Deadline TV contributor Diane Haithman files this report:
TNT’s second-season series Men of a Certain Age, created by Ray Romano and Mike Royce, is all about the L word to describe three middle-aged males (portrayed by Romano, Scott Bakula, and Andre Braugher) who are stumbling through mid-life together on the show. “It’s an old adage – write what you know, and we knew loser men,” Romano cracked, quickly adding: “No, don’t write that. How about not loser men – lost men.” Romano, 53, and Royce, 46, also place themselves in the “lost” category when the long-running Everybody Loves Raymond came to an end in 2005. At first, Romano says, they thought a break would be fun. And it was, for a couple of months. Then it wasn’t. They were sitting around talking about it when they decided to write about it instead. “The reasons for getting together was, ‘Let’s do something because we’re not doing anything,’ and then we thought, why not write about how that’s affecting us?” Royce said. Romano adds that, since no one would relate to the tragedy of losing one’s hit comedy series “except for Seinfeld,” they decided to translate their sense of crisis to guys with less glamorous lives.
TNT programming chief Michael Wright was calling the drama “a very special show” for the network and was upfront that it represented a departure for TNT. Romano and Royce struggled with TNT executives to concoct the right blend of drama and comedy: “I think at the beginning they were more concerned about lightning things up a little, to make them less gloomy,” Romano said. Added Royce: “They were nervous about bumming everybody out.” But Men of a Certain Age quickly became a critical and ratings hit for TNT. (The New York Times called it a “funny, elegant meditation on midlife.”) And although the ratings have not been as strong in the show’s second season, Wright told January’s Television Critics Association press tour: “We couldn’t be happier with the show. We look for a lot of different metrics on TNT. Obviously we want big ratings success, but we also want attention and good reviews from critics. This show works on a lot of levels for us.”
The show has snagged a Peabody Award in May and a 2010 Emmy nomination for Andre Braugher. With 6 new episodes that began airing in June, Romano and Royce are thinking about the Emmys. “It feels like the show needs to get on the radar more,” acknowledged Romano. “I don’t know if we’re there yet – critically yes, but not in terms of awareness. It’s hard to make a dent.” Royce agreed. “It’s probably just in my head, but we have a bit of the dreaded: ‘We’re a drama, but it has comedy in it.’ ” Royce said. “But I think we are attracting more and more people, with the Peabody and everything, people are now approaching the show for what we think it is.”