‘Men of a Certain Age’ – ‘And Then the Bill Comes’ – Ow, we want the funk

Senior Television Writer
01.03.11 32 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Men of a Certain Age” coming up just as soon as I smell teen sweat and body spray…

Late in “And Then the Bill Comes”(*), Terry talks to Erin about the feeling that he’s just living a big charade, and there are a lot of lies and self-realizations throughout the hour.

(*) I know most people don’t pay attention to episode titles, but I do, and therefore spent much of the episode waiting for the other shoe to drop on Owen’s body shop plan.

Joe has to accept that Manfro is, in fact, his friend, but his trip to convince the guy to get chemo mainly winds up exposing the very thin line that exists between a “mind bet” and the real thing.

Owen thinks he’s finally making inroads at the dealership by setting up a full-service body shop, only to discover from OT that the business’s problems go far deeper than Owen knew.

And in the most complicated, emotionally resonant story of the three, Terry begins to embrace his life as a successful car salesman, only for his estranged brother to make him feel like it’s yet another phase in his flaky, irresponsible life as a wannabe actor. And in discussing the meeting with his brother with Erin, there’s an uneasy sense between both of them that maybe this relationship is yet another game of pretend that Terry’s playing before he goes back to chasing 20somethings.

I really liked that scene at Terry’s brother’s house, which was one of those usual small-scale “MoaCA” moments. On a lot of shows, a bigger deal would have been made about the birthday boy not really knowing Terry, or there would have been more blatant tension between Terry and Mark, but no: the boy’s enough of a ham (and on enough of a birthday hi) to still smile and hug his uncle for the picture, and the conversation between Terry and Mark is perfectly pleasant, even as Mark’s casually (and without malicious intent) ripping apart Terry’s latest self-image. If I were Terry’s brother, and hadn’t seen him in this much time, and had been through all I imagine Terry’s brother would have seen from him, I imagine I’d have been just as skeptical, even if I wasn’t trying to be a jerk about it.

Both the Joe and Owen stories are obviously setting up big things down the road.(**) Though Joe’s doing a good thing seeing Manfro, he’s right that no good will come of him being around his old bookie. And while Manfro likes Joe a lo, he’s also made it clear that he won’t prevent him from falling off the wagon. Very nice work in that scene from Romano and Manfrelotti, and I’m glad that it looks like we’re going have crazy Manfro (and his appropriately weird mom) back for a while.

(**) Most of that road, by the way, will go unpaved until the summer. TNT split season 2 into two pieces, and after next week’s episode the show goes away until summer, when cable ratings tend to be higher.

And as for Owen… again, even as I enjoyed his brief moment of triumph (and his earlier attempt to rally the guys with the “us against the suckers” speech, well-delivered by Andre Braugher), I spent the whole episode waiting for things to fall apart, but that’s as much because of the Sisyphean nature of his life(***). Nothing ever comes easy for Owen. But his visit to the site of the failed Glendale franchise at the end of the episode suggests he might be trying to really seize control of both the dealership and his destiny. Be interesting to see if he can pull it off, given the economy and the way things in general work out for him.

(***) Good callback to the Sisyphus talk from earlier in the season, and a very funny close to that scene with Joe trying to get a picture of Terry picking up the check, and accidentally launching an app instead.

What did everybody else think?

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