flimsy writing, but the shaky hand-cam style in which it’s shot. There really is a time and a place for this style of filming; maybe an explosion-ridden battlefield maelstrom replete with flying body parts or a gritty cop drama based in brothels and seedy nightclubs. But in a coming of middle age pseudo-comedy starring Ray Romano, it comes off as a little desperate, a lot like your dad going to a show in his old skintight jeans and faded denim jacket with the fake Iron Maiden patch on. The camera bobs around mechanically, zooms to the faces of the characters often blurring them for a millisecond in a style that worked excellently in The Office, but one that comes across as nothing short of annoying here.