If you hear someone calling TNT's new Ray Romano vehicle "Men of a Certain Age" a "'Cougar Town' for men," ignore them. Sure, both shows deal with the same overall theme: middle-aged people fretting over saggy bodies, unrealized professional dreams, and strained family relationships. But that's where the similarities end.
"Men" is definitely not a sitcom, though at times, Romano is very funny as the lonely, goofy party store owner Joe, with a gambling addiction (an unnecessary element, in my opinion) and a failed marriage. And it turns out Romano is a solid dramatic actor as well.
The show is difficult to categorize, but I'd call it a light drama sprinkled with "guy humor" that never gets adolescent or silly in the way "Two and a Half Men" does. (Though l have to ask, do men really sit around at lunch talking about their various "ass creams?"). The humor manages to be mature without being stodgy, and the show is often (even though it's written by men for men) sort of sweet. Actually, make that bittersweet. Romano and his friends have real problems -- the "you know people with problems like these" problems, which aren't easily solved in 44 minutes of primetime.
Romano is joined by Andre Braugher as Owen, a "husky" diabetic car salesman who works at his father's Chevrolet dealership. His father doesn't respect him, nor does he seem to even like him very much, and he's a sad joke to his coworkers. But he has a nice wife and two cute but wild little boys. Braugher, whose physical condition is less than peak here, possesses no vanity as he sits shirtless on the side of his bed, man boobs displayed in all their glory. I also noticed something you would never see on a show about women, which is the women actually mocking one of their own for being fat, and that is exactly what these guys do to Owen.
Scott Bakula finishes out the trio as the Peter Pan-syndromed actor Terry, who dates women half his age and works temp jobs so that he can be free to audition. Bakula easily pulls off playing younger than his actual age, and if you take away the overly-highlighted hair, he looks damn good. But he's the least interesting character so far, perhaps because he's so unsettled.
"Men of a Certain Age" is a great addition to TNT's already solid lineup of dramas. It premieres tonight at 10pm.