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Reviewed by Will Harris
hen “Rules of Engagement” emerged as a mid-season replacement last year, it was an easy series to root for, given that it provided work to three consistently dependable sitcom stalwarts: Megyn Price (“Grounded for Life”), Patrick Warburton (“Seinfeld,” “The Tick”), and David Spade (“Just Shoot Me”). With three people that funny, you knew even before it premiered that there was no way it could avoid being an entertaining show. Unfortunately, after watching a few episodes, you often found yourself wondering why it wasn’t funnier.
The answer, as those who have seen the series already know, is that the characters who inspired the show’s title are the weakest members of the comedic ensemble. And while that remains the same in Season Two of “Rules of Engagement,” if only by nature of the strength of the other three players involved, it can at least be said that Oliver Hudson and Bianca Kajlich are at least a little bit more comfortable in their roles this time around. Mind you, that’s the only change in the series during its second season. Rather than screw up a relatively good thing, the status quo remains approximately the same: Adam (Hudson) and Jennifer (Kajlich) are still engaged, Jeff (Warburton) and Audrey (Price) are still married, and Russell (Spade) is still skeeving around as the resident man-whore of the group.
Sure, there’s a tiny bit of movement toward marriage for the engaged couple, most notably when they decide to take up Audrey on her offer to throw them an engagement party; the reason they do so, however, is because they realize they need new stuff, a fact that Jeff discovers and, unsurprisingly, takes advantage of. It isn’t until the very, very end of the season -- like, the season finale -- that there’s even any real talk of the couple actually setting a wedding date, but, hey, at least it’s been brought up, right? Also brought up, albeit in an equally small way, is the suggestion that Jeff and Audrey are trying to have a kid, even talking with a fertility specialist about why it’s taking so long. (The highlight of that particular episode comes from Jeff’s unabashed enjoyment from learning that he’s in possession of “super-sperm.”) As for Russell, he’s kind of the bargain-basement Barney Stinson, a conniver who can almost always score a babe when he needs one but isn’t nearly as successful at getting the women he most wants, as is most evident when he tries to develop a serious relationship with Audrey’s sister, Barbara (Heather Locklear), only to find out that she prefers him as a friend.
Ugh, I wouldn’t wish that fate onto anyone, not even a sleazebag like Russell.
Anyway, you get the idea: things are approximately the same this time around as last. Either Adam and Jennifer learn something about their relationship that affects Jeff and Audrey, or it’s the other way around, with Russell’s exploits occasionally serving as the impetus for the episode. The one notable difference with episodic chemistry is that we see more of Adam and Russell’s shared work place, which is a firm owned by Russell’s father (Geoff Pierson). This does help to mix up the proceedings, most notably when Daddy dearest comes into town to film a commercial for the firm and chooses to have Adam play his son in the piece!
“Rules of Engagement” is still a sitcom that holds its own based far more on its cast than its storylines, but given the few aforementioned tidbits dropped in the latter part of the second season, perhaps things will finally get rolling with earnest in Season Three. In the meantime, Season Two shows improvement since the series’ inaugural run, and though it’s less “must see” TV than “it’s pretty funny, but I always forget it’s on” TV, this set still has enough laughs for fans of Warburton and Spade to get their money’s worth.
Special Features: It’s a pitiful showing, folks. Last time around, there were a few special features – a blooper reel, a set tour, and a featurette about the making of an episode – but this time, they’ve cut back to only a blooper reel. (I refuse to dignify the inclusion of “minisodes” as a bonus.)