Jon Manfrellotti and Ray Romano star in the TNT television...

Jon Manfrellotti and Ray Romano star in the TNT television series, "Men of a Certain Age." Credit: Darren Michaels

THE SHOW "Men of a Certain Age"

WHEN | WHERE Second-season premiere Monday night at 10 on TNT.

CATCHING UP About three pals who have stumbled into middle age full of doubts, failures and few triumphs, but at least they still have each other! Divorced dad Joe (Ray Romano) wanted to be a pro golfer, opened a party knickknack store instead. He's got a gambling habit and a rather menacing bookie, Manfro (Jon Manfrellotti).

Owen (Andre Braugher) worked at the car dealer founded by his old man, Owen Sr. (Richard Grant). Man-child Terry (Scott Bakula) is an actor who can't land gigs. They hold fast to their dreams, however, or as Terry explained last season: "I'm never not going to not want to be an actor. I'm too much in love with myself."

WHAT PREMIERE'S ABOUT Terry has gone to work for Owen - who has returned to Dad's dealership. Meanwhile, Joe has misplaced his precious nine iron, and hence failed to shag a ball out to (even) the 100-yard marker on the driving range. Age has caught up in another subtle way - he must now wear glasses, much to the amusement of his pals.

MY SAY "Men of a Certain Age" seemed like a long sad song at times during its freshman year - an endless Jackson Browne dirge, or maybe one from Martina McBride, or Hank Williams. Our boys were so lonesome, they could cry - never did, of course, because "Men" was too bleakly funny and our heroes too sympathetic and even lovable to let that happen.

But there were some real downers. The time at the movie theater when Joe went to get popcorn - actually to call Manfro - then returned to find his unhinged son, Al (Braeden Lemasters), approaching nervous meltdown?

But Monday night's episode promises a lighter, more buoyant tone. Not that these guys have shed their lives of quiet desperation; in place of those, they now have lives of amusing desperation.

BOTTOM LINE Funny, smart, entertaining, excellent acting and writing. What's not to like?


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