Rules of Engagement: Rule No. 1 – Don’t.

David Spade has managed to make a career out of playing the exact same obnoxious character.  There are absolutely still times that I find the character funny, watching CBS’s new comedy Rules of Engagement is not one of them.  Rules of Engagement is not wholly without laughs, but they are certainly few and far between.

The show centers on two couples and one single man.  The first couple, Adam (Oliver Hudson) and Jennifer (Bianca Kajlich), has only known each other for seven months, and just got engaged.  The second couple, Jeff (Patrick Warburton) and Audrey (Megyn Price), has been married 12 years, and then there’s David Spade as Russell.

Poor Adam, who, let’s face it, jumped into the whole engagement thing rather prematurely, ends up getting advice from two sides:  the man that’s been married forever and the man that refuses to ever head down that path.  In order to try and be funny, both these guys seem to agree that Adam is making a mistake.  While they may not be wrong about it if they’re reacting simply due to the speed at which the relationship has progressed, both Jeff and Russell seem to actually be arguing against marriage as a whole. 

The premise for Rules of Engagement would be good, if it wasn’t something that has been tried and tired-out numerous times before.  A television series doesn’t have to be wholly new and different to be enjoyable (let’s face it, that’s nearly impossible), but in this case it may have helped.  The vast majority of the jokes in the show are not terribly funny, and much like the premise, feel as though they’ve been around the block a few too many times.

Taken from the other point of view, it could be argued that the show is both comforting and familiar.  It will break no boundaries in either the television nor the comedy world, but just about anyone in America will be able to turn on the show, even if they’ve missed a ton of episodes, and understand exactly what is happening and who these people are.   

Hudson, Kajlich, Warburton, and Price are all well suited to their roles, even if Warburton’s Jeff still seems a little too much like David Puddy (Seinfeld).  After watching three episodes I still have trouble imagining exactly what it was about Jeff that caused Audrey to fall in love with him.  While he does have a sweeter, softer side, more often than not he is a stock middle-aged man with nothing good to say about marriage. 

Hudson and Kajlich’s characters seem like they are a good fit as a couple, despite having jumped awfully quickly into an engagement.  Whether or not the relationship can actually last, only time will tell, but the two definitely seem like they could be boyfriend-girlfriend, or, at the very least, a solid starter marriage that ends up going downhill when the couple ages a little and their looks begin to fade. 

So, the couples are vaguely interesting, and David Spade is David Spade.  But, with a thin premise and some stock characters, the writing for such a sitcom would have to be well above average in order for the show as a whole to work.  That level of wit and humor simply doesn’t seem to exist in the first three episodes. 

Many people are calling the traditional sitcom dead and arguing that one-camera comedies like My Name is Earl and The Office are the way things are headed in the future.  I usually don’t agree with such people, but if Rules of Engagement is all that’s left in traditional sitcom development, I may have to. 

Rules of Engagement premieres on CBS Monday February 5th at 9:30PM EST/PST. 

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