TNT is counting on everybody to love Raymond, as the network's new original Men of a Certain Age marks Ray Romano's return to series TV. With ratings champ The Closer as its opener, this drama with a light touch should draw a sizeable audience - and not just among fans of the star's broadcast sitcom.
The "Men" are three longtime buddies who share the common bond of facing mid-life. Romano, who created the show with Everybody Loves Raymond alum Mike Royce, stars as Joe, the owner of a party-supply store. Joe's personal issues - a failed marriage, the unfulfilled dream of becoming a golf pro and a gambling problem - are weightier than anything Romano's sitcom alter ego had to face, but the comedian still delivers laughs, even if they're mostly bittersweet.
Helping Joe cope are actor and ladies' man Terry (Scott Bakula), who works as an office temp, and car salesman Owen (Andre Braugher), who has to contend with the pressures of supporting a family while working for his judgmental father. The men eat, drive and even hike together - but mostly they talk, and it's those chatty, less plot-driven scenes of male bonding that are the strongest. While the performances are uniformly strong and Romano's is clearly the central character, Braugher is especially moving in the pilot episode.
Time will tell how well these men age, but TNT's second-act-of-life dramedy is off to a good start.
Men of a Certain Age premieres Dec. 7 at 10 p.m. on TNT.