What to do when you have a ratings-challenged TV series with heavily serialized storylines that make it tough for viewers to join in mid-run? Men+Certain+Age+3+  

For TNT, it’s making the bold move of putting all 20 previous episodes of struggling drama “Men of a Certain Age” online for free in hopes that enough viewers will want to wade through that many hours to catch up. 

It’s not unprecedented. Just a few weeks ago, AMC put 11 episodes of “The Killing” up on its own website to gin up interest in the season finale that aired this past Sunday. Whether that helped is hard to say, given “Killing” managed to approximately match its season average of 2.3 million viewers for the finale episode.

But “Age” faces more dire circumstances. Its never-quite-stellar ratings have continued to tail off as it lumbers toward its second-season finale on July 6. Given its critical acclaim and a big name like Ray Romano attached as star, TNT is likely looking for any way possible to move the needle on the ratings in order to justify a third-season order.

Could adding the entire “Age” catalog do the trick? Probably not this late in the game, but in addition to pulling off a potential miracle, Turner could study how such a stunt works in case it wants to try it in the future. No doubt execs are weighing whether what they’re doing here essentially cannibalizes DVD or streaming revenues they could be earning down the line, but in that respect it’s probably a worthy gambit: The more people you get watching up front, the more people you have out there evangelizing the show. For “Age,” it could use every new fan possible–like now.

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