Rules of Engagement

Comedy series: The new breed

While crix were mixed in their reviews, multicam laffer “Rules of Engagement” has in seven episodes found a comfortable niche between “Two and a Half Men” and “CSI: Miami.”

Perhaps most important, it retained much of its lead-in from the top-rated “Men,” earning it an order for a second season of at least 13 episodes.

According to showrunner/ exec producer Tom Hertz, “Rules” works because it sticks to its premise of looking at relationships from different points of view — Patrick Warburton and Megyn Price play a married couple, with Oliver Hudson and Bianca Kajlich as a newly engaged pair and David Spade a confirmed bachelor.

Hertz developed the skein from material he performed as a standup comic in the 1980s and 1990s, later morphing it into a pilot with help from nonwriting exec producer Doug Robinson, Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Prods. and Sony Pictures TV.

But the road to series TV was not without its hitches.

“We recast three out of the five roles, and that took months and months and months, but it ended up being worth it,” Hertz says.

The chemistry between Spade and sitcom veteran Warburton in particular has paid off, Hertz says. “Those two guys are very funny. It’s big-guy/little-guy classic comedy,” he explains.

“Rules” will stick to basics when it comes back this fall. “We’ll keep it focused on the relationships, and I love the scenes of Spade and Warburton and Oliver Hudson just sitting around and talking about women,” Hertz adds.

THE WRAP

Funniest episode: “Game On.” The skein fills out a satisfying half-hour with three plots that each hold up their end in the laughs department: Jeff (Warburton) tries to make up a snub to his wife (Price) by taking her to a basketball game; Russell (Spade) lusts after Adam’s videogame system; while Adam (Hudson) and Jennifer (Kajlich) try to rein in their personal spending.

Funniest character: Jeff — his self-absorbed cluelessness, delivered with Warburton’s steady, basso rumble makes even the most mundane situations funny.

Funniest line: Warburton delivered this one: “Actually we’ve wrapped up the sex portion of our marriage. It’s been replaced by Letterman.”

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