Tag Archives: Scott Bakula

Coming of [a Certain] Age: The Return of TNT’s Men of a Certain Age

The Return of TNT’s Men of a Certain Age

June 1st, 2011

There are usually some questions about when, or why, critics write pre-air reviews for returning series. Personally, I tend to only do so in circumstances where the show is going through drastic changes, where my opinion of the show is going through drastic changes, or when the show simply deserves the recognition in light of its quality (and I’ve seen episodes in advance, of course).

TNT’s Men of a Certain Age, returning tonight at 10/9c, fits into the third category: in fact, considering that this is actually the seventh episode of the second season, it’s hard to argue that there are drastic changes when this is a sort of false premiere as opposed to a fresh start. This is the same show that returned for its second season back in December, and it remains that show through the first three episodes of the back half of the season (which is all I’ve gotten through to this point).

And yet I’m compelled to write down at least a few thoughts given the fact that I feel as though some people still aren’t paying attention as a result of the series’ subject matter. I had actually fallen behind on the first half of the season, and so I just recently sat down to the winter finale, in which Terry, Joe and Owen go and get colonoscopies. On paper, this sounds like something that is very distinct to the eponymous demographic, and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong: after all, the number of 25-year-olds getting colonoscopies is likely pretty slim.

That being said, the idea that the problems that these characters face are strictly “of a certain age” is false: although their experience is certainly more reflective of my parents’ generation than my own, given that I am likely among the youngest viewers the show has, this is as much a “coming of age” story as any show set in high school or university. However, instead of focusing on “coming of age” moments which are ingrained within our experience, mapped out for us from the time we are born, Men of a Certain Age focuses on the fact that middle age doesn’t work the same way: it’s amorphous and, well, anything but certain.

Men of a Certain Age is not a show about the perils of becoming older, it’s a show about the perils of defining yourself at a stage when there’s no clear path ahead of you. As it returns to conclude its second season, the characters are admittedly preoccupied with the notion of turning 50, but it’s not about what they can or can’t do. Instead, it’s about what they should or shouldn’t do, a question that speaks less to being “old” and more to simply being human.

And the result is a pretty terrific drama series.

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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

June 3rd, 2010

On the drama side of things, there’s fewer trends that we can follow through to the nominees than there are in comedy. There, we can look at Glee and Modern Family and see some logical directions the awards could take, but in Drama there’s really only one new contender (The Good Wife), and the other variables are much more up in the air in terms of what’s going to connect with viewers. Lost could see a resurgence with voters in its final season, or it could be left in the dust; Mad Men could pick up more acting nominations now that its dynasty is secure, or it could remain underrepresented; Breaking Bad could stick to Cranston/Paul, or it could branch out into the rest of the stellar cast.

That unpredictability isn’t going to make for a shocking set of nominations, but I do think it leaves a lot of room open for voters to engage with a number of series to a degree that we may not have, so it’s an interesting set of races where I’m likely going out on some limbs.

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Season Finale: Chuck – “Chuck vs. the Subway/Chuck vs. The Ring: Part II”

“Chuck vs. the Subway/Chuck vs. the Ring: Part II”

May 24th, 2010

I don’t know if I have that much to say about the Chuck finale, primarily because it isn’t a finale to anything in particular. It’s intelligent for Schwartz and Fedak to draw from the series’ overall premise and mythology to drive this two-part finale, as “Chuck vs. the Subway” and “Chuck vs. the Ring: Part II” are both emotionally satisfying, intelligent hours of television, but it means that it doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s bringing anything to a close so much as it’s finally addressing long-standing issues.

The plot of the two episodes draws from elements earlier this season, like our discovery that John Casey has a daughter, the return of Brandon Routh’s Daniel Shaw, or the potential damage done by the Intersect for the human psyche, but it also makes the argument that fairly substantial chunks of the season (and, arguably, earlier seasons) were not what we thought they were. The conclusion to the episode, more than ever last year’s cliffhanger, introduces the idea that Chuck was destined to be this way, and that the circumstantial elements of the series have all been part of a broader function and purpose.

This makes this much more of a premiere than a finale, using what little momentum the pacing-challenged third season could muster in order to launch the series on a much more interesting trajectory. The result has me much more excited about a fourth season than I was when it was announced a few weeks ago, although no more appreciative of the third season’s narrative stumbling blocks – so long as next season lives up to the hype, though, I’m willing to forgive them for the year’s struggles.

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Television of a Certain Quality: TNT’s Men of a Certain Age

Television of a Certain Quality: TNT’s Men of a Certain Age

January 3rd, 2010

As we enter a new decade, there is no question that time and age become important questions. On New Year’s, there was a twitter meme of “10 Years Ago,” which is not only prompting us to remember what we were doing at the dawn of Y2K (Hint: not recovering from a massive technological crisis) but also prompting us to compare where we are now to where we were then. And while this might not be a particularly meaningful exercise for me (considering that I was in eighth grade ten years ago, I don’t have too much to compare), the ruminations on age and life trajectory are probably more meaningful for people who were actually living lives (middle school doesn’t count) in the year 2000.

I raise this point not to try to make those older than me feel older, but rather as a nice excuse to finally write something about TNT’s Men of a Certain Age, a show that I had no expectations of enjoying but which has become a nice piece of consistency during this off-time for the bulk of my favourite series. I believe it was James Poniewozik who suggested that Men of a Certain Age is the male equivalent of The Good Wife, a show for which you have very limited expectations but that surprises you with a subtlety and a focus on execution, and I buy that (I’ve blogged about The Good Wife a heck of a lot more than I expected, after all). I expected the show to be something very different than what it is, but I’ve enjoyed its subtle approach to its storylines and its ability to find both humour and tragedy in legitimate and believable places in the lives of its characters.

And while I like James’ comparison, what really sets this show apart is that unlike The Good Wife – which had lowered expectations based primarily on the network and its penchant for procedurals – Men of a Certain Age faces an even more significant challenge: convincing a cynical audience that Ray Romano is capable of taking himself seriously.

While it might not seem fair, the show lives or dies on this question, and that it has felt so dramatically satisfying is a testament to his work here.

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Chuck – “Chuck vs. the Dream Job”

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“Chuck vs. the Dream Job”

April 6th, 2009

Chuck Bartowski really only wants one thing in life: to get the intersect out of his head. However, at the same time, there are things that he needs in his life that always take precedence, his relationship with his sister being one of them. The show has always played it fast and loose as it relates to the way in which Chuck’s life as a CIA asset interacts with his domestic sphere, but in this episode there is little to no Buy More, and we find instead the convergence between Chuck’s most pressing desire and his most constant duty.

The way “Chuck vs. the Dream Job” handles this is, for the most part, predictably solid: this is not a revolutionary hour for the series, both in how the episode was plotted and the level to which anyone with half a brain called its “big reveal” as soon as Orion came on the scene. However, the show deserves a lot of credit for turning the predictable into the effective, and for doing a bangup job with casting as expected: both Scott Bakula, late of NBC’s Quantum Leap, and Chevy Chase provide that ideal combination of levity and potential menace to their respective characters.

It’s also another sign that Zachary Levi perhaps deserves more credit than he gets for his role on the show – that he is able to switch from comic pratfalls to realistic romantic drama to this week’s quite nuanced self-discovery demonstrates that the show’s star is far from a one-trick pony. And while I love the show’s comedy, and appreciate its romance, I often like it best when it finds itself in the family dynamics, the drama built less on drawn out tension and more on the idea that this character was someone before he was the intersect, before his life was a TV show; and it’s that sense that convinces me above all else that a TV show should be his future as well.

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