Mr. TV: Live Wire

Since I am often criticized for not focusing enough on cable, I thought I’d remedy that with this week’s column. Let me begin with my early impression of upcoming TNT drama Men of a Certain Age, a buddy-relationship drama about three aging men played by Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula. TNT sent me the first two episodes to preview.

Known, of course, as the home to stylish crime dramas like The Closer and Saving Grace, TNT is trying something entirely new here. And so is Ray Romano, who is remembered, naturally, as affable nebbish Ray Barone on the long-running comedy Everybody Loves Raymond. But five minutes into Men of a Certain Age, you forget that Romano was even in a sitcom. Unfortunately, I can relate to the subject matter. But you don’t have to be a graying male questioning your existence to enjoy this appealing drama that tackles a sometimes difficult phase of life.

Since I will have the opportunity to speak to Romano himself for the Dec. 7 column (which coincides with the premiere of Men of a Certain Age), consider this brief blurb your initial tease.  And while we are on the subject of TNT, the cable net is considering airing a new version of an old classic, Dallas, which would focus on the next generation of Ewings…John Ross (J.R. and Sue Ellen’s son) and Christopher (the adopted son of Bobby and Pam).

While the more obvious destination would be a female-driven network like Lifetime or SOAPnet, I like the fact that TNT is trying to spread its wings beyond traditional crime solvers.
But I am wary of revisiting a show that was that good.

Can anyone remember when a new version of an old classic worked? Plus, when we last saw J.R. and company in the 1998 CBS made-for movie Dallas: War of the Ewings, ratings were soft, and Larry Hagman was, well, getting on in years. Given the failures of recent remakes like Melrose Place, Knight Rider and The Bionic Woman, I would stick to revisiting some of our favorite TV characters via a one-time-only made-for reunion movie.

For my money, TNT is home to original programming, not rehashed classic TV. I’m just not sure 60-year-old Patrick Duffy potentially hopping out of the shower or 77-year-old Hagman looking for his next one-night stand would offer the same kind of oomph. Cable and broadcast  should let sleeping shows lie.

As for rumors circulating about TNT acquiring the six unaired episodes of NBC’s canceled Southland (which was supposed to return this week), I endorse the idea. That could fit right into the network’s mix.

Let me shift to BET for late-night talk. I know I’m clearly not in the target audience for The Mo’Nique Show. But I’m a massive Mo’Nique fan, who should have been hosting a chatfest years ago. She is funny, warm and since—the absolute right combination to handle that job.
And the show is lively and just plain fun. While it’s not all that often I’m up late (I am an aging man, don’t forget), I will absolutely be tuning in when the opportunity arises. Move over O’Brien and Letterman; The Mo’Nique Show is a fresher option.

Elsewhere, USA this Friday at 10 p.m. bows the premiere of drama White Collar, the story of a good-looking and scheming felon (Matt Bomer) who manages to avoid jail time by partnering with the only FBI agent who has ever been able to put him behind bars (Tim DeKay). While this is not necessarily an original idea (remember the 2002 Leonardo DiCaprio theatrical Catch Me If You Can?), it sounds right up USA’s alley of familiar-looking and easy-to-digest light crime solvers.

Since viewers seem just plain bored with the competing network fare, including CBS’ Numbers, I am willing to bet White Collar scores big for USA. And if it does, this is another large step in the right direction of cable networks programming more aggressively in the “traditional” (September through May) broadcast season.

How do you like that: I devoted this entire column to cable! Who says I don’t cover it?