"Men of a Certain Age" just wrapped up its second (and hopefully not final) season, and I have a review of the finale coming up just as soon as I punch the muffin...
"At 50, you get to start over. Blank slate." -Terry
Again, I'd like to think that "Hold Your Finish" will not be the last we see of Joe, Owen and Terry.(*) The show is too good to go away, even as I recognize that it's not exactly a fit for TNT's brand, is a show whose best attributes are almost entirely subtle and hard to convey to someone who hasn't seen it.(**)
(*) And on that front, I checked in with Mike Royce to gauge his anxiety level, and he said, "I'd say at this point I'm cautiously, guardedly, hopefully (feel free to add your own hedging word) optimistic. We should know within the month. Our live ratings are nothing to crow about but that is only one of multiple considerations. Also if we go to a Season 3, we should have a regular 12-13 episode schedule all in a row like a real big boy show."
(**) At first glance, "Men" and "Terriers" don't seem to have a lot in common. But in terms of the subtle appeal of both shows, I think back to what John Landgraf said about the "Terriers" cancellation every time I worry about the future of "Men."
Whether this is the end forever or just for now, it was interesting to see how much "Hold Your Finish" echoed the season 1 finale. For all of Terry's talk about how turning 50 lets you start over, the guys are all at roughly the same place they were at when they were 49: Joe is still trying to get on the senior tour (albeit several steps closer) and again quitting gambling cold turkey, Terry is trying a new career (albeit after experiencing genuine success as a car salesman), and Owen is again getting a vote of confidence from OT Senior (although he's been running the place for a while).
But where the season 1 finale felt a little too optimistic - as if Royce, Ray Romano and company were hedging their bets and giving the guys happy endings in case TNT didn't want to continue - "Hold Your Finish" felt much more in line with the bittersweet vibe of the series as a whole.
Yes, Joe takes the next step towards the tour, but he has the back-in to end all back-ins, and he has no one to share the moment with. I like how ambiguously Sarah Clarke was told to play Dory's reaction to the call, such that I would have bought her being eager for him to invite her over just as easily as I would have bought the camera pulling back to reveal that she had her new boyfriend over and felt embarrassed to have her ex randomly calling. Joe can conquer his anxiety on the golf course at times, but he can't work up the nerve to ask her out again, and he has to keep punishing himself by drinking cold water, even though he knows how it's going to keep working out. This is a man making progress, but it's slow, slow progress.
Similarly, Terry takes yet another career leap, and understandably scares the hell out of Erin in the process. But Terry did make a good argument to both Owen and Erin, and there's the obvious suggestion that he can always go back to salesmanship - which he'd become very good at - if the idea of becoming a director at 50 is as crazy as Owen and Erin think it is. (***)
(***) Also, wasn't Terry essentially acting as a director towards the end of his brief reunion with his far more successful acting buddies?
And Owen still has the dealership, but the dealership is a mess - and now a mess whose messiness is known to all and sundry who work there. I imagine that Owen's honesty is probably the right approach under these circumstances - with Terry and Marcus gone, and Lawrence's success tied entirely to the commercials, it's not like he has any big guns who are going to run at the first sign of trouble, and the cold harsh slap of fiscal reality might be the most effective method of motivating everybody else - and even if it's not, he's earned the right over the last however many months of sweat and toil and agita to make that call. And Senior was, again, being a petulant old man terrified of his own obsolescence. Owen never really cared about the dealership - worked there because it was expected of him, and because he never figured out what else to do when he grew up - but now he does, and now he'll get to rise or fall on his own merits, and whatever good luck he can get to counteract the bad hand he was dealt by his father and Bruce.
And I liked the ambivalent quality to all three storylines - that Erin and Senior can give Terry and Owen reassuring arm squeezes, but that they could both easily fall flat on their faces, and that Joe can have a day of tremendous triumph and still feel miserable and alone - because that's what "Men of a Certain Age" has always been. Much as Terry keeps trying to make these big changes, it's a show about how hard it is to make a big change at this age, with so much baggage and responsibility. This feels right. This feels like the show.
I don't want this to be the end. I like these three men - and their women, children, parents and other loved ones of various ages - and want to see more of these small and yet surprisingly hard-hitting stories. I want to see Andre Braugher sputter some more, want to see if Terry is kidding himself again, want to see what circumstance allows Joe and Manfro to again plausibly interact, etc.
But if this happens to be it, then "Men" went out on a hell of a hot streak in these final weeks, and "Hold Your Finish" felt tonally exactly right.
What did everybody else think?