Tag Archives: TNT

What Does TNT Know, Again?: On The Fate of Men of a Certain Age

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.

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Summer Premiere: Men of a Certain Age – “The Great Escape”

“The Great Escape”

June 1st, 2011

Given that I already offered a general opinion that “The Great Escape” is a tremendous return for the show’s second season, I don’t expect to say a great deal about the episode itself.

However, I feel that this episode more than any other captures the sort of “coming of age” theme that I highlighted in my pre-air review, creating a set of circumstances in which all of the characters prepare themselves to make an important life change before suddenly realizing that the moment has passed.

It’s oddly one of the most overtly thematic episodes that this subtle show has ever done, but its broad moments are triggered by such subtle observations that it never betrays what makes the series so compelling.

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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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Season Finale: Men of a Certain Age – “Back in the Shit”

“Back in the Shit”

February 22nd, 2010

“The grand essentials of happiness are something to do, something to love, something to hope for.”

I took a couple of stabs at making this introduction into a fairly elaborate discussion of how surprising I find Men of a Certain Age’s quality to be at points, and how glad I am that I sat down to watch the pilot despite being far outside of the show’s demographics, but I realized that I wrote about a lot of that the first time I tackled the show. The message, I hope, was received: this is a damn good show, and one that you should be watching.

But I was drawn into trying to recreate those points because the show continues to surprise me, and more importantly it continues to be really compelling. There is an honesty about this show that makes me like it more and more with each passing episode, and even when the show gets a fairly romantic sendoff (out of fear that this would be the show’s one and only season) it feels imminently satisfying because it leaves at least one of its three protagonists lacking in one of the above “grand essentials of happiness,” and leaves its others with work to do before they truly achieve those goals.

“Back in the Shit” is perhaps not the show’s best episode, rushing to take characters to dark places and rushing just as quickly to bring them a bit more good fortune, but it does so while retaining the subtlety that took the show from a middle-aged male version of Sex and the City (as it was once sold) into an adult drama series with heart, humour and good reasons I want to punch Ray Romano in the kidneys – the grand essentials, if you will.

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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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TV Real Estate: Searching for a New Home for ‘Jericho’

With news from Jericho’s Executive Producer Carol Barbee that they are working behind the scenes with both CBS and other networks, one has to wonder: what other networks would be in a position to take the show on? And why would they be interested in getting a show like Jericho with a dedicated fan base and a high value? Cultural Learnings investigates.production

TNT

Why They Should be Interested: TNT showed a willingness to take on first-run programming earlier this development season when they made a pitch to NBC for Law & Order to move to the network. In the end, NBC chose to keep Law & Order, and kept Criminal Intent in the NBC family, so TNT was left out in the cold.

Concerns: TNT has already moved towards developing more drama series: Saving Grace (Starring Holly Hunter) and Heartland (Starring Treat Williams) both debut this summer, so their development slate is actually fairly full. Plus, for better or for worse, Jericho would be the network’s first foray into non-procedural television. Still, there’s no better place to start than with an already established series that could pull in numbers similar to a well-established syndicated series.

Showtime

Why They Should Be Interested: Showtime, like HBO, operates on a subscription basis: any show that can bring with a dedicated set of fans is something that they should be interested in. Plus, the cable channel was very interested in Arrested Development, which had even lower ratings (Although that show was perhaps the best comedy of the decade, and (with apologies) I don’t think Jericho has quite as much critical pedigree. Still, it’s a sure-fire way to boost subscriptions.

Concerns: Showtime, like TNT, has been developing a lot of their own shows recently. Weeds, for instance, has made a big splash for the network, and The L Word is buzzworthy. As a result, Jericho doesn’t seem to fit: even Arrested Development was closer to their core audience-base. As much as it’s about expanding that audience, Jericho doesn’t seem like a Showtime type of show. Of course, change can often be a good thing.

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