TVision: TNT trying some male bonding

Monday, December 7, 2009 at 12:31am

Braugher, Bakula and Romano star in TNT's 'Men of a Certain Age.'

Procedural dramas have helped make TNT one of the most popular channels on either cable or broadcast television over the past few years. While USA's specialty is character-driven shows like Monk, Burn Notice, Psych and White Collar, TNT's developed outstanding programs such as The Closer, Saving Grace, Leverage and Raising The Bar.

Each spotlights the process of crime solving and/or the law, yet also features top actors like Emmy winner Kyra Sedgwick, Oscar winners Holly Hunter and Timothy Hutton, and acclaimed actors such as Gloria Reuben and Jane Kaczmarek.

But Monday night at 9 TNT tries something different with its newest series, Men of a Certain Age. There is no detective thrust or any crime foundation thread. Instead, it's a male bonding comedy/drama about the problems of aging, family and friendship revolving around the relationship between three longtime, yet also quite distinctive guys.

The trio of stars includes two more Emmy winners, Ray Romano and Andre Braugher, plus Golden Globe winner Scott Bakula.

Gambling has almost destroyed Joe's (Romano) life and definitely wrecked his marriage. Now separated and definitely missing his two children, he lives in a hotel and spends his days running his party store.

Owen (Braugher) has health and mental problems, and must endure withering, daily criticism from his father, something made worse by the fact that he works for him as a car salesman.

Terry (Bakula) would seem to have a dream existence by comparison. He's single, dates gorgeous women and is an actor, though currently he's doing temporary work while waiting for his next gig in front of the cameras.

These three truly care about each other, even though their conversations are laced with put-downs, jokes and derogatory comments. But each show reveals the depth of their bond and complex nature of their daily existence. Having seen three preview episodes, this is definitely NOT the program for those who like neat situations, pat solutions and minimal confrontations. These guys also aren't engaged in colorful quests or glorious tasks.

Whether Men of a Certain Age will resonate with audiences other than baby boomers will be determined in weeks to come. Shows that alternate between humorous segments and tearjerker moments are tough sells in an era where audiences often avoid programs without set premises and predictable characters. But the trio of Romano, Braugher and Bakula are excellent actors, and Romano serves as an executive producer along with former Everybody Loves Raymond producer Mike Royce, Rory Rosengarten and Cary Hoffman.

TNT deserves credit for going away from convention with Men of a Certain Age. Hopefully the program will grow and develop in the manner of their past successes.

‘Closer’ reopens

TNT's biggest hit remains The Closer, and it returns for a limited run Monday night at 8. Beau Bridges guest stars in an episode that will also answer a question regarding Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey that fans have been asking for over five years.

Holiday specials

Multiple Country Music Association winner Carrie Underwood hosts An All-Star Holiday Special Monday at 7 p.m. on WZTV-17 with special guests Christina Applegate, Kristin Chenoweth, David Cook, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton and the Sons of Sylvia.

The annual Barbara Walters Presents the Year's Most Fascinating People airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on WKRN-2. Christmas At The White House: An Oprah Primetime Special will team Oprah with the First Family Sunday night at 9 p.m.

Also, the annual telecast of It's A Wonderful Life is Saturday night at 7 p.m. on WSMV-4.