I still love Raymond, 'Men of a Certain Age' I'm not so sure about

rayromano_everybodylovesraymond_240_003.jpgYou probably couldn't find three actors I like more that Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher.

Romano was, of course, the man behind "Everybody Loves Raymond," one of my all time favorite comedies. I've been partial to Bakula since his "Quantum Leap" days and loved it when he played Murphy Brown's boyfriend. And I still get chills when I think about Braugher at Detective Frank Pembleton on "Homicide," one of the best dramas of all time.

I expected great things when I heard the trio would be starring in the new TNT series "Men of a Certain Age," premiering Monday at 10 p.m. As the title and promos for the show would suggest, the series gives the male point of view on being middle aged and coming to terms with your life - maybe you didn't accomplish all you hoped for, maybe your marriage didn't work out, maybe you never really grew up.

Romano, who also serves as the show's executive producer along with Mike Royce, stars as Joe, a divorced dad of two who runs a party store. Although what he really wanted to be was a professional golfer. The first kind of adjustment for me was that the show is not a comedy. Don't be fooled by the ads for the show -- they make the show seem more funny than it is. This is more of a dramedy than a comedy and even though I knew that going in, there's part of me that expects to laugh whenever Romano is on the screen. But, to his immense credit, Romano is completely believable in a dramatic role. It's a great part for him.

Braugher plays Owen, a car salesman who, much to his constant dismay, works for his father. Again, it's a very different role for Braugher. I'm used to seeing him confident and in charge. To watch him play a down-on-his-luck struggler is really impressive. Bakula rounds out the cast as Terry, a struggling actor who still is acting like he's in his 20's. With his devil-may-care smile and charisma, it is easy to understand how Terry gets away with doing nothing at work. 

There's a lot to like about this series, starting with the stellar performances. But in the first two episodes not enough happens. The men sit around and talk about their lives, but nothing really draws me in and compels me to tune in next week. We don't have many shows on TV that talk about the emotional lives of men, so I feel like there's a lot of potential here. I'm also curious to hear from the male viewers. Do you know men who sit around and talk like this? Not that I expect or need utter realism from my TV characters and I don't want to be totally stereotypical but most men I know don't make a habit of sharing their feelings with their friends. I think for this show to succeed it's going to need to connect with male viewers and I'm curious to see if it does that.

Three out of five stars. After you watch "Men of a Certain Age," let me know what you think.

"Better Off Ted"

"Better Off Ted" returns for a second season Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. Let's pause for a moment and recognize that ABC, which betrayed us often last season with the cancellation of "Eli Stone," "Pushing Daisies," and "Life on Mars," actually took a risk and renewed a critically acclaimed yet low-rated show. ABC, if this is your way back into my remote, it's working.

In the premiere, Veridian Dynamics has decided to genetically match all their employees so as to reduce future health care costs. Taye Diggs takes a break from "Private Practice" to humorously play Linda's (Andrea Anders) the perfect genetic match,

The series works because Jay Harrington makes the perfect straight man as Ted. He reacts drolly to all the ridiculous things that happen at the corporation while also sometimes being part of the craziness. And Portia de Rossi is equally fabulous as Ted's take-no-prisoners boss Veronica. The fact that de Rossi can say her over-the-top lines without laughing is a credit to her comedic skills.

"Better Off Ted" is a skewering satire of the corporate environment while still managing to make viewers care about the characters. If you didn't watch the show last season, you should definitely check it out. Four out of five stars.

"White Collar"

So in the final minutes of "White Collar," Peter appears to be the one keeping Kate from Neal. Say what? That final scene seemed to undermine the premise of the entire series. And I'm not sure I want that. As so many of you have pointed out, the Neal/Peter relationship is the best part of the series. But could this mean that Tiffani Thiessen's part could suddenly become more interesting? That might help but I'm kind of hoping this is a classic case of something not being what it seems. How about you?

Highlights of the Week Ahead

All times listed are Eastern Standard Time for December 7-13

"The Closer" returns tonight with three new episodes at 9 p.m. on TNT. Sure this is all a ploy to get viewers to watch the series premiere of "Men of a Certain Age," but I'm okay with that. I love any time we get to see Brenda and the gang. First up, the squad investigates what appears to be gang-related shooting. Next week Beau Bridges guest stars as a former partner of Detective Provenza and Mary McDonnell returns for the final December episode to reprise her role as Captain Raydor. I will say I like this character much more the second time around. And we talked about this last week, but I feel the need to bring it up again. I haven't been suspicious of Jon Tenney AT ALL on "Brothers & Sisters." He's Fritzy. How could be up to no good? We don't really think his relationship with Nora was all a scheme to get her money, do we? If we do, I have to say this might be one of the better plot twist "Brothers & Sisters" ever pulled off.

"Glee" has its "fall finale" Wednesday at 9 p.m. on FOX. The club finally competes in sectionals and Eve returns as the faculty head of the rival glee club. I go back and forth with these scheduling shenanigans. I'm not a fan the show being off the air for four months but I do like the idea that when it returns we'll have nine uninterrupted episodes. The cast doesn't return to the set until January to begin filming the final nine episodes of the season - so they don't even know what happens next. I'm so glad Terri's fake pregnancy is finally out there. Having Will be so incredibly gullible really undermined the creditability of his character. Many of you wrote to me that you thought Will's violent reaction was out of character for him. I agree but I think his realization that his wife had been lying to him and deceiving him for month would result in a completely out of character reaction. I think the show just needs to lose the Terri character. I got a little nervous last week when Will said he wasn't thinking about divorce yet. Now let's just hope Finn finds out he's not the father of Quinn's baby this week. All he really needs is someone to explain to him that he actually needed to have sex with Quinn to have impregnated her. What did you think of Will's reaction to Terri's betrayal? Talk about it below.

Fred Willard guest stars as Phil's father on "Modern Family" (Wednesday, ABC, 9 p.m.). In case you forgot, Willard and Ty Burrell co-starred in the FOX sitcom "Back to You."

"Cougar Town" (Wednesday, ABC, 9:30 p.m.) is the only ABC comedy not celebrating the holidays Wednesday night. But they do have Scott Foley guest starring as a man who pretends to be interested in a house just to get Jules' attention.

Anthony Michael Hall guest stars on "Community" (Thursday, NBC, 8 p.m.). This is the first time Hall has worked with Chevy Chase since he played his son in the "Vacation" movies. And, of course, it's a fun guest star stint given Abed's obsession with pop culture and "The Breakfast Club." I don't actually think the show has improved all that much as the season has progressed but I'll be tuning in this week.

TV is all about on-screen reunions this week. Zoey Deschanel guest stars as a long lost relative of Brennan's on "Bones" (Thursday, FOX, 8 p.m.). Can you believe it's actually the first time the two sisters have appeared on screen together? Ryan O'Neal also returns as Brennan's father and, if you've seen the promos, you know that Booth spends part of the episodes without a lot of clothes on (a Christmas gift to fans?). On a somewhat related note, is it just me or do you think the series has become more and more graphic lately. Between the cats that were eating a dead body a few months ago and the skin falling off the body last week, I feel like the gross-out factor has reached an all time high this season.

That's all for today. I'm back on Friday with my picks for the 10 best shows of 2009. I'll also have this week's familiar faces and quotes of the week. Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week or topic for discussion? Write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com or Twitter. Have a great week. Talk to you on Friday.

Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal