First Review: Rules of Engagement

We’ve seen them all at one time or another. Single friends (Friends), newly married (Mad About You), long-wedded (All in the Family) and divorced (The Odd Couple). Now it’s the missing link: engagement.

Here we have two neighbouring couples, newly-engaged Adam and Jennifer (Oliver Hudson, Bianca Kajlich) and married pair Jeff and Audrey (Patrick Warburton, Megyn Price.

In the middle is single pal Russell (David Spade). Hey presto, there are at least three stages of romance, simply shake until reaching desired effect.

This sitcom is produced by Adam Sandler and created by Tom Hertz (Married to the Kellys, Less than Perfect, Spin City). Directing is Andy Ackerman, a longtime director on Seinfeld, which is pretty obvious with all the establishing shots of apartment building windows. If you blink it almost looks like Jerry’s from the outside.

This is all pretty harmless comic fare, but is also fairly pedestrian, offering little that feels new. Lots of fumbling, somewhat chauvinistic, men leering at waitresses or struggling to keep up with what women want. Patrick Warburton’s dry, laconic style works well in a world spinning in XX and XY chromosomes, but Spade isn’t yet offering much point of difference from his work on the success of Just Shoot Me.

Based on the pilots, Back To You (which follows at 8pm) looks a stronger finished product. But TEN has 16 eps of Engagement and only seven of Back To You, hence leading with this. In between a handful of chuckles (I’m not sure I can quantify them as laughs) I spent much of the time lamenting the current state of sitcoms and remembering the modern classics that are no more. We’re left with shows like Two and a Half Men, The New Adventures of Christine and How I Met Your Mother when we could probably find more mirth in a re-run of Seinfeld, Frasier or The Larry Sanders Show. And whatever did happen to Helen Hunt anyway?

There’s a few exceptions to that rule (My Name is Earl, The Office, 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm) of course.

Oh, back to the Rules of Engagement. I guess if you like boysy Adam Sander comedies this might be one for you.

Rules of Engagement premieres 7:30pm Wednesday Feb 13 on TEN.


  1. I don’t mind being disagreed with when people defend their arguments which you’ve done (although any ruder and no I wouldn’t have printed it). Comedy is such a divisive genre, far more than drama. We usually like a comedy or we don’t, whereas we tolerate a mild drama a lot more.

    Two and a Half Men for instance booms in the US but I can’t bear it. Frasier died for years in Aus until programmers eventually let it linger over summer and it built a following. HIMYM has had good enough figures to hold a 7:30 slot, but clearly I’m not one of the fans.

    Hey, at the end of the day any review is just an opinion, and a blog is an extension of mine.

    Next time please criticise without getting so personal.

  2. You just lost any credibility you had as a TV critic when you insulted HIMYM and praised Frasier in the same sentence. HIMYM is one of the best shows on television. It’s witty, it’s fresh, it’s fun and it’s got one of the best casts ever ensembled on a scripted television show. Anything Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan touches is pure gold, and together in the same series is nothing short of splendiferous. Frasier over HIMYM? If anything, it should be the other way around. HIMYM is the freshest, funniest show on television next to Entourage and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, two series which you probably haven’t watched due to your ignorant preference of Frasier and Seinfeld reruns. Granted, Seinfeld’s a good show, but Frasier? Seriously? That’s ludicrous.

    Oh, and I read your darling comments policy. There’s no personal attacks, no childish name calling here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t publish this comment. Many bloggers on a power trip feel like a big boy when they disapprove any comment that’s not to their liking. Either way, that’s the last time I read one of your reviews. Here’s a tip: next time you’re reviewing something, don’t trash other series that people enjoy. Sure, bag the main series that you’re reviewing all you want, but leave others out of it. Just because they’re all comedies doesn’t mean you have to name every single comedy that’s not to your liking. I wouldn’t be surprised if you liked Scrubs. Absolutely horrendous show, not quite as bad as Frasier though. Actually, I wouldn’t have been so annoyed if you didn’t hail crap like 30 Rock, The Office and My Name Is Earl as exceptional. Those are three of the worst shows on television at the moment, each episode contains few laughs if any. The Office and 30 Rock are just boring workplace situational comedies which obviously Australia finds as lame as I do, given their awkward scheduling and their werewolf time slots by their networks. And My Name Is Earl is just a load of juvenile, dumb fun aimed at 12 year olds. Whatever.

    Each to their own, I guess, but I still can’t get past your last few paragraphs. Especially this comment: “I spent much of the time lamenting the current state of sitcoms and remembering the modern classics that are no more.” Who in their right mind “laments the current state of sitcoms” and “remembers modern classics that are no more” while watching TV?! You’re old. You don’t understand the youth of today. A good suggestion from me to you is to quit living in the past or you’ll end up a cranky old man who dies alone. Oh, and don’t think I hate your entire site just because I disagree with your reviewing methods. I find your efforts on the daily entertainment news and the “show watch” pages e.g. coming in 2008, what’s been cancelled, etc. quite informative and compelling. I just won’t be reading your reviews in the future, they’re a bit too ignorant and overdone for me. Feel free to tear my arguments apart with your l33t “screenwriting diploma with distinction in sitcoms”, whatever gets your rocks off. Just keep in mind, you’re not better than anyone else because of a piece of paper.

  3. 2.5 men is awfull, just becuase the states like it dont mean its good, hell, they think half the stuff that comes out of the UK is crap but we love it down here.

  4. Ahh this argument. Actually (says he waving his Screenwriting diploma with a high distinction in sitcoms) they are all sitcoms because they subscribe to the rule that the characters never learn. They end up back where they started in the same “situation” from which they have not moved forward. Gilligan never gets off the island, or learns from his mistakes.

    In this sense even The Simpsons is a sitcom, merely an animated one. Homer is in the same rut as Gilligan.

    A sitcom doesn’t have to be 3 cam, studio audience, laugh track -that’s merely the style rather than the content.

    Indeed other shows like MASH were often on location, sometimes without any laugh track. Same for The Wonder Years.

    What we are seeing is variations on the production styles of sitcoms but they all get back to the basic rule.

  5. Trendy, How I Met Your Mother is better than it’s given credit as being – however, it’s been going downhill fast in the writing department since season 1, and these days Neil Patrick Harris is pretty much the only reason to keep watching.

    And David, your exceptions – My Name is Earl, The Office, 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm – aren’t technically sitcoms 🙂

  6. Having watched both on the special DVD I would have to say that Back to You will last the longest…yes “rules” had some humerous moments but it just does not grab me

  7. Have to disagree with your dissing of Two & A Half Men it’s one of the funniest sitcoms around and isn’t the most watched sitcom in the states for nothing. Nothing at the moment compares with Seinfeld or Frasier but there’s still some good sitcoms around.

  8. After watching the Ch10 dvd that was in the herald sun this morning. I have to agree that ROE isn’t as strong as Back to you, and that David Spades character is similar to finch on Just Shoot Me (id prefer that show to to this any day, pity they only released the first 2 seasons on DVD).

    Either way i will give it a few more eps before i make a ruling on it, people are always too quick to judge, they expect pot of gold first episode when they have a lot of ground to cover in not much time.

    I wish people would stop picking on 2.5men and How i met your mother though.

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