Midlife crises have been the subject of lots of surprisingly strong comedy over the years. But watching TNT’s “Men of a Certain Age” ultimately feels more like experiencing a midlife crisis than observing one. In fact, with three loathsomely unlovable characters, it feels a lot like having multiple midlife crises simultaneously.
“Men of a Certain Age”
Mondays at 10 p.m.
“Men of a Certain Age” follows the incredibly average and entirely commonplace lives of Joe (Ray Romano, “Everybody Loves Raymond”), Owen (Andre Braugher, “The Mist”) and Terry (Scott Bakula, “The Informant”). Owen, a diabetic car salesman with no motivation, struggles with his daddy issues through much of the show and whines constantly. Terry is an ex-actor who never made it big and is currently working as a temp in a nondescript office. He shoves his work off onto others, takes advantage of their admiration in truly nauseating ways and flirts with a barrista young enough to be his daughter.
Finally, Joe, the most hateful of the trio, refuses to accept his divorce, denies his gambling problem and has long conversations about — and constantly stares at — his crush’s “big boobs.” Moreover, it’s just hard to feel bad for all his little problems when watching him be a dick to all of the employees who work in his chain store all day.
It’s difficult to tell if the audience is supposed to be entertained by Joe’s managerial style and unusual way of using his young employee to deliver payments to his bookie. It’s not exactly endearing to watch him be a skeevy eye-groping manager one moment, then give his children a horrifically embarrassing version of “the talk” the next. Hasn’t that plot been used enough by people trying to be funny?
The lack of sympathy the show fosters with its characters leads to yet more infuriating flaws. “Men of a Certain Age” makes an attempt to combine comedic banter and situational humor with moments of drama. Sadly, if the characters are impossible to care about more than the extras, the sympathy they draw is fairly low on the give-a-shit scale. Plus, the humor is found mostly in ridiculous conversations between friends — conversations that are largely sad and despicable, and usually begin with statements like, “I saw my ass in the mirror the other day.”
Dreadful dialogue aside, the show uses a run-over possum as possibly the most obnoxious symbolic representation of the acceptance of divorce ever created. Not only is the possum scene completely unnecessary, but it leaves us wondering if there’s any extra buckshot left in that gun for a second mercy killing.
There is a special circle in TV hell for writers who make their protagonists too “everyday.” Nothing distinguishes the main characters of “Men of a Certain Age” as people you’d want to get to know, let alone watch on TV. It’s not a difficult distinction to make, and those responsible for “Men of a Certain Age” should get their souls ready for a one-way trip to a fiery punishment.