Monday, 9 August 2010

Rules of Engagement 4.1 / 4.2 - 'Flirting' / 'Snoozin' for a Bruisin'

David Spade as Russell Dunbar in Rules of Engagement
Comedy Central managed to sneak Rules of Engagement back into its schedules on Saturday night.

Why they have decided to put what could be a high drawing show for them on at such a ridiculous time is beyond me though; maybe they were fearful of it interrupting their wall to wall repeats of Two and a Half Men and King of Queens.

‘Rules’ is in its fourth season now and the format remains pretty much unchanged; the only major noticeable difference this season is the promotion of Adhir Kalyan to series regular.

I don’t quite understand this move personally, I appreciate it’s probably a contractual issue but I don’t really think Timmy needed to become a regular. He was fine as a supporting player but now as a regular the writers are going to need to find increasingly elaborate ways of giving him something to do and over the course of a season the whole ‘Russell is an asshole boss’ gag is going to wear pretty thin.

What this move has also done is essentially make Russell and Timmy the show’s third couple. I always thought the point of the show was that David Spade’s Russell was the antithesis to the two couples but now how do you explain Timmy’s presence as a regular cast member?

And don’t even get me started on their decision to not reshoot the titles but rather just add Kalyan in to the existing titles – would it really have cost that much to get the cast to lie on a bed for an hour or so again!?


I’m off to a somewhat negative start here and that isn’t my intention because I do enjoy Rules of Engagement. The show is never going to win any awards and probably doesn’t even make the top ten sitcoms currently on TV but it is not pretentious in anyway – the show knows what it is and to coin a horrible cliché ‘it does exactly what it says on the tin’.

TV is full of comedies trying to do something different and be ‘the next big thing’ and I for one love that, but not everyone likes change and there is still a big market out there for traditional sitcoms and that is what Rules of Engagement offers.

Funny, if unoriginal, jokes, a great cast, stereotypical, but still funny, characters and a running time that breezes by. Spade, who I’ve already mentioned, steals the show, and I’m not just saying this because I’m David Spade’s biggest fan, even if he is essentially playing the same character he’s been playing for the last twenty years.

His character Russell is about as one-dimensional as they come but Spade somehow manages to make him the best thing on the show.

The seasons of Rules are quite short compared to your standard sitcom but in a way I think that helps because in being so standard over a long order I think people would get bored.

To last for four seasons they must be doing something right though and this fourth season kicked off in the usual Rules of Engagement fashion. Russell had just left a girl after a one night stand but left his phone and sent Timmy to retrieve it, Jeff and Audrey were miscommunicating again and Adam was getting bossed around by Jen and then worrying – it’s all routine stuff but it works.

Spade didn’t have much to do in the opening episode other than move from story to story and wreak havoc – he ordered Timmy to the girl’s house, he planted the seed for Adam to develop cold feet and he encouraged Jeff to flirt back with his co-worker which led to her offering up an affair to the former David Puddy.

In the second episode of the fourth season premiere double header ‘Snoozin’ for a Bruisin’ the main story was Jeff and Audrey switching sides of the bed and Jeff blacking Audrey’s eye in the morning when he reached for the alarm clock. It was predictable stuff but I still got a big laugh from the pay-off.

Elsewhere, Timmy was sent to queue over night to get Russell the new must have phone where he exchanged anecdotes about how awful his boss was with some other assistants waiting in line and Adam pretended to be standing up for Jen with the neighbour upstairs when he’d actually befriended him.

I really do hope the ‘Russell is a jerk to Timmy’ storylines don’t continue week after week because both characters deserve better. Part of the fun of Rules is when the three ‘couples’ mix it up and interact with characters other than their usual sparring partner.

In ‘Snoozin’ For a Bruisin’ I did like Adam’s running gag of the moisturising gloves and the ‘sexy vampire shows’, Oliver Hudson plays the loveable doofus role really well and I’d like to see him in a big screen rom-com one day, I think he has that sort of Zach Braff quality to him.

All in all, a solid, if unspectacular, opening to Rules of Engagement’s fourth season.

If you’ve never seen the show its worth watching purely for David Spade and Patrick Warburton’s coffee shop banter, the two comedy veterans arguably carry the show but there is enough going on elsewhere to ensure Rules of Engagement is a cut above most of the other ‘traditional’ sitcoms on TV.

Rules of Engagement airs Saturdays @ 7pm and 7.30pm on Comedy Central


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