‘Men of a Certain Age’ – ‘The Bad Guy’: Sign on the line that is dotted!

Senior Television Writer
12.27.10 34 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Men of a Certain Age” coming up just as soon as I’m interested in beefing up my sombrero reel…

“I feel like it’s all going away from me.” -Joe

The difference between extreme probability and certainty may not seem that great from the outside, but when you’re the one whose life is affected by that difference, the gap can seem miles wide. And getting official confirmation can be a scary thing, or a wonderful thing, depending on what part of limbo you’ve been stuck in while waiting for it.

Joe has known his marriage is over for a long time now, but until he actually signed the papers, it wasn’t definite, and he could always allow himself the possibility that Sonia might decide she’d made an enormous mistake and beg for his return.

Owen Sr. gave the dealership to Owen at the end of last season, but OT has been lurking ever since, an ever-present threat to put Owen’s birthright back on hold for another year or 7. But now that OT is going to officially sign the place over to his son and embark on a real retirement, Owen can stop holding his breath and accept that this is really his.

And though Terry gave up acting to work for Owen, he always held the possibility of a return in the back of his mind. The acting career, even if it never quite happened, was always his escape route, or at least the lie he could tell himself so he didn’t have to put himself on the same plane as somebody like Lawrence – to admit that he really is a car salesman who’s going to be yelled at by customers, answer to Owen, etc. But when Erin puts herself out on a limb for him by setting aside her anxieties about the business, only for those anxieties to be confirmed by the ad agency’s desire for a younger, “hotter”(*) actress?  Well, it’s put up or shut up time for Terry, and he puts up, by coming right out and declaring that he’s out of this stupid game. Admittedly, his official isn’t quite the same as Joe’s or Terry’s, as he could always change his mind (particularly in the event that things with Erin don’t work out and he no longer has to worry about a woman who won’t date actors), but that moment at her apartment when he says “I’m not an actor anymore” seemed pretty definitive – for now, at least.

(*) Melinda McGraw at any age? Hot – and not just when she’s doing kinky things with Don Draper.

Because of the big-ish events in the guys’ lives, and particularly because of that very well-acted argument between Joe and Sonia(**), “The Bad Guy” was definitely the most powerful episode of season two so far. And yet it was still on that “MoaCA” scale, wherein the big events were essentially just confirmation of things we and the guys already knew. Good stuff all around.

(**) Though Ray Romano wants Joe to date attractive women, he’s also not afraid to let the character seem very ugly. Just terrific work from him there, and an intentionally uncomfortable scene.

Some other thoughts:

• Though there are major problems like the flagging economy that Owen can’t control, I’m thinking he’ll do okay at a lot of the management things. He’s not the silver-tongued speaker his daddy is, nor does he have his minor celebrity, but he did okay for himself when he got a chance to deliver the toast, and his confidence should only grow without OT always lurking in the background.

• Melissa lands a job, courtesy of Don Most – Ralph Malph from “Happy Days” – of all people. I hadn’t realized Most (who, back in the “Happy Days” days, went by Donny) was still acting, and it took me until the second scene to be sure it was him.

• In the midst of Joe’s dark feelings about the divorce, I liked the awkward comedy of him discovering that Lucy is having sex – and then he and Sonia coming to grips with the realization that if she’s doing it, best it be with somebody like Sadir. (Who, of course, gets dumped for another tattooed loser by episode’s end.) Awk-ward.

• The first scene at Norm’s was one of the funnier ones they’ve done, between the usual mocking of Owen’s size (“They probably look halfway through you, and then they have to rest a little”) and Terry’s Peter Pan ways (Joe suggesting that the idea of Terry with a woman his own age is repulsive) and Joe calling Owen “MacGyver.”

• So, after this episode, Bravo is definitely prepping “The Real Housewives of Chevrolet,” right?

• Speaking of which, how do y’all feel about the constant discussion of the awesomeness of various Chevy cars? Product integration pays the bills, and with Owen running a dealership (and in this episode going to a trade show), it doesn’t feel shoehorned in, but I know some viewers get their hackles up at any obvious plugs, and this show has a fair amount of them.

• “Dad, is that the blues?” Heh.

What did everybody else think?

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