“You ever get that?  You  look in the mirror, you see yourself, I know I’m standing here I see myself and you … you recognize yourself … but there’s that little bit of you that you don’t.” –Joe

The pain and awkwardness of middle age.  That special place in life where the parts don’t work like they used to, where you reflect on your life, navigating the perils of a spouse, job, kids, and that existential dissatisfaction with life and how things turned out.  Wondering if you are where you were meant to be, where you dreamt of being, and trying to figure out a way to move forward anyway.  That special time when you may find yourself dating again, with the dawning realization that when it comes to relationships, we never truly leave high school  (and that even at 40+, we revert back to what we know).  Where we may be raising kids while still being a kid; yet at the same time we might be in jeopardy of having overnight  become “that old guy in the night club.”  The reality of aging yet not being “old” is what Men of a Certain Age explores.

“He has a full head of hair, no gut, owns his own business.  For his age, that’s hot.” –Melissa

Everybody Loves Raymond’s creator and star, Ray Romano brings his patented brutally observational honesty to his place in life.  All of the characters’ insecurities and foibles on full unapologetic display, luckily personified in a trio of faces familiar to television.  Starring as Joe, it might be his opportunity to dominate the show with an over-the-top character, yet we find a depth to Romano’s acting in the vulnerability he portrays.  And he has a lot to work with in flexing his acting chops as an almost golf pro with a gambling habit, a failed marriage, who flounders on the dating scene.  His trademark humor only adds to the character as it is an obvious shield to the slings life aims his way.

Terry (Scott Bakula, late of such geek squad favorites Quantum Leap and Enterprise) plays a still single out-of-work actor, slowly realizing his life hasn’t exactly gone the way he would have liked.  Yet he clings to his womanizing ways and in some ways is trapped not only by the way his long time friends remember him, but also their living vicariously through him, not allowing him to grow and change much.

Andre Braugher is typical cast as the smartest guy in the room, which is how he anchored Homicide:  Life on the Street and Gideon’s Crossing, and what made him the equal when jousting with House.  With his character on Men of a Certain Age, Owen, he gets to play a regular guy, an overweight schlub who struggles to find his place in his father’s business while married to his grounded wife, Melissa (the always wonderful, Lisa Gay Hamilton, The Practice).

And yet, despite the situations they find themselves in, these three middle-aged friends, despite their defeats and setbacks, are not losers.   They are ordinary guys in the throes of middle age, trying to chart the course of the next phase of their lives.  Their lives are marked by little victories to cling to which help them carry on, along with the warmth and humor of their friendship.  The intimacy of which, especially as seen among men, is not a very common occurrence.

“Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding?” –Job 12:12

Everyone wants to be loved and be loved by someone. Everyone wants to know and be known by someone. When people speak of intimacy–trying to define what it is they are wanting–they talk about genuine trust, vulnerability, and transparency. They want to feel connected to someone. This sense of connectedness is a characteristic that we want in all of our close relationships. We want to share our lives, be accepted, and be intimate with others. Especially an other.

We are relational beings, created to form relationships with one another. Intimacy with others is a need hard-wired into us. Because friendship is a beautiful and unique form of love, it truly provides a genuine opportunity for our need for intimacy to be met apart from family and romance. One protection against isolation and loneliness is to create and sustain solid friendships. Their benefits range from emotional encouragement to spiritual support and stability.

“You reach a point in your life when you have to draw a line.” –Terry

Life constantly presents opportunities for us to love and to learn to love better. Difficult circumstances can cause relationships to dig deeper, driving each other to get to know one another on more significant levels. And there is a spiritual point to it all. Our friendships, limited, temporary, and transitional as they are, are meant to drive us to a higher friendship. If only to prove that we can’t live without love. Even the loneliness, the grief, the deficiencies of friendship prepare us for something more permanent, more eternal. We were made for higher companionship, an infinite hole within us that can only be filled with the Infinite. A love that does not pass away.

Men of a Certain Age is thoughtful, moving, and filled with a genuine humor.  The characters are kept from becoming clichés by the layered depth of the writing.  Their genial banter and traded jibes is done with a warmth which is easy to get caught up in.  In other words, very little about this show is a draw for the coveted 18-35 demographic.  In fact, this show serves as a cautionary tale, if they bothered to tune it, that this is where their life is heading and the decisions they make in their youth can set the course and tone for their future.  But even then, all is not lost, after all, in the immortal words of that great philosopher, Steve Harvey, “don’t trip, God ain’t through with you yet.”  Like this show, your journey is not over and things can still be fresh and exciting.