The gang try to balance work and play in episode two. Blogger Jordan Pedersen guides us through.
TNT’s Men of a Certain Age is about us: men trying to sort out what it means to be a good man in a changing world as age sets in and the trade-offs of work, family, and friends become even more complex. The three men on the show are ultimately attempting to do the little things in life right, no matter how confusing that might be. And for that alone, the show’s worth discussing—not to mention it’s touching and funny as hell.
Men of a Certain Age takes a giant leap outside of middle-aged mennui with this week’s episode, “Same as the Old Boss.” We still get the Men in their natural habitats: sharing brunch at their favorite place and taking sacred, no-cell-phones-allowed hikes in the hills of Los Angeles. But now we’re getting a peek into the lives of their wives and children.
First we get the ladies lunch at the club, where Owen’s wife Melissa (Lisa Gay Hamilton, whom I haven’t seen since The Practice!) and her friends are planning a party for one of their kids. Of course, one of Melissa’s friends has to be an insufferable busybody, and here she’s doling out party-prep duties with extreme prejudice. Melissa winces through the lunch, and we start to get the impression that she might be as frustrated with her position in the household as Owen is with his.
This was the first point where, I think, MOCA started to show some cracks in its armor. Co-creators Mike Royce and Ray Romano are incredibly adept at capturing the unique experiences of their protagonists, but the ladies’ lunch in particular didn’t have the casual insight of, say, the brunch scenes for the men. It felt like a plot device necessary to motivate Melissa’s realization rather than a real interaction.
Elsewhere, Joe waffles on his decision to try out for the PGA Senior Tour. The always impulsive Terry suggests that Joe sell his party outlet store and train full-time for the tour. Joe wisely decides to keep the store, but ends up handing off more responsibilities to his staff so that he can spend more time at the driving range. I like that Joe didn’t do anything rash here. After all, most of us don’t up and quit our jobs when we realize there’s something we’d like to do more. But just because we move deliberately doesn’t mean we stay in the same place.
Joe also has to contend with his son’s anxiety issues, which still seem to give the kid some problems. After a bit of cajoling, Joe convinces him to go to the school dance—but Albert hesitates outside the school, afraid his anxiety issues might return. Joe promises he’ll text and check up on him.
I like how Joe was juggling issues with himself and with his son simultaneously, like so many fathers do. Joe, like most guys, doesn’t get to play one role at a time. He has to take care of his son, make a living, and deal with his own demons all at once. It’s a balancing act men (and women) of all ages are familiar with.
At the Thoreau house, Owen finds himself unable (or unwilling) to sympathize with his wife’s realization that she wants to go back to work. He’s still dealing with issues at the dealership, though this time they’re in the garage rather than the showroom. Owen’s confrontations with head mechanic Jesse (Patrick Gallagher) were some of the juiciest bits of the episode and, indeed, the season so far. This week wasn’t quite as fist-pump-worthy as the big sales, midnight street races, and smokin’ nooners of last week’s episode, but I definitely cheered when Owen ordered Jesse to hire three new mechanics or face the consequences.
Men of a Certain Age continues to turn the small struggles and triumphs of real life into compelling drama. It’s the little moments on the show that really get me: Melissa bitterly telling off her husband after her lunch with an old coworker doesn’t go as planned; the extra few seconds the camera lingers on Owen as he stares dumbfounded at his head mechanic; Joe’s enduring patience and thoughtfulness as he promises to text his son every hour. (I found this last moment particularly affecting, especially as someone who’s dealt with anxiety issues for his whole life.)
The show’s got a lot to juggle, and, just like its stars, it doesn’t always work out perfectly (I didn’t mention the Terry plotline for a reason). But in its accuracy, forthrightness, and sweet humility, Men of a Certain Age captures our real lives like practically no other show on television.
And for those qualities alone, we’ll keep watching.
—Read episode one’s recap here.