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"Rules of Engagement": The Complete Fourth Season DVD Review

Rules of Engagement: The Complete Fourth Season DVD cover art - buy from Amazon.com Rules of Engagement: Season Four (2010)
Show & DVD Details

Writers: Tom Hertz (also creator), Mike Sikowitz, Vanessa McCarthy, Jeffrey Richman, Barry Wernick, Lance Whinery, Alex Barnow, Marc Firek, Christopher Shiple, Gloria Calderon Kellett, Mike Haukom / Directors: John Pasquin, Andy Cadiff, Gail Mancuso, Leonard R. Garner Jr.

Regular Cast: Patrick Warburton (Jeff Bingham), Megyn Price (Audrey Bingham), Oliver Hudson (Adam Rhodes), Bianca Kajlich (Jennifer Morgan), Adhir Kalyan (Timmy), David Spade (Russell Dunbar)

Recurring Characters: Nazneen Contractor (Suneetha), Diane Sellers (Doreen)

Notable Guest Stars: Virginia Williams (Sasha), Amanda Baker (Meghan), Alan Ruck (Dr. Amos Greenblatt), Wendi McLendon-Covey (Liz), Marcus Toji (Maynard Chang), Noah Munck (Mackenzie), Jaime Pressly (Pam), Beth Littleford (Laura), Travis Schuldt (Ryan), Susan Yeagley (Tracy)

Running Time: 276 Minutes (13 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned / Season 4 Airdates: June 16 - August 18, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $29.95 / DVD Release Date: January 11, 2011
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Two clear slim cases in cardboard box

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I love the traditional multi-camera sitcom, but it already feels like such a bygone format. Sure, the few years it's spent out of fashion is but a blink of the eye compared to the more than sixty it has been a part of television without fundamental change. But critically, it's now regularly bested by offbeat single-camera fare.
And in volume and overall viewers, neither competes with reality programming and hour-long dramas. Still, thrifty old-fashioned comedies remain popular at CBS, which last season had the highest-rated scripted series with the all-important 18-49 demographic in "The Big Bang Theory." Its other hit sitcom, "Two and a Half Men", also continues to perform well eight years in.

A smaller draw than those two but still successful enough to make it to a fifth season is "Rules of Engagement". Introduced in the spring of 2007, "Rules of Engagement" followed its initial 7-episode run with a full season that fall. After that, CBS twice treated the show to atypical March-to-May half-seasons, with "Two and a Half Men" as its lead-in or vice versa. The current season, "Rules"' fifth, gave it a standard fall debut and a full season order. The Nielsen ratings have improved with the earlier start and being moved behind "Big Bang" next month can only help, so it is quite likely that "Rules" will live to see another year. Although its numbers still put it on the bubble, the possibility of being sold into syndication (like comparably-viewed and present lead-in "How I Met Your Mother" recently was) also stands in its favor.

As the series' marathon couple Jeff and Audrey Bingham, Patrick Warburton and Megyn Price get top billing and the lion's share of titular storylines. Meet the series' young engaged couple: Jennifer (Bianca Kajlich) isn't the best listener, and Adam (Oliver Hudson) is a bit gay.

Created by veteran sitcom writer/producer Tom Hertz ("Spin City", "Less Than Perfect", "Married to the Kellys"), "Rules of Engagement" centers on a circle of adult friends living in New York City in different stages of relationships. Jeff (Patrick Warburton) and Audrey (Megyn Price) are the stalwarts, celebrating fourteen years of marriage in Season 4. Younger neighbor couple Adam (Oliver Hudson) and Jennifer (Bianca Kajlich) began the series by getting engaged and they're finally now setting the date. There is also the lecherous Russell Dunbar (David Spade), a fierce advocate of bachelorhood and one-night stands, and Timmy (Adhir Kalyan), his overworked Indian South African assistant (promoted to regular here after a season of recurring appearances), who also flirts with engagement (of the arranged variety) this season.

"Rules" doesn't bring anything new to the sitcom. At home or at their favorite hangout (the Island Diner on West 62nd Street, where they inexplicably eat every single day), the friends gather typically two to five at a time to talk about their relationships and get involved in one another's. That follows the textbook definition of "sitcom" from the past twenty years and this one feels less like the genre's two iconic landmarks ("Seinfeld" and "Friends") and more like one of the many lesser shows in the same mold (things like Spade's "Just Shoot Me!").

