Television Sneak Peek: Men of a Certain Age

Starring: Ray Romano, Scott Bakula, Andre Braugher
TNT, Mondays at 10:00 PM


Let's be clear from the start. I'm probably not the target audience for this show. For one thing, I'm a woman, and I think (though I'm not 100% sure) this show is for men. My best guess is that it's kind of a Sex and the City for men, but I don't know that for sure either because (a) I never watched Sex and the City, and (b) I'm not entirely sure what would count as a male version of that show. But three male friends (of a certain age) meeting at a booth at a local diner . . . That seems pretty close, right?

Okay, so I received a USB drive in the mail with an episode of this show on it for review. I can't tell if what I watched was the entire thing. It ran about 19 minutes, so . . . If this is going to be an hour-long drama (and I can't seem to find an answer to that on the TNT site), then clearly I didn't see the whole thing. Even if it's a half hour, there may have been some material cut. If that's NOT the case, then the editing on this show is wonky. In the sneak peek, the three friends go for a hike . . . But then you never actually see them do any hiking. So either this is a really badly handled plot point OR there was material missing from the episode.

The show is a drama. Not a bit of what I viewed had any amount of comedy in it. There were a couple things that maybe were supposed to be funny, but none of it was.

If the show is aimed at men, I should point out that my husband watched it with me and really disliked it. During a scene in which the three characters are riding in a truck (on the way to the unseen hike), my husband suggested the whole thing would be better if they were in Jurassic Park and one—or all—of them were eaten by dinosaurs.

It's a shame because I like these actors. And maybe 19 minutes just isn't enough time to flesh out everything in an appealing way. Three complex characters cannot be shown in full in such a short time.

This is the problem with television these days, the need for instant gratification and instant audience and instant success. People want their television like they want anything: immediately. If it could be injected into our eyeballs, maybe we'd be satisfied. But the slow build towards something—that jeopardizes a show because people lose interest in the first few minutes. And then the show is canceled after one airing and never gets the chance to gain traction.

Still, I wouldn't watch this show. I'm sure someone, somewhere would, but it's not for me.


Book Review: This Is Where I Leave You

Jonathan Tropper
Dutton, 2009
340 pages


You know how people all have to slow down and stare when they pass a wreck on the highway? That's what reading this book was like.

The story is of Judd Foxman. His father has just died, and he's been asked to come to the family home and sit shiva (that's a Jewish ritual) with his mother and siblings. The problem being that the family is hugely dysfunctional and, traditionally, shiva lasts seven days.

If that were Judd's only problem, his life might not be so bad. After all, he could make it through seven days and be done. BUT. Judd is also dealing with the fact that his wife has been sleeping with his boss. So now they are separated and moving toward divorce, and basically Judd's life is falling apart on all sides.

Sounds like a fun read, right? But the thing is, This Is Where I Leave You is, in fact, a real page-turner. Tropper tempers Judd's sad life with enough humor and interesting characters to lighten the load. It's a worthwhile undertaking, reading this book.

I'd tell you more, but I wouldn't want to give anything away. I can only say that it's well written, witty and touching all at once.


Book Review: Juliet, Naked

Nick Hornby
Riverhead, 2009
416 pages


At 416 pages, it would seem that Juliet, Naked is a long book, but it's not really. Not long in that it takes long to read, anyway. The trim size is small, and the print isn't, and besides all that, it's practically impossible to put down.

In Hornby's best since About a Boy, the author melds interesting characters—something he's always been good at—with an actual plot, which in past novels have sometimes been rather thin. Not saying Hornby hasn't done good work in the past. Of course he has. He typically takes the mundane moments in life and collects them around the characters he creates. But Juliet, Naked expands on that. The mundane gets a bit of the extraordinary thrown into it, and the world of the characters starts to spin in a different direction.

In a nutshell, and without giving too much away, the story is about Annie and Duncan. They've been together for 15 years, their relationship's growth stunted by lack of motivation to get past their own ideas about themselves: that they are (alas, were) college students, academics with interesting ideas and refined tastes. Duncan in particular is rather pleased with himself in general, considering himself an expert on his favorite musician among other things, wrapped up in pop culture of the obscure—and therefore high-minded, in his view—kind.

Annie, on the other hand, has begun to see things differently. And there is clearly no dragging Duncan out of the quicksand he's chosen to stand in, so . . . it's either sink with him or climb to safety on her own.

The crux of the story revolves around Duncan's favorite singer Tucker Crowe, who has fallen off the map almost literally; Crowe gave up his career 22 years before and no one has heard from him since, though one stalking fan claims to have taken a picture of him on a farm in rural Pennsylvania.

But really, the story is a jab at the academics who somehow believe "independent" and "rare" is somehow better than "common" and "popular." Duncan is insufferable and pathetic, and one never quite knows whether to feel sorry for him. He's an imbecile, so it's difficult to stay angry with him—rather like a stupid dog that isn't entirely sure what it's done to get yelled at—though there are a couple moments where Duncan comes close to understanding where he's gone wrong.

The story is mostly Annie's, a nice enough girl who is trying to figure out how to make up for 15 wasted years. Surely anyone who has spent time in a long relationship that has gone nowhere can sympathize.

In the end, it's a fine read with all of Hornby's hallmark humor set against the usual bouts of angst and self-doubt. It's about mistakes of the largest, most life-altering kind, and about the potential for redemption regardless of the size of the sins.