R.I.P. 'Men of a Certain Age'
TV writer Paul Weingarten laments the loss of one of TV's more thoughtful and funny shows, TNT's "Men of a Certain Age," recently canceled.
Tonight in Prime Time
If you are a man of a certain age — not young, not ancient — then you know there's not much on television devoted to your specific state of mind.
You can't be bothered about whether the bachelor follows through on that heartfelt marriage proposal at the end of what is supposedly a reality series. Or how much the biggest loser lost or whether "30 Rock" will ever be funny again. (Doubtful.)
But there was this show on cable's TNT. More of a broadcast miracle, actually.
"Men of a Certain Age" didn't have any of the elements that draw huge ratings. No splashy murders. No special effects. Not much if any profanity. No idols, no judges.
Just three guys, three middle-age buddies who meet for breakfast at a no-frills local restaurant, hike trails, sell Chevies, suffer through divorces and breakups and prickly relationships with their kids and cranky elderly parents and failing businesses...
There was Joe (Ray Romano), a divorced recovering gambling addict and party-store owner who dreams of making the PGA's senior tour.
Terry (Scott Bakula), a womanizing Peter Pan-like actor who is or isn't trying to finally grow up and settle down with a woman near his own age and hold a real job as a car salesman.
And Owen (Andre Braugher), an overweight underachiever with serious sleep apnea who struggles to run a near-bankrupt Chevy dealership while emerging from the shadow of his overbearing father, a former Los Angeles Laker basketballer.
It was glorious. TNT canceled it.
In one brilliant episode, the three plan a road trip to Palm Springs. To gamble? To frolic at the pool with women of a certain younger age? Nah. To get colonoscopies.
"We'll be the three Muske-rears," one declares.
A show for everyone? No. A show for every man who's ever stared in the mirror and found a geezer-in-training staring back. Who's discovered that "lasts" pile up more than "firsts" in the second half of life. Who has learned to savor the small moments when nothing hurts, mentally or physically.
These three could disappoint their employees, wives and children, slide back into destructive habits, lust after younger, unattainable women ... but then they learn. They change. Most important: They keep at it.
The opening credits unspool to a series of grainy Super 8 home-movie clips: Boys running in the sprinkler, draped in superhero capes, teasing girls with a garden-hose sprayer, cruising in a huge American convertible with the top down, all set to a nostalgia-rich Beach Boys song: "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)":
"Will I dig the same things that turn me on as a kid?
Will I look back and say that I wish I hadn't done what I did? ...
Now I'm young and free
But how will it be
When I grow up to be a man?"
No longer young. No longer free. But this show reminded a lot of men and women of every age about what counts in life. And that never grows old.