David Spade plays the rich, single, and shameless Russell Dunbar. A recurring character in Season 3, Russell's exploited personal assistant Timmy (Adhir Kalyan) becomes a series regular in Season 4.

And yet, the show works as reliable, consistent entertainment. The interactions are diverting and sharp-witted, the characters and chemistries quick to warm to and appreciate, the cultural references clever. The cast's timing and delivery are as good as any other current multi-camera troupe. Patrick Warburton especially excels in the part that feels closest to a well-deserved lead, but every one of his fellow regulars adds something interesting and enjoyable.
Even Spade's heartless, immature character is derided as such and not to be accepted as is, rendering him easier to take than Neil Patrick Harris' Barney Stinson is on the little "How I Met Your Mother" that I've seen. It's also refreshing to see long-term couples developed instead of singles dating one guest star after another, as is easier for TV comedy writers.

"Rules of Engagement" may not be challenging, hilarious, or unforgettable, but it is always appealing and fun. Those latter two qualities are all that many sitcoms aspire to and yet so few, as far I can tell, achieve these days.

Seemingly recognizing the limited audience that considers "Rules" must-own television, Sony has passed on doing a Blu-ray release of the show and also on including any extras whatsoever on The Complete Fourth Season DVD, which debuted this week distanced from the fall TV-DVD blitz (and well into Season 5's airing). Synopses of the thirteen featured episodes follow...

Russell (David Spade) observes Jeff's interactions with a work colleague in the Season 5 premiere. Jeff and Russell keep a hand on Timmy for good luck in "Atlantis City." Audrey (Megyn Price) convincingly recounts a new visit from a dead grandmother in "Ghost Story."

Disc 1

1. Flirting (21:26) (Originally aired March 1, 2010)
On Russell's advice, Jeff flirts with a co-worker. Adam hesitates to mail out "Save the Date" cards. Timmy tries to retrieve Russell's cell phone from a one-night stand's Bible study group.

2. Snoozin' for a Bruisin' (20:52) (Originally aired March 8, 2010)
Switching their sides of the bed leaves Audrey with a slapped cornea and Jeff suspected of spousal abuse. Timmy trades horrible boss stories with his fellow secretaries waiting on an overnight line to get Russell the big new phone. Adam "complains" to an upstairs neighbor playing his guitar too loudly.

3. Atlantic City (21:26) (Originally aired March 15, 2010)
Jeff goes forth with a guys' weekend in Atlantic City, even though the reason for the trip (his friend's wedding) falls through. Tipped off, Audrey does a spa getaway with Jen. Over the phone, neither wants to call the other's bluff.

4. Ghost Story (21:26) (Originally aired March 22, 2010)
Nobody believes Audrey's account of being visited by the ghost of her grandmother. Adam and Jen are disappointed to find their apartment's robbers deem none of their possessions valuable enough to steal. Russell tries to dissuade Timmy from agreeing to his arranged marriage.

Jeff (Patrick Warburton) has a very clear goal in mind for attending couples therapy with Audrey (Megyn Price). Unfamiliar with charity and gardening, Russell (David Spade) has questions and complaints for Timmy in "3rd Wheel."

5. The Four Pillars (21:27) (Originally aired March 29, 2010)
Jeff agrees to couples counseling with a therapist (guest Alan Ruck) who encourages sex. Adam worries about looking gay in his engagement photo with Jen. Russell thinks he's in love with Timmy's fiancιe Suneetha (Nazneen Contractor).

6. 3rd Wheel (21:25) (Originally aired April 5, 2010)
Jeff finds his patience tested spending time with Audrey's depressing single boss (guest Wendi McLendon-Covey). For a better wedding dress fit, Jen goes on a diet that has consequences for Adam. Russell tries to figure out Timmy's angle for doing charity.

7. Indian Giver (21:27) (Originally aired April 12, 2010)
Jeff enjoys watching a secret ex on Audrey's favorite dancing show. Hoping for a chance with Suneetha, Russell encourages Timmy to cancel his engagement.

Russell confronts Timmy with incriminating security camera footage of inappropriate lunch handling. Even on her birthday, Adam (Oliver Hudson) finds it tough to pay attention to Jen while setting next to a boy (Noah Munck) with a handheld video game. Jeff and Audrey are excited at the possibility of having found the answer to their fertility problems in "The Surrogate."

