The CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement has had a very unique history, as they start production on Season 7. The show started out as a midseason replacement in 2007, and has continually managed to put up solid numbers, despite several time slot shifts. While fans will have to wait until 2013 for new episodes, the show is actually making its debut in syndication Monday, September 10, giving newcomers a chance to catch up before the upcoming season starts (CLICK HERE to find out where to watch the show in syndication).
Last week, I was invited down to the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, California to talk to the stars of Rules of Engagement about the show moving into syndication, and the upcoming season, debuting in midseason. I learned quickly that it was actually the cast members' first week back in production, and we were all learning about the new season at the same time, via a nifty tip sheet provided to us by the writers. First up, I spoke with Oliver Hudson and Bianca Kajlich, who play the engaged couple Adam and Jennifer, at one of the booths in The Island Diner set. Take a look at what they had to say.
Oliver Hudson and Bianca Kajlich - Adam and Jennifer
So, Bianca, I read about this sex dream you have about Russell (David Spade).
Oliver Hudson: Wow. You guys know more than we do.
This is your first week, right?
Bianca Kajlich: Literally, this is our first day rehearsing. Who knows, it looks like it's going to be an exciting season. What we do know is that Spade, in real life, will run with this story line (Laughs). It's over for me.
Oliver Hudson: It's so funny because, the story that Megyn (Price) and I were talking about, played on the fact that I remembered, in high school, you might have some crazy sex dream about some girl in high school that you have zero attraction to. You get to school the next day, and you're like... strangely attracted to this person, that you wouldn't be otherwise.
Do you guys find yourselves still pitching guest stars to come on the show, after seven seasons?
Bianca Kajlich: I had a pitch this season, because I was on a flight to New Orleans, and became best friends with Richard Simmons. I had dinner with him and New Orleans. We became best friends on the flight and had dinner together. So, I pitched that. I thought a really funny story line would be if we found out that Russell used to be completely obese, and Richard Simmons was the one who lead him to his weight loss. I said, 'We have to do something with Richard Simmons, because he's so funny.'
This show has such a unique history, compared to most comedies. It starts in midseason, it starts in the fall. You have 15-episode seasons, and 22-episode seasons, but people keep finding it. It really is a testament to the show itself. But, is it stressful for you guys, not knowing if you're coming back?
Bianca Kajlich: It's a little bit sad, just thinking about what could have been. Maybe, if we had actually been in one spot and stayed there, what would the future have been for us? Obviously, there's no use in crying over spilled milk.
Oliver Hudson: It's true. We're just fortunate, you know, to have this happen again to us. To go seven seasons and be syndicated, no matter what way you get there, it's incredible. Yeah, it was stressful. Every season, it's like, 'Are we coming back? Are we not coming back?' Some seasons, we were pretty sure we were, but this last one was the hardest one. We all, pretty much, thought it was over. We really did. Then, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and we held onto that. Then, all of a sudden, boom, we're bringing you back.
Bianca Kajlich: They waited a week after the upfronts. We were all texting each other. We didn't think it was possible that they couldn't draw it out any longer.
There aren't many shows that are still running and are also running in syndication.
Oliver Hudson: Sometimes, syndication can boost numbers, it raises an awareness.
Bianca Kajlich: Honestly, the one thing that I've learned, especially with this show, is you just can't try to plan for what's going to happen, because you just don't know. We're extremely grateful to have a job that not only has an amazing group of people, but is also something we really love to do. We've gotten to do it for seven years. It's pretty crazy.
Next up, I chatted with David Spade (Russell) and Adhir Kalyan (Timmy), the two single guys in this couple-centric show. Russell and Timmy don't have the best relationship, since Timmy is the long-suffering assistant to Russell. Take a look at what they had to say about this contentious relationship moving into the upcoming season, their hilarious pitch for the series ending, and the show's crossover potential with another hit CBS sitcom.
David Spade and Adhir Kalyan - Russell and Timmy
I believe this is the first you're learning about the stories in the new season.
Adhir Kalyan: That's right, but I like that we're learning about it as you are. I almost don't like to know what's coming up.
David Spade: I never ask, by the way. I read it, and hope it's funny that week. It's good to know they've thought about it a little.
Adhir Kalyan: We shoot our live taping on Tuesday night, and I love to go home on a Tuesday night, and just sit down and open it for the first time.
David Spade: Right, because they give you the script for the next episode when you walk out the door, so you won't get distracted. I sit in the tub and read my parts.
Adhir Kalyan: Yeah, I sit in his tub too, and read his parts.
Do you think Russell will realize how important Timmy is at some point?
David Spade: There's going to be a breaking point. Either you're going to walk away forever... that would be a good cliffhanger, he just leaves. You know what's going to happen? He's going to leave, and the last frame of the whole series is I'm having breakfast in Italy and I look up and see Timmy, like at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. Then I nod and walk away.
That would be awesome.
