CBS airs the Rodney Dangerfield of sitcoms -- a show that nabs decent ratings, but has a harder time coming across either buzz or respect
Guys, I have some breaking news to share with you. It’s a little out-there, and you may not believe me at first, but I am begging you to trust me. It’s a tad shocking, so you may want to be sitting down. Ready? Okay, here goes: Rules of Engagement is still on the air. I KNOW! Crazy, right? That show with David Spade and Puddy from Seinfeld doing…you know, stuff? You can still watch it! I’m talking about original episodes, people. Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS. It’s right there! On television!
Rules of Engagement is merely the latest in a long line of Wait, that’s still on? shows — programs whose continued existence seems to flummox audiences that could have sworn they’d been canceled years prior. It’s According to Jim (182 episodes — seriously!), My Wife and Kids (123 episodes — I’m not making this up!), and Boston Public (81 episodes — I swear!) all wrapped into one. I was so amazed when I found out a show I had presumed to be long dead was still cranking out episodes, I actually called Rules of Engagement‘s creator, Tom Hertz, to see if at least he was aware the program he executive-produces was still on the air. ”I am,” replied Hertz. ”But I’m privy to inside information that a large swath of America isn’t. I’ll check chat boards after an episode airs and a lot of the comments are like, ‘Wasn’t this show canceled? I didn’t know it was still on!”’
It should be pointed out that people on chat boards and I are not entirely to blame for our ignorance. CBS has moved Rules all over the schedule for years. At one point the network even announced that it would air on Saturdays. Saturdays! Nobody has watched TV on a Saturday since Charo got caught as a stowaway on The Love Boat. The sitcom has also been taken off the air for months at a time so the network could try out other programs like the Rob Schneider comedy ¡Rob!, which I can definitively report is not still on the air. But Rules just keeps chugging along, pumping out both episodes (it will hit 100 with the season finale in May) and steady ratings (an average of 8.2 million viewers this season). ”CBS goes and tries to find a hotter chick,” says Hertz of the other programs that have been tried out in Rules‘ place (Accidentally on Purpose, anyone?). ”But when they fail, we’re the solid, decent-looking girl they come home to.”
Rules of Engagement isn’t exactly what you would call hip, either, which explains why — unlike lower-rated sitcoms such as Happy Endings and Community — you don’t read a whole lot about it in the press. Heck, the last time the words ”Rules of Engagement” appeared in EW, it was for a ratings chart last June in which a rerun of the show placed one slot behind Dogs in the City. ”Multicamera sitcoms don’t get the real buzz and attention, just because they’ve been around forever,” concedes Hertz. ”We’re not that sexy thing to watch with that one breakout star or gimmick.”
The most ironic thing about this situation is that while a large segment of society seems to be unaware this show is still breathing, thanks to recent syndication deals with TBS and WGN, there is now more Rules on the air than ever before. ”I’m sorry, America,” jokes Hertz. ”I apologize.” However, you don’t have to settle for old Rules of Engagement episodes, because I’m telling you this show is totally still a thing.
I know you remain skeptical. I can tell. And I don’t blame you. But as the creator himself says, ”Hopefully this column will add to the mountain of evidence that Rules of Engagement does, in fact, exist.” Seriously.