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Is Men of a Certain Age the Best Show You Aren't Watching?

After next week's episode, TNT's excellent Men of a Certain Age will go on hiatus until summer—so now probably isn't the best time to beg you to give the show a shot. But when I like a show and the mood strikes, you'll be the second to know (as soon as I'm done lecturing my cats on how Ray Romano has successfully transformed into an Emmy-caliber dramatic actor).

Last night's episode, "And Then the Bill Comes," was a perfect example of how Men of a Certain Age works. Instead of outing gay characters, bringing a natural disaster into town, or relying on other hackneyed plots that never actually happen in real life, MoaCA combines simple storylines with well-defined characters—and the result is incredibly authentic.

Take, for example, a scene from last night in which Joe (Romano) struggled with the question of whether or not to visit an acquaintance—not really a "friend"—who'd just been diagnosed with cancer. The problem is, the "friend" was his former bookie, Manfro, and Joe's trying to give up gambling. Further complicating matter was the sad fact that Manfro didn't really have any other friends, and the guilt really began to pile on Joe.

Sure, not all of us have had to confront someone dying, but we all have that acquaintance who wants to be our friend just a little more than we want to be his. Eventually Joe did visit Manfro and then something funny happened. While most dramas would turn on the waterworks and reduce the scene to a cliched, babbling mess, Men of a Certain Age delivered an understated, poignant chat between two guys dealing with the crappy hand they've been dealt. They talked about life and death in their own language: sports and betting. Manfro explained that chemotherapy will give him a five-percent chance improvement in survival, and asked Joe if he liked those odds even though he'd suffer through the side effects of diarrhea, vomiting, and eyebrow loss. Manfro's frankness and lack of woe-is-me whining caught Joe off guard, and at that point we were witnessing two guys just hanging out. The scene suddenly wasn't about cancer and dying; it was about friendship and enjoying existence.

As an outsider looking in, Men of a Certain Age almost serves as a guide to better living. We're seeing three grown men deal with everyday situations just as we would. There's no pretension, no preaching, and no bulls**t. With its earnestness and emphasis on staying in the real world, Men of a Certain Age is so relatable and familial that we feel guilty for not sending it a Christmas card.

The program also features incredible acting from Romano, Andre Braugher, and Scott Bakula, who carry the difficult task of playing the parts of normal people—a job that's way harder than wearing the face of a cutthroat lawyer, a masked superhero, or a flamboyant vampire. And if that's not enough, take a listen to the soundtrack, which mines the 1970s and dusts off neglected hits like Ricky Nelson's "Garden Party" or The Faces' "Ooh La La."

From top to bottom, Men of a Certain Age is a warm, likable achievement that will probably continue to go unnoticed by the masses. But if you're a fan of real-life dramas like the similarly underwatched Friday Night Lights, don't miss it.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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I am watching never miss it
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Great review! Thanks so much for giving this show its due and acknowledging the fine performances of these three actors -- not to mention each and every member of the supporting cast.
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Anyone not watching is missing a great, different and humorous show.
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I gave the first series a try and it's great, it should be sold to the UK TV ASAP.
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I like the show alot. Don't base your opinions on the actors' pasts. This is great stuff. This season has been transitional, as Owen adjusts to running the family business, Joe tries to figure out what the rest of his life is going to look like as a recovering gambler and divorced Dad, and Terry is dealing with giving up his acting dream and fitting into the "real world." Can't wait to see what's in store this summer!
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I'm a fan and have been from the start. Really thankful for the show and for this review giving it the credit and publicity it deserves.
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The reason I haven't picked it up yet is simply because I can't stand Ray Romano thanks to Everybody Loves Ray.. I'll probably do it eventually because I quite like Scott Bakula.
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funny as hell, and the characters are developing so well, its like life
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This is a great great show. I think it's great Terry is growing up instead of languishing in his dead end acting career.
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I gotta say, I'm not watching it primarily due to my own lack of imagination, or is it just my ability to learn. After seeing years of Ray Romano and Scott Bakula act badly, I can't bring myself to believe in a world where they have any acting talent. I saw 'Lord of Illusions'. Oh boy.
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i love this show! i hope it doesn't get cancelled :/ it deserves more attention then it gets. I hated watching Braugher have to give up his idea for the auto shop dam shady business
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"And Then The Bill Comes" was definitely a terrific episode, and I especially enjoyed Andre Braugher's performance. His one scene when he's trying to unite the sales and service teams is truly terrific. Romano and Bakula also give phenomenal performances every week. I'm disappointed next week is the midseason finale, but I look forward to it coming back in the summer!
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Its just an OK show, but nothing fantastic!
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While this show is entirely underrated, this season has been fairly lackluster. Terry's character is fun when he's acting or trying to act but they have him selling cars. Joe's dream of playing pro-golf is fun but this usually takes up about 30 seconds of any given episode. Still, it is nice to have a great (non-comedy) show on TV with such a good cast. Recommended to anyone with half a heart.
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