Although it’s unlikely to receive the 100 Episodes treatment anytime in the near future, it may astonish you to learn that Rules Of Engagement hit that very mark this evening, a landmark occasion that CBS also decided to use as the swan song for the long-running sitcom. Actually, since it was mentioned in today’s What’s On Tonight? column, the 100-episodes accomplishment is probably old news to most of you, but surely, we can all admit that it’s a little staggering to realize that this was the show’s seventh season.
Seven seasons is a damned fine run, no matter how you look at it, but it’s a particularly remarkable achievement for Rules Of Engagement, a series about which—unless someone would care to out themselves in the comments section—no one has ever exclaimed, “Oh, my God, that is my absolute favorite!” Hell, I’ve been watching the series since its inception and have had a season pass for it since I first bought my TiVo, and even I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite. In fact, even knowing that it’s now wrapped up its run, never to return, I’m hard pressed to find any sort of void left where Rules Of Engagement used to be.
Yes, it’s just that substantive a show.
Over the course of its seven seasons, Rules Of Engagement rarely veered away from its established premise: Adam and Jen (Oliver Hudson and Bianca Kajlich), a newly-engaged couple, slowly edge toward the altar, learning the do’s and don’ts of matrimony from their long-married friends, Jeff and Audrey (Patrick Warburton and Megyn Price), while being reminded of what the single life still has to offer by their perpetual-bachelor buddy, Russell (David Spade). In the show’s third season, new blood was added in the form of Russell’s constantly put-upon assistant, Timmy (Adhir Kalyan, who, in a perfect world, would never have joined the cast because he would’ve still been busy playing Raja on The CW’s Aliens In America), but while he may have added a bit of extra spark with his deadpan deliver, it’s hard to say that the overall formula of the series changed dramatically with his arrival.
After repeatedly wrapping up seasons of the show without having any clue if they were going to be coming back or not, the producers of Rules Of Engagement apparently decided to throw caution to the wind and finally give the fans—I don’t actually know any of them personally, but one has to presume that they exist, given how long CBS kept the series on the air—what they’d been waiting for: a wedding for Adam and Jen, a baby for Jeff and Audrey, and happy endings for both Russell and Timmy.
As the series finale kicks off, Jeff’s at the hospital, waiting for Audrey to arrive, as the lesbian surrogate who’s having their baby for them—Brenda, played by Sara Rue—is rapidly approaching the moment when she’ll be giving birth. In rapid succession, both Audrey and Adam arrive, with Adam chirpily assuring Jeff and Audrey that they shouldn’t feel bad about their baby’s imminent arrival ruining their wedding day (they don’t) and reminding them that his mother is a doula, should Brenda need any assistance with the birth (she won’t).
After sending Adam off to get snacks (“You’re kind of under-using me, but okay…”), Jeff and Audrey have a brief discussion about being in the delivery room. He’s not interested, but she is, so of course they head that way immediately, with Jeff muttering, “You gals all stick together, don’t you?” Once there, Jeff attempts to distract Brenda from the labor pains by reading the sports section to her, which also ends up distracting the doctor, but he’s paying enough attention to ask Audrey and Jeff if they’d like to see how the baby’s coming along. Jeff declines, but Audrey looks, after which she immediately hurls. Later, Audrey swears to Brenda, “I didn’t throw up because I saw your vagina,” and when Jeff balks at her use of “the V-word,” the doctor chimes in that he’s always preferred the term “hoo-ha,” as doctors often do.
Meanwhile, back in the lobby, Jen has arrived, trying to put on an excited face about the new baby while worrying that the cancellation of their wedding is a sign from the universe that they shouldn’t get married at all. Moments later, Father Ed Begley, Jr., strolls by, inspiring Adam and Jen to rush after him and ask if he’ll marry them. He happily agrees, but apologizes that he can’t actually perform the service until the terminal patient he’s come to see has died. Cue the heart monitor flat-lining, followed by Adam cheering and saying, “All right, let’s do this thing!”
As for the rest of our heroes, Timmy left Russell’s employ a few episodes back, but this week he discovers that there’s a problem with his work visa, specifically that it hasn’t been extended as it was supposed to have been. The reason: Russell thought it was a prank call. As a result, Timmy’s visa has expired, which means that he’s going to have to leave the country…or is he?
Don’t be ridiculous.
After Brenda successfully has Jeff and Audrey’s baby and is summarily dismissed from the story with the last line, “Oh, thank God, I can drink again,” the new parents do their duty as best man and maid of honor for Adam and Jen’s wedding in the hospital chapel, with Russell and Timmy in attendance. When Timmy moans that he’s going to miss everyone, Russell steps up, admits responsibility for Timmy’s situation, and offers to marry him so that he can stay in the country. Oh, and one more big surprise: After going through all the trouble to hire a surrogate to have their baby, it turns out that Audrey’s pregnant.
Cue Semisonic’s “Closing Time.” That’s a wrap, Rules of Engagement. Time to let Spade go do Joe Dirt 2.
Okay, so it’s not exactly on the level of the last episode of The Office, but isn’t it about what you’d expect from a series that, as far as we know, wasn’t actually anyone’s favorite show? Well, yes and no.
There was never any way that the series was going to end without Adam and Jen getting married, because that was the whole point of the series in the first place. It’s also not entirely surprising that there’ll be no further episodes to explore Jeff and Audrey as parents, since both Warburton and Pryce went on record several seasons ago about how they had little to no interest in seeing the series go in that direction. As for the sudden homoerotic turn to the Russell/Timmy relationship, I’ve no clue why the series suddenly started down that road this season, but given that there was an entire episode dedicated to Russell dating a woman who was effectively a female version of Timmy, it’s not entirely surprising that things ended up this way. Still, it would've been nice if Timmy had escaped Russell's clutches for good in the end. Lord knows he earned his freedom a thousand times over.
In short, it’s not a great ending, but, hey, Rules of Engagement wasn't a great show. Fair's fair, right?