F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed, "There are no second acts in American lives," but he never saw TNT's "Men of a Certain Age," which returns for a second season on Monday, Dec. 6.
Co-created by Mike Royce and Ray Romano, star of the long-running CBS comedy " Everybody Loves Raymond," the dramedy focuses on three men pushing 50 trying to make sense of the back half of their lives: divorced party store owner and father of two Joe (Romano); married car salesman Owen ( Andre Braugher), who's a father of three at home but a son to his domineering father ( Richard Gant) at work; and struggling, womanizing single actor Terry ( Scott Bakula), who's now working at Owen's dealership.
Sitting in Joe's townhouse bachelor pad, Romano says, "Well, it's the second act, season two of the second act. Doesn't mean it's a good act, but it's the second act."
"Men of a Certain Age" was good enough to earn renewal and two more episodes than last year, for a total of 12. Part of that may be how it resonates with its target audience.
"The guys that talk to me about it," says Romano, "they say, 'That's my show, man. That's me, man. I do that. I just did that the other day.' You get a lot of that, just people thinking it's them."
"One of the things men do like about the show," says Braugher from the living-room couch in Owen's toy-strewn home, "typically fathers and dads, they're the punch line. Dads are pretty much know-it-all or the butt of the joke.
"What you see here is you see men in their responsibilities and their desire to be a part of their own family life and their struggles and camaraderie and interactions, but you get a full understanding of them. You see them in all their dimensions."Although, like Romano and Braugher in real life, Bakula is a husband and father, Terry's situation is very different from Owen's and Joe's."I can relate to the bad-boy aspects of him," says Bakula, sitting underneath a "Happy Birthday" banner in the set for Terry's apartment. "I let go (of those) a long time ago. It's opposite day -- no responsibilities, no committed relationships, no kids, no mortgage, no nothing and lonely.
"Terry's a lonely guy in some aspects. Thank goodness he's got these two buddies."
In season one, Terry was the one with the most active love life, and that continues.
"They're not the most fun (those love scenes)," Bakula says. "The good news is, it's only a problem if the person that you're working with, you don't get along with, or they want to do something that you're uncomfortable with, or they don't want to be there or whatever. The hard thing is, 'Hi, good morning, get in bed.'
"It's like, 'Hi, I'm Scott, nice to meet you. They scheduled us wrong, but we have the sex scenes up first.' That's the worst. But the women we have had on this show have been so lovely."
For Romano's Joe, though, the romance is heating up, in particular with a lovely brunette named Michelle ( Alanna Ubach).
"I don't know if it's a love life," Romano says, "it's more like a sex life, I guess, with that character, Michelle. No, she's a little bit of a booty-call girl, that kind of relationship. It's more physical for Joe."
As to whether Joe feels used at all, Romano says, "In the beginning, he doesn't know how to feel. There's another episode, where there's another woman, which is more of a relationship, and he has to decide which one he wants.
"It's weird, because he doesn't want to get into a long-term relationship, but this feels, like, use-y. But if the downside is sex with that woman, I guess he's going with it."
In the meantime, Owen is working on being a good husband to Melissa ( Lisa Gay Hamilton).
"She's an American wife," says Braugher, who says he married "the girl next door." "She's smart, and she's strong-willed. It's her house, too, so she's running it like it's hers.
"Here's the thing: Our wives are often right. If their heart's in the right place, they're often right. You can argue back and forth, but there's a strong possibility that your wife is right.
"If Mommy ain't happy, nobody happy. Marriage is hard. Love ain't enough. It takes hard work and compassion and the necessity of being realistic and truthful and honest, not only with them but with yourself about what life's about, what's important to you."
Although he's co-creator of the show and an executive producer, Romano knows where his priorities lie.
"When we go to the table read and hear everything come together," he says, "there are all these little payoffs, because the money goes right to my wife."Copyright © 2015, CT Now