Ray Romano's return to television, TNT's "Men of A Certain Age," ends its first 10-episode season tonight at 9. And the first thing to know is that it's already been picked up for a second season.
So, it's not too late to start watching this comedy-drama about a trio of pals drifting from their 40s into their 50s and dealing with lives that haven't played out as they had expected.
There's a bleakness built in to this story of three 40- or 50-something guys dealing with destinies that haven't unfolded as they hoped. But Romano leads a trio of likable lead guys dealing as best they can.
Romano plays a separated dad with a gambling problem. Andre Braugher is a mediocre car salesman working in his dad's dealership and Scott Bakula portrays an actor whose best roles are likely behind him.
All three are more than just those one-line character descriptions. They're complicated individuals living recognizable lives.
And the biggest revelation has been Romano, who shows an acting range that's not demanded in sitcom roles like his long-running "Everybody Loves Raymond."
The show's soundtrack, starting with "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)," which runs with the opening credits, is another draw. That Beach Boys' song, in particular, has a particular resonance as a backdrop to the stories of these grown men who haven't given up on their boyhood dreams.
Tonight's season finale repeats at midnight and the first run is preceded by the two previous episodes starting at 7 tonight. You can also find episodes at www.tnt.tv.
On TV: It's looking more and more like the grass-roots campaign to get 88-year-old Betty White a host slot on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" will be successful. But EW.com's Michael Ausiello says it could be as part of a group of women in comedy that includes Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
- Fox's "Past Live" had a pretty short life. It's been canceled after four episodes. And, no there's no hope for reincarnation, although the undead, er unaired, episodes are supposed to be burned off later in the season.
- TV Land has dusted off "Bewitched," which joins the lineup March 1 in the 4 to 5 p.m. weekday slot. A marathon is scheduled for the weekend of March 20.
- The TV-version of the "Funny or Die" Web site debuted Friday and HBO has already ordered a second-season of the half-hour sketch comedy show, which airs at 11 p.m. Fridays.
- Since Conan O'Brien can't return to television until September, there's talk of a stage show to keep his name in the public consciousness until he starts something new.
It is the best of the new: The Writer's Guild of America gave out its annual TV awards over the weekend, picking NBC's "30 Rock" as best comedy and AMC's "Mad Men" as best drama. You can find the rest of the awards here.
But it also picked ABC's "Modern Family" as the best new show of the year. It's likely to be the first in a long line of awards for this sitcom, which airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on Channel 12.
Here's a bit of the best:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.