Just got off the phone with “Men of a Certain Age” co-creator Mike Royce, whose mood was relatively upbeat in spite of TNT canceling the show this afternoon.
How are you feeling?
I feel bad for everybody. I really did honestly think that because TNT had dragged this out, we had a shot. By all rights, if you looked at the numbers, our second week, the numbers took a real dump, even for us. The first deadline was June 15. I give them a ton of credit. It was like they said, “Can we just give them an extension and let them build a case?,” and we gave it every chance we had. They were going to give it every possible chance to build buzz and everything else. They really really tried, I think, in their heart of hearts, to make a case for keeping the show. I bear them no ill will whatsoever. I wish we could continue, but you can’t have everything.
Well, ultimately, what do you think was the problem with getting enough people to watch the show to keep it viable?
I think I’d rather look at it like this: I think the challenge was enormous in terms of the amount of episodes that we wanted to do. TNT has a certain way they schedule things. They always split up seasons. We didn’t want to do it in a way, and I still feel good about this, we couldn’t have pumped out as many episodes as it would have taken to spread it over the schedule that way. And if we had done it that way, the show would have been worse. The show would have stunk, maybe. I can go through episodes and point to things where if we hadn’t had time to reshoot, to rewrite, and the show wouldn’t have been good. There was an episode in the first season called “Powerless,” and for various reasons, that show was not in good shape for a long time. And thanks to reshoots, and being able to edit and take a ton of creative time with it, it was one of our favorites. Our goal was to say, “No reason to keep pumping these episodes out. Let’s take as much time as we can to take these episodes and make them ones we can be proud of.” There’s no episode I can pick out that I’m not proud of. There are some I like better than others, but none I want to take out behind the woodshed, and most series have those kinds of episodes from time to time. That and how it combined with the way TNT schedules things, there was some conflict there.
Yeah, you wound up doing these little 6-episode mini-seasons, which I’m sure didn’t help.
Yes. Absolutely. There’s a lot of ways you can go back and replay that kind of stuff. My thing is they gave us all these opportunities that no network would have given us. And I prefer to dwell on that. There’s so many things on the show that in the beginning I think they were wary of, but they never told us, “No, don’t do it.” We were allowed to do the show we wanted to do. If you were going to throw it on a broadcast network, we’d have been gone in three episodes. Maybe four. Maybe four. There’s a huge argument to be made – and you’ve made it – the fact that there’s 22 episodes of this show that exist, and I’m really happy with all of them, and pleased a lot of people and got good feedback with them.
I’m curious: there’s some feeling of closure in the finale, but if you had known in advance that there wouldn’t be a third season, would you have done anything significantly different to make it a more definitive ending?
I don’t think so. That’s a hard question for me to answer. Each season, our approach was we have to have a nice arc, and that there’s closure at the end and that the season finale means something to each season. We took that approach with each season. I think the first one felt a little more like “just in case (we’re not renewed), we should do this,” but we felt the same way with this. There was a lot of closure to it, but our show, that’s why we would never go in there, even if they wanted us to, “Let’s do a movie to wrap it up.” Because we would feel like, “It’s just the first two episodes of next season.” It’s not that kind of show. The end with Terry and Erin, she gives him her hand, and they’re going to try to keep it going but it may be tough – that’s closure right there. The next step is season 3, and I have ideas for that. Joe making it onto the senior tour is a pretty big event for us. We have a lot of great ideas for that. I hate talking about the next season, because it would have been pretty good, I think.
Well, inevitably with these kinds of cancellations, I get asked about whether another network might be willing to pick the show up.
It’s not even to that step yet. I’m open to it, but we haven’t had any conversations about it. The truth is, on Monday, we’ll have the conversation. Ray was golfing (in a charity tournament) all day, and he literally hadn’t talked to anybody. He had some vague knowledge that we’d been canceled, but that was it. I talked to actors who spent five minutes on the show before I got to talk to Ray.
And how’s Ray doing with it?
He comes pre-depressed, you know. For him, this falls right off his shoulders. But he’s obviously very disappointed. He kind of thought, “Yes, it’s 51-49, but I think we’re coming back.” I said, “Well, you’re setting yourself up for the story you’re going to tell the rest of your life: ‘The one time I was optimistic…'” He’s certainly disappointed, but we both feel good about that he truly showed the world a whole lot more that he can do. For those of us who knew it was there, that’s one thing, but he surprised a lot of people, and that’s only going to be good for him.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org