The bromance of ‘Men of a Certain Age’
You don’t find many bromances on TV these days. Apart from the flashy excesses of youthful ambition on " Entourage,” male camaraderie as a focal point has gone missing, with few shows centered on guys hanging out and talking about what’s up today and what’s coming tomorrow.
But there’s a new contender arm-wrestling for male-bonding supremacy, albeit of the middle-age variety. “Men of a Certain Age” returns to TNT for its second season Monday and the hourlong show finds the central characters played by Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher right back where they left off: meeting over lunch at a Norm’s restaurant to make sense of work, women and life in general.
“Men” comes minus the usual trappings that accompany a show with male leads — no guns fired, cars crashed or strip bars visited. Instead, it’s the nuanced averageness of the trio’s interactions that sets the tone. A recent lunch interview with Romano, Bakula and Braugher in the Norm’s diner set on a Paramount soundstage found that the on-screen level of simpatico among the actors carries over into real-life conversation, whether frivolous or serious.
Q: “Men of a Certain Age’s” average viewing age in the first season was about 50, which roughly mirrors the character’s ages. But it drew slightly more women than men — any reason for that?
Ray Romano: “The cast’s total sex appeal. [laughter] Though I tell you what I don’t bring, I don’t bring [a derriere].”
Andre Braugher: “I have enough to cover both these guys.”
RR: “He’s starring in this colonoscopy episode we’ve got this season. [more laughter]. I also don’t bring the pecs — that’s this guy [Scott Bakula flexes on cue].
“But maybe why they’re watching is because we’re not showing wild, unrealistic stuff. Our characters have recognizable jobs; they deal with family things. And since they’re halfway through their lives, they’re contending with the impact of what happened as younger guys and figuring out their next moves.
Q: Is the show’s even-keeled tone a key?
RR: “Maybe. I hope so. We try for serious, but in a fun way, aiming for a normal-life kinda balance.... A couple years ago when we shopped the script around, FX was one place we offered it to. They said it wasn’t ‘loud’ enough.”
Q: What would a loud ‘Men’ be like on FX?
RR: “Instead of a party store, I’d own a video store with a big porn section.”
Scott Bakula: “Maybe I would know you because my character would be shooting porn scenes.”
AB: “No, you wouldn’t.”
SB (quickly): “Why did you say it like that? You mean, nobody would believe it?”
RR: “He’d be in ‘The Vagina Monocles.’ ‘Monologues.’” [laughter]. “C’mon, you guys knew I meant ‘Monologues.’”
AB: “You [he points to Bakula] wouldn’t be a porn guy, you’d be a thief. And [to Romano] your store would be a front for him fencing stolen stuff. And I’d be a loan shark with heavy interest rates. And we’d all have guns.”
Q: Andre and Scott, you both signed on knowing there’d be little noise. What was the attraction?
SB: “You mean, beyond the money?” [laughter]
RR: “What appealed to you is that it was a cable show, so you wouldn’t be in a high tax bracket.”
AB: “For me, the show seemed reflective of real life in that when something happens you don’t get a gag line for a laugh or the character then telling the other characters why he did what he did. I respond to that kind of showing, not telling, in scripts, where it’s acting, not just talking, that conveys feelings and meanings.”
SB: “The real beauty is that we’re not overly trying to give you all this heavy stuff; it’s just layered in to find if you want it. There was a scene last season where Joe [Romano’s character] is angry, but instead of taking his frustration out in some actor-ly way, he wales away on this goofy Incredible Hulk doll. So he’s grappling with his life, but it’s also just funny to see a grown man punching a big, inflatable doll.”
Q: The characters bicker a bit in a friendly way, but the bonds tying them together seem strong — could anything jeopardize the relationships?
SB: “The show’s biggest underground lie and potentially the most damaging is that we [he and Braugher] have been shielded from the bigness of Joe’s gambling problem. I don’t think we are that aware how fatal it was to his marriage.”
AB: “Yeah, but as a friend, there’s not a lot you can do about it, other than confront him.”
RR: “With a drug addict or alcohol, you can see it — gambling is one of the worst things because everything is hidden. When I was younger I dabbled in this world. Sports betting, which is what Joe does, is where you can get in the most trouble because you just call up a bookie, maybe bet more than you have — in Vegas, smaller bettors at least have to put the money down upfront. But I have close, close friends who, back in the day, didn’t really know the extent of my involvement, and they went to the track with me, no big deal. Because unless you open up, it’s only the immediate family that has to deal with it. In the colonoscopy episode this season, woozy from the drugs they give him, Joe opens up about this to the other two for the first time, and they kind of deal with it.”
Q: How long do you envision the show following these character’s lives?
RR: “When we run out of old-guy ailments, we’re done.”
Q: Finally, what would your character be doing in a 20-year reunion episode of “Men of a Certain Age”?
RR: “Joe probably has opened a Sizzler in Vegas and he is dating a stripper who speaks broken English.”
SB: “I’m still not married but taking supplements to have way more sex than now.”
AB: “My kids will be out of the house, so my wife and I will be empty nesters. We’ll be skiing in Vail.”
SB: “Skiing in Vail? [Bakula groans] My guy will still be stuck selling cars at your character’s dealership to pay for you to go.”
‘Men of a Certain Age’
When: 10 p.m. Monday
Rating: TV-MA-LS (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17 with advisories for coarse language and sex)