TUNE IN: Men of a Certain Age 10 p.m. Monday on TNT (cable channel 23)
Scott Bakula isn't having a midlife crisis. Far from it.
"I've been so lucky," he says, reflecting on an acting career that has taken many happy leaps.
The latest drops Bakula, a St. Louis native, into TNT's entertaining new series "Men of a Certain Age."
Ray Romano ("Everybody Loves Raymond") created the drama about three longtime friends trying to figure out who they are and where they're going as they enter what TNT calls "life's second act."
Romano is Joe, who owns a party-supply store but really wanted to be a professional golfer. Now, fighting the gambling problem that broke up his marriage, he's living in a hotel and struggling to maintain a relationship with his two teenagers.
Andre Braugher ("Homicide: Life on the Street") plays Owen, whose three young children make him tired, but not so tired as the drudgery of working as a perpetual No. 2 at his father's auto dealership.
And Bakula is Terry, an actor who loves the ladies and his footloose bachelor lifestyle but finds that going on auditions - when he forces himself to go - is far less fruitful than it used to be.
In real life, Bakula, 55, has been a busy working actor since he dropped out of the University of Kansas in 1975 to join a touring company of "Godspell." A year later, he moved to New York and found his first job in just three days.
He thought musical theater was his calling and got a Tony nomination in 1988 for "Romance, Romance."
But Bakula became a household name on television, playing Dr. Sam Beckett in NBC's "Quantum Leap" from 1989-93. The quirky science-fiction drama, in which Bakula leapt around in time and space solving problems, attracted so many fans that they gave themselves a name: Leapers.
Bakula, who was in almost every scene of every episode, left "Quantum Leap" exhausted. But in 2001, he joined another labor-intensive science-fiction drama, playing Capt. Jonathan Archer in "Star Trek: Enterprise."
After "Enterprise" ended its run in 2005, Bakula wasn't looking to get back into television and certainly not in a one-hour drama. But he fell in love with "Men of a Certain Age," he says.
"The writing is so great, the characters are so interesting," he says. "The whole thing feels real, the way it comes out of Ray's head. It's funny, but not afraid of poignancy."
Reading with Romano for the first time, he felt as if they really were old friends.
"I sat and chatted with Ray, to see if we had chemistry, and it all worked out," Bakula says. "There's nothing on television like it."
The three men "are an odd match as friends, but they have a great time together," Bakula says. Braugher, better known as a serious dramatic actor, "is hysterically funny. He does a lot of the reaction comedy. Ray tends to be the one with the punch lines. They're both a joy to work with."
And he loves his character, Terry.
"He is so not me," Bakula says. "It's really fun to play someone who's not like you at all. He's irresponsible and self-centered, but he's also true to himself in that he doesn't have a lot of dreams and aspirations, and he admits it. He just wants to get along and enjoy life. He's so charming, it's disarming."
With three leads, the workload on "Men of a Certain Age" is far lighter than on Bakula's previous dramas, he points out happily.
"I do a third, which means I work three or four days a week," he says. "That gives me time to be with the kids, take them to school, go to their sporting events."
Bakula has four children: Chelsy, 25, and Cody, 18, from his first marriage; and two sons with his wife, Chelsea Field. Will, 14, and Owen, 10, joined their dad in wearing St. Louis Cardinals shirts to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles during this fall's baseball playoffs.
That taught the boys a hard lesson.
"Not everyone was so nice," Bakula says, and the Cardinals were swept by the Dodgers in four games.
But they'll still catch a game every time they can.
"Of course, I've made them Cardinals fans," Bakula says. "I couldn't help it."