Tube Talk: TNT’s smart programming warms up December

By Paula Hendrickson

Contributing Writer

Once again, The Closer returns to TNT in December. This year, it’s with three brand-new episodes wrapping up the show’s fifth season in a neat little bow.

That’s smart programming on two fronts.

First, many networks use December to air repeats and holiday specials or burn off new episodes of already-canceled shows. That means TNT will have less first-run competition in December. Second, as ad-supported cable’s top-rated series, The Closer should be a powerful lead-in for TNT’s newest series, Men of a Certain Age, starring Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond), Scott Bakula (Star Trek: Enterprise, Quantum Leap) and Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street), which premieres Dec. 7, immediately after The Closer.

Whether pairing The Closer and Men of a Certain Age—which follows three buddies, all pushing 50—makes for an ideal programming block is up for debate, but how better to introduce a new series than by debuting it behind your No. 1 show?

Billed as a “wry drama,” Men of a Certain Age marks Romano’s return to series TV. Fans accustomed to seeing him in a sitcom format may be surprised to learn Romano co-created the hour-long series, executive produces it, and also serves as one of the show’s writers. Add in wonderful actors like Bakula and Braugher, and that alone is reason enough to tune into at least one episode.

With such a strong cast and one of basic cable’s cushiest timeslots, TNT has reason to have high hopes for Men of a Certain Age. But audiences can be fickle.

On The Closer, as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) works to solve three difficult cases, viewers will finally learn Detective Provenza’s (the ever-droll G.W. Bailey) first name in the Dec. 14 episode (am I the only regular viewer who hadn’t noticed they’d never mentioned his first name before?) which guest stars Beau Bridges as Provenza’s former partner.

The Closer is packing a lot into the final episodes of its season. Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica) will return as Captain Raydor, who previously locked horns with Brenda when investigating Sergeant Gabriel’s (Corey Reynolds) involvement in a shooting, and Brenda finally has a serious discussion with Fritz (Jon Tenney) about their future. I’ve also heard rumors that Brenda and Fritz may be adopting. A new kitten, that is.

At a time of year when there’s little original programming on the air, TNT is offering viewers new episodes of an old favorite in The Closer and old favorites in new episodes of Men of a Certain Age. Either way, it’s got to be better than reruns of other series and holiday movies you’ve already seen a dozen times.

Programming notes

The Closer airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on TNT (Dec. 7, 14 and 21).

Men of a Certain Age airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on TNT, beginning Dec. 7.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to

From the December 2-8, 2009 issue

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