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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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Men of a Certain Age

TNT, Dec. 7, 10 p.m. ET |


Ray Romano, in his first TV series since Everybody Loves Raymond, cocreated and costars in a very fine, rather forlorn comedy about three friends in middle age. The other two are Scott Bakula, as a single, washed-up actor now coasting on charm, and Andre Braugher as a car salesman, married with a family, forever in the shadow of his belittling father, who owns the dealership. Romano has his own party-supply store—only there’s no celebration: He and his wife are splitting, and he hasn’t got his gambling addiction under control. In terms of its acting and writing, its skill and honesty at capturing the pain (and humor) of grappling with failure, this hour-long show couldn’t be better. But where can Certain Age go? A long run probably would lead only into a grim, worried retirement—I don’t see this becoming The Golden Guys.


Syfy, Dec. 6, 9 p.m. ET/PT |


Like 2007’s Tin Man, Syfy’s elaborately awful interpretation of The Wizard of Oz, Alice shoehorns the Lewis Carroll classic into what feels like a contemporary cyberdream—The Matrix’s Neo going down the rabbit hole. Alice (Caterina Scorsone) is a martial-arts instructor whose boyfriend is abducted to an alternate universe. She follows him by chasing after a humanized White Rabbit, who looks and sounds like the elderly Gore Vidal. At the heart of this world is a casino—ah, metaphorical house of cards!—ruled over by the Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates, speaking in a clipped, petulant voice). She wants to drain the emotions of brainwashed prisoners whose feet are somehow glued to the floor of her gambling hall. Oh. From time to time Alice comes close to being as far-out as it’s meant to be: I’d never have expected the Walrus to pull a gun on the Carpenter. Otherwise, instead of curiouser and curiouser, it just gets dumber and dumber.

Teen Mom

MTV, Dec. 8, 10 p.m. ET/PT


The natural sequel to 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom follows four teenagers from that series’ first season. Catelynn has let her child be adopted by a couple, while the other three are raising their infants with varying degrees of support from their significant others and families.

Their struggles are documented in a straightforward, simple style that makes for touching, often sad viewing. Farrah and her mother bicker over whether she should date. Amber, feeling trapped at home, is having anxiety attacks. Maci and her fiancé decide who should change diapers by playing rock-paper-scissors. It’s like the inverse of all the fun on The City—which is the point.