Co-creator Mike Royce and writers Bridget Bedard and Rick Muirragui talk about the new TNT cable series starring Ray Romano.
Men friends aren’t supposed to talk about control issues, unhealthy eating and other vulnerable, emotional topics, but the characters in Men of a Certain Age tackle them in a realistic way with empathy, humor and typical male banter.
Although the three lead characters in this captivating “dramedy” share the bond of being in their 40s, each one is on a different path. Joe (Ray Romano) owns a party store and once aspired to be a pro golfer. He recently separated from his wife, lives in a hotel, and sees his two children when he can. Terry (Scott Bakula) is a struggling actor with a series of part time jobs. He has never been married and is envied for his footloose, bachelor lifestyle. Owen (Andre Braugher) works at his father’s car dealership, is married with children and feels burdened with responsibilities.
There are no judgments as to which one has the better life, but the contrasts are evident for both the viewer and the characters. Mike Royce, co-creator with Ray Romano of Men of A Certain Age says, “We are trying mightily not to make any type of life the right kind of life.”
Two of the show’s writers are single: Bridget Bedard and Rick Muirragui. Bedard, the only female on the team, noted that many of the other writers on the show are comedians, so the banter in the writer’s room is often in high gear.
Both Muirragui and Bedard said their single status gave them valuable insight when brainstorming on storylines with plenty of anecdotes from their own lives — as well as the ability to provide a realistic view about what it’s like to be in the dating scene. And both enjoyed working closely with co-creators Mike Royce and Ray Romano. They said Royce has a reputation for being talented, fair and collaborative. Romano is an exceptional storyteller and has the talent to share details of his own personal experiences in a compelling way.
In the fourth episode “The New Guy,” Terry, the bachelor in the group, volunteers to be the auctioneer at the annual school charity event. The year before, he ended up taking home one of the school’s teachers, Brenda Blye (Jessica Lundy). Tonight he runs into her again and learns she’s engaged — and both still feel the sexual spark. At the end of the event, Brenda invites Terry to come home with her. He realizes she would likely regret her indiscretion and decides not to follow her home.
Bedard, who wrote this episode, praised the actress who played Brenda, saying she did a great job of revealing the fragility beneath her attraction to Terry and her willingness to take a risk. The show may not be trying to teach a moral lesson to its viewers, but there are useful insights, like this one, that are easy to identify with, especially when you’re single.
In the second episode titled “Let It Go,” married Owen and bachelor Terry provide emotional support to recently separated Joe to “get back out there” after 20 years of marriage, particularly after his wife tells Joe they should start seeing other people.
Joe’s “fantasy woman” (Patricia De Leon), is someone the three men enjoy seeing on their early morning hikes. One day, she comes into Joe’s party store to buy balloons for a birthday party. Joe leaps to help her, and attempts to engage her in conversation, but it’s evident his flirting skills are quite rusty.
Joe: “Let me know if you have any questions.”
Fantasy Woman: “I’ve seen you hiking, right?”
Joe: “Yeah. I’ve seen you hiking.”
Fantasy Woman: “I see you up there all the time.”
Joe: “Yeah I go up there. I go up there a lot. Wow. That’s weird. That’s weird. I knew I had seen you but I didn’t think you had seen me.”
Fantasy Woman: “Oh! why would you have seen me and I wouldn’t have seen you?”
Joe: “No reason really. Just I’m always up there in my head. I got my CD playing all the time. So I just didn’t think you had seen me there.
Fantasy Woman: “Well, listening to music doesn’t make you invisible.”
Joe: “Right right. Well, sometimes you wish it did, right?”
Fantasy Woman: “… I guess … sometimes … sometimes …”
Joe’s employee, DaShaun (Little JJ): “That was hard to watch man.”
Staying in good shape is important to most single people, evident in the character dynamics. Joe and Terry exercise and pay attention to what they eat — in stark contrast to their married friend, Owen, a diabetic who is decidedly out of shape.
Owen explains his unhealthy eating to his wife: “I’m sorry about eating all that junk. I know you hate that. But I gotta say, I think it’s a control issue, I really do. I mean, think about it. I have no control in my life. I got a house that’s too small and too unfinished and at work everything I do is on somebody else’s schedule. Really, the only time that I have control is when I eat.”
Writer Rick Muirragui says while he enjoys being single, he appreciates Owen’s marriage. “Owen’s wife, Melissa, is a really strong character who holds him accountable but doesn’t emasculate him.”
Owen and Joe both express their envy of Terry’s singular lifestyle. In the first episode, Terry is kissing an attractive woman goodbye before joining the others for their morning hike. Owen asks Joe, “Would you say you hate him more now or back when we were in college?”
Watching the kiss, Joe replies, “I hate him more now.”
You can see this scene in this four-minute overview video:
The bias against single people is touched upon in the seventh episode, “Father’s Fraternity” where Terry decides to apply to be a Big Brother. He’s certain he’s aced the interview, but is shocked and disappointed when he receives a rejection letter in the mail. In a very uncomfortable scene, Terry goes to the organization’s office to find out why. The woman who interviewed him explains that it’s the Big Brothers’ policy not to reveal why some applicants are denied.
Terry presses, “Let me just ask you, was it because I’m single? The reason I’m asking is because I really thought that was a good thing because I don’t have other family so I can really concentrate on the kid.”
SingularCity members weigh in on Men of Certain Age
We spoke to some of our SingularCity members about the show. Most were impressed with the realistic portrayal of the characters — normal, vulnerable men, not action heroes. They agreed that the humor is portrayed at a believable level, the characters are easy to identify with, making the show appealing — not just to men “of a certain age” — but to a broader audience.
Judy Bloom, Ph.D. a psychologist, wasn’t surprised to hear that more than half the audience are women. “The insight into the head of a man going through that transitional period of his life is very interesting to us,” she said.
Dan Miner, an engineer, is pleased his 23-year-old son Drew likes to watch the show with him — even though Drew uses it as an opportunity to tease his father. He said he likes the fact that Men of a Certain Age is entertaining without using over the top plot devices like in other drama series. Dan said his favorite episode was when Joe has his first date in 20 years, saying he remembers his own awkward first date after getting divorced in 1991.
According to Nielsen: Women 18+ made up 57% of the audience for the entire season, while men 18+ made up 40% of the audience. The gap between the two groups grew smaller as the season progressed, with the season finale audience made up of 52% women 18+ and 47% men 18+.
How to Find Men of a Certain Age
Cable channel TNT premiered Men of a Certain Age on December 7 with a finale of the first season airing February 22. Encore episodes begin Saturday, March 6 at 10 a.m. Please check your local listings. The second season of will begin in the fall.