Disc 2

8. Free Free Time (21:17) (Originally aired April 19, 2010)
When Audrey's weekly girl's night ends, Jeff takes actions to preserve his "free free night."
Concerned by Timmy's growing frustration with his job, Russell takes him to a past assistant's video game launch party.

9. The Score (21:26) (Originally aired April 26, 2010)
Audrey drags Jeff, who has accidentally given himself her estrogen shot, to her boss' party. For her birthday, Adam takes Jen to the Rangers game, but has trouble staying focused. At the same game, Timmy makes enemies by cheering for the Bruins.

10. The Surrogate (21:17) (Originally aired May 3, 2010)
Audrey and Jeff try to woo a recommended surrogate mother (guest Jaime Pressly), who's also considering carrying another couple's baby. Timmy makes a website for Adam and Jen's engagement, which opens the couple up to ridicule from Russell.

Jeff (Patrick Warburton) isn't on the same wavelength as Audrey (Megyn Price) at her 20-year high school reunion in Nebraska. Are ya ready for some cricket?! Timmy (Adhir Kalyan) clearly is.

11. The Reunion (21:25) (Originally aired May 10, 2010)
Attending her 20th high school reunion, Audrey hopes to impress all her classmates with her personal and professional success. Unable to be alone, Russell crashes Timmy's dinner party.

12. Harassment (20:38) (Originally aired May 17, 2010)
A disgruntled male co-worker (Travis Schuldt) accuses Audrey of sexual harassment. Jen tries to get a real massage from Adam. Jeff challenges Timmy to a cricket match of the video game and real life varieties.

13. They Do? (20:49) (Originally aired May 24, 2010)
Locked out and unsatisfied with attire, Adam and Jen find their secret, spontaneous wedding plans gradually becoming known by everyone.

Season 4 concludes with what Timmy believes is an alcoholic's intervention for Jeff and others know to be something else.


Picture and sound quality are both excellent. I have found that's true of the vast majority of Sony DVDs, but it's still pleasing to find a frugal TV production like this holding up the bar. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video is vibrant, sharp, detailed, and immaculately clean.

The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack isn't as noticeably satisfying, but it has no trouble distributing dialogue, audience laughter, and the rare bit of music and ambient noise clearly and evenly. Disappointingly, Sony has included no subtitles on these episodes, although each is closed-captioned.

It's worth noting that in one episode a cover for the fictional This Fitness magazine is digitally blurred in one bedroom shot (but not the follow-up glimpse). That's probably how it aired, but either way, it's odd and noticeable enough to mention.

Close examination reveals that two of the six lead characters have different poses on the DVD main menu than they do on the cover art it closely resembles. The episode selection menus, the only ones besides the main menu, at least provide a meaningful image from each Season 4 show.


As on The Complete Third Season and as mentioned earlier, you'll find no real bonus features here. That's bound to disappoint those who see the value in unaired content (and who doesn't?).
Season 2's offering of bloopers and Sony "minisodes" would seem like the bare minimum to deliver, so it's unfortunate that the DVD can't even meet those modest heights.

With Sony evidently joining other studios who have irrationally done away with trailer menus, Disc 2's "Previews" listing simply plays a reel of trailers, for Welcome to the Rileys, "Community": The Complete First Season, "Drop Dead Diva": The Complete First Season, "HawthoRNe": The Complete First Season, Grown Ups, Get Low, The Bridge on the River Kwai Blu-ray, and Tamara Drewe.

While most studios have come to rely on standard DVD cases for TV shows, Sony still opts for the more distinctive and aesthetically pleasing approach of clear slim cases in a cardboard box. Boasting unique show artwork inside and out, the individual cases also find room to provide detailed episode synopses, always a welcome touch.

No excess effort has been devoted to the DVD's minimal menu screens, which are static and silent reformats of the cover art design.

Four years in and the creators of "Rules of Engagement" still like the idea of its regular cast in bed together, though now there are six.


Serving as my introduction to this show, the modest but definite achievements of the fourth season of "Rules of Engagement" seem to lend themselves more to casually catching on television than collecting and revisiting frequently. And yet, DVD makes a decent sitcom like this so much easier to enjoy with its complete, uninterrupted episodes, pausability, and stellar bug-free presentation. While regrettably lacking bonus features and subtitles, this reasonably-priced 2-disc set still satisfies as a far superior way to watch the show than in tuning in weekly or even watching off your DVR. If you have never seen "Rules", I would advise giving it a chance one way or another.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed January 13, 2011.

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