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With the official start of the 2006-07 season less than three months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month or so previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at one of the 39 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.
There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entry:
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (CBS)
(TBA at midseason)
The network's description: "Additionally, the network announced the pick-up of four shows for mid-season, including the Monday night stalwart THE KING OF QUEENS as well as two new dramas and one new comedy. They include 3 LBS, starring Stanley Tucci in a medical drama about New York neurosurgeons; WATERFRONT, a drama about a colorful mayor in Providence, R.I. starring Joe Pantoliano; and RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, a comedy starring Patrick Warburton ("Seinfeld") from Adam Sandler's production company that follows two couples and a single guy as they navigate the jungles of dating, engagement and marriage."
What did they leave out: A more complete synopsis obviously. Also Kathleen Rose Perkins's role of Jennifer is reportedly being recast.
The plot in a nutshell: Perennially married Jeff (Patrick Warburton) and Audrey (Megyn Price) have just learned their next door neighbor Jennifer (Kathleen Rose Perkins) has gotten engaged to her boyfriend Chris (Paulo Costanzo). And much to Jeff's chagrin, Audrey wants them to head over to offer their congrats. There, Jeff begrudgingly starts to take Chris under his wing, offering his wisdom from being married all these years. Among said nuggets: Chris's sports memorabilia collection from his bachelor days will never get to be displayed again and all the fancy items they're going to register for - like a cake plate - will never get used (or as Jeff puts its "15 years... no cake"). Jeff's advice sends Chris into a spiral of doubt about his relationship while inadvertently setting off a fight between Jeff and Audrey about an old bicycle he wants to sell. Along the way we also meet Chris's best friend Russell (Greg Pitts), himself a serial dater, whom Jennifer hopes to help settle down by setting him up with a friend (Elizabeth Bogush). Not surprisingly in the end, both couple's squabbles get settled once cooler heads prevail with Chris realizing Jennifer is the girl for him and Jeff realizing what the bicycle means to Audrey.
What works: A likeable cast elevates a vanilla premise - one we'll see again on FOX's "'Til Death" - with Patrick Warburton by far stealing the show. His booming, baritone voice and straight man reactions prove to be a surprisingly strong lubricant on the tired sitcom mainstay that men are idiots and must spend each week making up for their idiocy. And while "Rules" isn't the savior of multi-camera sitcoms, it does have its funny moments - and that alone makes it worth tuning in.
What doesn't: As mentioned above, there's nothing here that's going to have you running down the streets singing its praises (like my love of "How I Met Your Mother"). It is however - much like its CBS sitcom brethren "The King of Queens," "Two and a Half Men" or "The New Adventures of Old Christine" - a decent way to spend a half-hour.
The challenges ahead: Will CBS once again be able to expand its comedy lineup beyond Monday nights?