22 May 2008
With Back to You cancelled and the genuinely hilarious Aliens in America gone I found myself panicking that I had no sitcoms left to watch. Yes How I Met Your Mother is still chugging along and the usually unfunny Office and Scrubs still exist. Samantha Who, Big Bang Theory and 30 Rock all claim a couple of laughs a week but gone are the days when a good sitcom could have you laughing out loud and wanting to watch it over again. In fact, I’ve gotten used to being slightly amused and settling for that when watching television comedy.
I got so used to not laughing at the TV that a couple weeks ago I turned on a sitcom, that I had accidentally taped on my PVR, while wearing a face mask that would crack if I smiled. Much to my surprise, it cracked. Lack of skin care benefit aside I was so excited that I hadn’t been able to control my laughter that I started taping the sitcom whenever it was on. That sitcom was Rules of Engagement.
At first glance Rules of Engagement is nothing more than a ‘Til Death meets sleazy single guy mashup. But it’s not. I do advise you, however, to ignore David Spade entirely as he has not been funny since Just Shoot Me and seems to be simply the butt of “he’s sleazy and short” jokes. The rest of the main cast, however, is hilarious. Oliver Hudson (known to audiences as Joey’s hot and enigmatic boyfriend on Dawson’s Creek) is apparently very funny. He mixes a sweet childishness and naivete with maturity so well that the engaged Adam is adorable and funny yet never over the top. He is idealistic, quirky and romantic and yet somehow believable. Adam’s fun, open sweetness is foiled perfectly by cynical, emotionally stunted, sarcastic and cheap Jeff (as played by Patrick Warburton) whose marriage is comically perfect in all its flaws. Jeff’s self centered and ambitious yet thoughtful and sentimental wife Audrey (Megyn Price) is his perfect match as they muddle their way through married life in their own dullset version of Mad About You. Patrick Warburton’s comic timing is as close to perfect as you get. Bianca Kajlich (who’s character Natasha dated Dawson while Oliver Hudson was romancing Joey) plays Jennifer, Adam’s counterpart, well. She balances out his quirks with her own groundedness but somehow manages to keep away from the boring zone (a real danger for her type of character). And every once in awhile, Russell (Spade) makes a funny joke as well.
Completely underrated, Rules of Engagement may not be groundbreaking but it fills the void left by Back to You five times over. Give it a shot, it’s certainly enough to break a face mask.