"Rules of Engagement" was a mid-season replacement last season, running seven episodes, all of which seemed a bit spaced out as the series seemed to be there one week, gone the next, back the week after. The show certainly had a lot going for it: it marked the return to TV for both David Spade (Spade's former "SNL" co-star Adam Sandler's production company, Happy Madison, is one of the production companies involved) and Patrick Warburton, as well as Andy Ackerman ("Seinfeld" writer and creator of the incredibly underrated and short-lived, "It's Like...You Know".)
All that said, "Rules of Engagement" turns out to be funny. But, the thing is, it's just funny. It's not hysterical or even wildly funny - and it all really comes down to one issue...which I'll discuss later. The series stars Warburton and Megyn Price (the very funny actress from "Grounded for Life") as Jeff and Audrey, a couple who's been married for a while and has reached the level of "been there, done or seen that." They have a comfortable relationship, but it's not without the occasional disagreements.
There's also Adam (Oliver Hudson) and Jennifer (Bianca Kajlich), a younger couple who who have just gotten married and are still ironing out the occasional issue that arises in their relationship. Hovering around them all is Russell (Spade), a single guy who wants to stay that way (one of the funniest lines in the entire season comes from Spade, responding to the other characters saying that he's just jealous he's not in a relationship: "You know what, you're right - I am a little bit jealous. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go do whatever I feel like doing, all the time." The line is delivered with Spade's perfectly bitter sarcasm, and it's hilarious - and the show needs more of it.
The show's main flaw (you knew I was going to get around to it eventually) is Hudson and Kajlich. When the series comes back for its second season (which it will soon), I'm hoping that these two either become less of the focus or are taken out of the picture completely (for those who think that a show can't be retooled that much, I invite you to witness what Fox recently did to "The Loop" in its second and last season.) The two of them are particularly bland , and both seem out of their element in a comedy (although Hudson is the weaker of the two, as he appears to be straining to be funny, with a delivery that seems forced.) Making matters worse, they don't have a great deal of chemistry with one another. On a show with Spade, Warburton and Price, these two have to try and go above and beyond to not be swept away, and they don't - at least in this short first season.
As for the more positive aspects of the series, Spade and Warburton are as perfect together as they were when they co-starred in "Emperor's New Groove". Warburton's ultra-deadpan style manages to mix with Spade's hyperactive sarcasm superbly once again, and it's too bad that the two don't have more scenes together. Pryce is another bonus, as she has good chemistry with Warburton and, once again, offers another funny performance here.
Again, this is a funny show. However, it has the potential to be a really funny show if it can shift the focus and maybe a change in the behind-the-camera talent, as the series needs to hit some of the punchlines a bit harder, as there are times during these episodes where scenes just ramble to a flat end. Overall, I think this series definitely has its moments in the first season, but it needs improvement in certain areas.
1. 1- 1 5 Feb 07 Pilot
2. 1- 2 12 Feb 07 The Birthday Deal
3. 1- 3 19 Feb 07 Young and the Restless
4. 1- 4 26 Feb 07 Game On
5. 1- 5 5 Mar 07 Kids
6. 1- 6 12 Mar 07 Hard Day's Night
7. 1- 7 19 Mar 07 Jeff's Wooby
VIDEO: "Rules of Engagement" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is first-rate, as the picture appeared crisp and detailed throughout the episodes. A few minor instances of artifacting were spotted, but image quality for the majority of the running time appeared clean and smooth. Colors looked warm and bright, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: The show's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was purely a "comedy mix", with little in the way of noticable surround use. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue.
EXTRAS: "From Table Reading to Taping" short featurette, "Set Tour With Oliver Hudson" featurette and some fairly funny bloopers. There's also a DVD-ROM weblink and previews for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Rules of Engagement" is a funny (and very funny here-and-there) show that has the potential to be terrific if some of the issues can be ironed out in the upcoming second season. The DVD of the short first season offers fine audio/video quality and a couple of minor extras. The price tag is a tad high for 7 episodes, so I'd say give this a rental first if you haven't seen it.