Men of a Certain Age
Premieres at 10 p.m. Monday
Ray Romano isn't really into bromances.
While his first series since "Everybody Loves Raymond" ended in 2005 centers on three emotionally flustered middle-age male pals, the 51-year-old actor-comedian insists he's not equally as candid with his brooding, real-life buddies back home in Queens, N.Y.
"We are as close as these guys, but I don't think we open up as much," he says. "There is a realism to it, though. It's guys talking about things but we're still doing it in the lame way that men do, as opposed to the way women do, which would need a much longer show."
The wry everyman is trading his quippy persona from "Everybody Loves Raymond," which ran for nine seasons on CBS, for a sad-eyed party store owner named Joe, who is suffering through divorce and a gambling addiction, on TNT's "Men of a Certain Age."
The series, which Romano begrudgingly classifies as a dramedy, was created by Romano with writing partner Mike Royce. Where "Everybody Loves Raymond" was based on Romano's domestic-themed stand-up material, "Men of a Certain Age" is about gloomier personal subjects.
To play Joe's best friends, Romano enlisted Scott Bakula, the charming sci-fi leading man from "Quantum Leap" and "Star Trek: Enterprise," and Andre Braugher, whose tour de force performances as Det. Frank Pembleton on "Homicide: Life on the Street" won him an Emmy Award for outstanding actor. Like Joe, they are men who are dealing with muddled, midlife crises.
Braugher plays stressed car salesman Owen, ruled by his tyrannical father, owner of the dealership where he works. Bakula's Terry is an out-of-date, out-of-work actor tangling with a woman nearly half his age. To be certain, this is not "Everybody Loves Raymond: The Sequel."
Romano, who is largely untested outside of the funny business, knows he's taking a chance with his return to TV, especially considering he's on a network whose slogan is "We Know Drama." Even so, he believes his fans are ready for a dose of "Men of Certain Age."
"I don't think we will shock them," he says. "It is a drama but it's got comedic moments. It's just more real."