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product placement

Men of a Certain Age Ups the Product-Placement Ante

Men of a Certain Age has always managed to hide in plain sight when it comes to product placement. The fact that Andre Braugher's character, Owen, runs a Chevy dealership means that there are entire scenes devoted to he and his employees ticking off the wonders of various Chevy models to "customers." (And now that Scott Bakula's Terry works there, two out of three main characters can't say enough about Chevys.) And yet because this is Owen's workplace, and his identity is so wrapped up in it (he inherited it from his imperious, emasculating father), it all feels organic, no different from seeing any TV lawyer sell a prospective client on his fictitious firm's services. Unlike with most product placement, you don't feel like they're selling you, even though they are. And now the show's getting cocky: In the new episodes, they've found a brand-new way to sell an infinite number of new products.

Owen's wife, Melissa (Lisa Gay Hamilton), a former journalist, has been itching to go back to work, and she finally nabbed a job writing product reviews. This means that her very livelihood is dependent on test-running and then looking approvingly at an ever-revolving array of new gadgets. Take Wednesday's premiere: Owen was obsessing over an offer from a rival dealership's owner to buy his lot, so he sought out his wife's counsel while she was working at home: He sat down with her, laying out his concerns while they both admiringly tested out new digital Polaroids, vacuums, headphones, and plastic-case openers. (Watch the clip below.) It felt a bit like The Sharper Image: The TV Show. While we're happy for anything that helps keep the show financially afloat and on the air, we just hope that next season Ray Romano doesn't sell his party store and go to work as a loafer tester at Zappos.