On The Fate of TNT’s Men of a Certain Age
July 11th, 2011
It hasn’t exactly been a secret that critics are fans of TNT’s Men of a Certain Age, but the simultaneous posting of two independent articles from prominent critics (HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall and AOL’s Maureen Ryan) defending the series against a potential cancellation has certainly cemented the show as this year’s critics’ cause.
For the record, I’m with both Alan and Mo regarding the show: the back half of the second season was maybe its strongest stretch to date, taking each character on a distinct journey that always felt controlled more by the ebbs and flows of life than by the machinations of plot development. The finale, in particular, was narratively complex while staying true to the characters and their relationships. It was about Joe’s relationship with his children, Owen’s relationship with his father, and Terry’s relationship with his past, as much as it was about golf, car dealerships, and career paths. It was a hopeful finale, perhaps, but it was not one that offered any sort of ending. In fact, I don’t know if this is a show that can truly have an ending given its focus on lives being lived.
Of course, Alan and Mo’s posts exist because the show is low-rated, and TNT is not a network known for its low-rated shows. In fact, given that Alan and Mo have covered the show’s strengths so well already, I’m actually more interested in the TNT side of this equation. A network that has staked its reputation on “We Know Drama,” TNT has found great success with quasi-serial procedurals like The Closer and Rizzoli & Isles (which both return tonight), and recently greenlit a second season for its sci-fi drama Falling Skies.
When people appeal to a network to save a show, there needs to be some sort of justification. For Chuck it was product placement and a willingness to make budget concessions, while for Friday Night Lights it was an off-network distribution deal with DirecTV. Other networks, meanwhile, are in such dire shape that they can’t afford to cancel shows with a heartbeat (NBC, I am looking at you). With TNT, though, you have a stable and consistently-performing network that seems immune to the vast majority of “Save our Show” logics, except for the one that critics help manage.
And the one that remains loosely defined for TNT.