Midlife crisis comes to TNT

Romano drama gets pilot pickup

Ray Romano is looking to return to television, this time on the drama side.

The former "Everybody Loves Raymond" star has reteamed with the show's writer-producer Mike Royce on a drama project, titled "Men of a Certain Age," that has gotten a pilot pickup at TNT.

Romano co-wrote the script with Royce for the hourlong pilot and will star. He also will executive produce with Royce, who will serve as showrunner. Romano and Royce's managers — Rory Rosegarten and Cary Hoffman, respectively — also are exec producing.

"Men" is described as a character-based project that will take a wry look at what it means to be a guy approaching midlife while also exploring the bonds of male friendship, all through the eyes of three college buddies who are in their 40s.

Romano will play Joe, a friendly, slightly neurotic, divorced father of two who had dreams of being a pro golfer but instead owns and runs a party store. His two best friends are Owen, an overstressed black husband and father who is a car salesman at his dad's dealership, and Terry, an offbeat, handsome, intelligent and still struggling-to-make it actor.

" 'Men of a Certain Age' is about the highs and lows of being a guy in the modern era," said Michael Wright, TNT's top programmer. "It's about three best friends, each hoping to fulfill his dreams before the clock starts running out. It's an honest, emotional, funny and very personal take on the subject."

Added Romano: "Mike and I have always had success writing what we know. What we know now is that we're middle-aged, neurotic and fat."

"Men" isn't Romano's first TV project since "Raymond" ended its nine-year run in 2005. He previously was attached to star in and exec produce an HBO comedy from "24" creators Joel Surnow and Bob Cochran that centered on a fortysomething billionaire with six months to live.

WMA-repped Romano won an Emmy for his starring role on "Raymond" and shared two best comedy series Emmys with the rest of the show's producing team. Coming up, he is set to reprise his voice role in the third installment of the animated "Ice Age" franchise.

"Men" joins a development slate of 15 projects, both scripted and unscripted, at TNT, which is planning to shift its Monday-Wednesday primetime schedule to an all-original lineup by 2010. Along with returning series "The Closer" and "Saving Grace," TNT is set to debut two new dramas, Steven Bochco's "Raising the Bar" and Dean Devlin's "Leverage," this year.
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