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I might have swine flu.

Off and on fever. Sore throat. Achy muscles. One almost ugly incident when I nearly tripped over the dog in a madcap dash to the bathroom.

Watching a preview of the maiden episode of the TNT show Men of a Certain Age did not heal me, but it made me feel a bit better about myself.
Co-created by and co-starring Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond), this show revolves around three late-40-something best buds from college hanging dearly from the middle rungs of life’s ladder. Party store owner Joe (Romano) hopes to patch things up with his wife and kids, assuming he doesn’t run afoul of his bookie. “Actor” Terry (Scott Bakula from Star Trek: Enterprise) stays content working temp jobs, avoiding auditions, and finding the next sweet young thang. Car salesman Owen (Homicide: Life on the Street’s Andre Braugher), a husband and father, is struggling with diabetes, sleep apnea and proving he has the stuff to take over daddy’s dealership when the old man steps down.

Two of out of three characters worse off than me. Ah, better than a NyQuil buzz.

Based on the sole 20 minutes of the show I was sent to preview, Men of a Certain Age looks like it could be a weekly wallow into middle-aged underachieving male misery with some Diner-esque humor skewed toward the dang-this-prostate-o’-mine set. Now there’s ratings gold, TNT. Cougar Town gets Courtney Cox strutting her fine lady parts down the street in a tight dress; Men gets a perpetually hangdog-looking Romano, in baggy boxers and bedhead, starring himself down vacantly in the mirror.

Sadly, Men wins for best re-creation of real life.

Still, hope exists that the show could kick it up a few levels after the obligatory “meet the main characters” pilot.

First, there’s Andre Braugher. He always gives you the impression that if you change channels during one of his scenes that his arm would come through the screen, smack you upside the head, and then set your remote right. That’s how intense the man’s acting chops are. This holds even when playing it for laughs which he certainly can do even when the script ham-handedly tries to illustrate his struggle with his father by having him show up buffoonishly late to the dealership’s monthly sales meeting. His story has Shakespearean possibilities and he is the lead. You must follow.

Next, Scott Bakula (playing the stud of the trio at a real life age of — ready for it — fifty-freaking-five!) has an easy going charm that women love and guys are not intimated by — he is TV’s answer to pre-Waterworld Kevin Costner. Also, you get the feeling there is some cool revelation coming that explains his sitcomish slacker lothario lifestyle. Did he get blackballed for screwing a producer’s wife? Did he find inner peace after killing a homeless drifter? While theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, did he prematurely step into the project accelerator and is now striving to put right what once went wrong?

If these two can offer something to counterbalance the Eeyore moments Romano’s character seems destined to bring to the table (Trying to get back with his wife! Bonding with the kids he so misses! Taking his golf clubs to the pawn broker!), I’ll hang around for a few more beers with these Men.

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Men of a Certain Age premieres 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p.m. Central on Monday, Dec. 7, on TNT. No compensation for this review was received by the author, who was partially doped up on cold medication that he paid for with his own scratch.