TNT Will Probably Be Vilified If It Cancels 'Men of a Certain Age,' But It Probably Shouldn't Be

Categories: 1-Featured,Cable TV

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July 11th, 2011

It’s been simmering for a while with critics and other TV Media lobbying TNT to “do the right thing” (even if it means losing a pantsload of money) and renew Men of a Certain Age despite its anemic ratings.  Today TNT execs are getting it with the full frontal assault from top television critics like Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall and AOL TV’s Maureen Ryan. The pleas basically go "This show is so, so good, please don't cancel it even if the ratings suck! Can't you afford to subsidize it with the shows that aren't nearly as good but lots of people actually watch?

Though I'm absolutely with them in the wishing it still winds up reading about the same to me as if I was posting  pleas like "Please Gisele Bundchen, confuse me with Tom Brady!!" The good news for MoaCA fans is that regardless of how dire its prospects for renewal may be, they are way, way better than the prospects that.

The pleas smack of rolling the ball uphill against a system that is unfair, but you know what? They system isn't unfair. The outcome might wind up sucking, but there's nothing unfair about it. If outcomes are knowable and predictable in advance, it's not unfair. I got my parents DNA rather than Tom Brady's parents DNA. That's just the way it works. From certain points of view it might suck, but that doesn't make it unfair, just like gravity isn't unfair. If you fall off the Empire State Building the result of gravity is totally going to suck, but it's not unfair.

Why would I say the outcome for Men of a Certain Age was knowable in advance? Here's why: just like you can absolutely predict that critics will lap up well written, well executed, well acted dramas like Ben & Jerry's ice cream, even if they are very bleak in tone, you can absolutely predict that viewers will not lap them up like Ben & Jerry's.

TNT deserves credit for taking a chance, airing the show and then sticking with it for a second season. If it's renewed, it will totally be for the critical acclaim, but the numbers were so low (like generally lower than the off-network syndicated repeats of Bones and The Mentalist though it did tick up a little in the season finale) nobody should be surprised (or, in my opinion fault TNT) if it winds up being canceled.

TNT is to be applauded for taking a chance, and then renewing the show for a second season. Its great that impassioned pleas from the program executives were enough to get the accountants to relent and renew it for a second season (though the first season's ratings were a lot better). I won't fault TNT's bean counters if the impassioned pleas don't work this time around.  I doubt pleas that venture off into Fan Excuse Bingo territory (like weird scheduling for MoaCA's second season) will be effective. Fans should cross all their fingers and toes in hopes of an Emmy nomination or three later this week.

I'm at the point where I'm resigned to thinking that well executed, well written and well acted dramas that are very bleak in tone need to be on AMC, or one of the premium cable channels or have almost no shot at all for a third season. I'm guessing fans of Men of a Certain Age won't embrace that notion any more than the general viewer embraces great dramas that are very bleak in tone. And probably for the same reasons.

 
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