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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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