Adhir Kalyan: That's amazing. By the way, we're pitching that ending tomorrow morning.
We also get to meet Timmy's parents this year. Did you always have maybe a picture in your head, of who you saw playing your parents?
David Spade: Is he like the go-to dad?
Adhir Kalyan: He's the go-to dad. I'm wondering if he's going to be the dad.
CBS is one of the few networks that embraces these crossover episodes. Can you see this show crossing over into another CBS comedy?
Adhir Kalyan: How Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met Your Mother) has not met Russell Dunbar is a shock to me, at this point.
David Spade: Yeah, me and Barney makes the most sense. It's funny because their director is our Just Shoot Me! director.
Adhir Kalyan: It's also set in New York, which makes sense. It wouldn't really make sense if you were to arrive on Ashton Kutcher's doorstep on Two and a Half Men.
David Spade: He's a gay guy playing a straight guy who gets more girls than I do, the straight guy playing the straight guy. We can work on that when we have our episode.
Can you talk about this starting in syndication before the new season? Are you hoping it brings in new people that aren't familiar with the show?
Adhir Kalyan: We're obviously hopeful that is the case. We've heard syndication, sometimes that's the pattern that's followed. It would be great if one fed the other, if we were able to attract new fans who were able to start watching the show for the first season.
David Spade: I did that with 30 Rock. I'd work those nights, and suddenly I'd catch myself, and I liked it way too late. I'm going to start liking Mad Men in about four years, then I'll have a lot to talk about with everyone. 'Hey, they work at an ad agency.'
Do you guys find yourselves pitching guest stars or story ideas often?
David Spade: We always hear (Oliver Hudson's mother) Goldie (Hawn) and Kurt (Russell). That's all I ever hear.
Adhir Kalyan: You know, what's (Oliver Hudson's sister) Kate (Hudson) up to these days? Speaking of pitches, we really are going to put some groundwork in on this Dark Knight Rises ending. They're very receptive to us chatting to them about little amendments.
There is such a resurgence these days with the single-camera comedy. Do you think there should be more of a movement towards multi-cam?
Adhir Kalyan: I sort of feel that, along with the shows we were discussing earlier like Just Shoot Me!, and the great sitcoms of the 90s like Friends and Frasier, I felt there was a grand movement within the multi-cam comedy world. Then it kind of eased off for awhile, but now, I feel we're seeing more and more multi-cam pilots being made. I just think there's something about this style of comedy that resonates with people.
David Spade: I just think people are familiar with it. I grew up on sitcoms all my life, so you get used to how it works. You know when to laugh, it's all brightly lit. There's something nice about it.
Does it help for you guys in getting feedback right away from the audience?
David Spade: Yeah, that does help. I am jealous of single-camera comedies sometimes, because you don't have to lean on stuff so hard, but you know, when you go home on Tuesday, whether it was a good or bad show.
Last up, I spoke with Megyn Price, who plays Audrey, half of the longtime married couple on the show (her on-screen husband Patrick Warburton was not available at that time). Here's what she had to say.
Megyn Price - Audrey
Before coming in this week, were there things you were hoping get resolved this year?
Megyn Price: Not resolved. I think I was hoping that we go back to the strengths of the Audrey-Jeff relationship. To me, I think the strengths are always when they are deceitful, when they are always out for their own interests. That, to me, is the lovely, delicious part of their relationship. I feel like I was a little nervous about focusing too much on the baby. I think when you have two selfish people, it's funny, but when you have two selfish people and a baby, they kind of become jerks. You know what I mean? I think that's what I was most nervous about, and I don't want to focus on a baby for the whole year, because then you lose their electricity. So yeah, I have a lot of thoughts about it (Laughs).
You're right though. Two selfish people with a baby, you go, 'Who are these jerks?'
Megyn Price: Exactly. 'Do you have a soul?'
When I was talking with David, I asked about the possibility of a spin-off, since CBS is basically the only network that still does crossovers. He talked about how he'd like to see a How I Met Your Mother crossover. Do you ever think about stuff like that, about what CBS shows might work for a crossover?
Megyn Price: Totally. I'm neighbors with Neil Patrick Harris. He just moved into my neighborhood. I was walking with my daughter, and he was walking with his dogs, and I suddenly realized that his character and Spade? That would be awesome. Physically, he's taller and thinner, and it would be such a funny match-up, wearing the same outfit at the same bar, yeah. It would make sense.
Can you talk a bit about shooting in front of an audience, because there aren't as many multi-camera shows on network. Do you find it more satisfying, getting feedback right away from the audience?
Megyn Price: It's hard for me to put into words how much I love this genre. I love it so much that I'm actually writing a show for another producer, to do when this show has wrapped, because I love it, and I want to protect the medium. I think it's just a really good way to produce comedy, when it's written well. When it's not written well, it's junk. Bad writing is bad writing. Seinfeld was done in front of an audience. Friends was done in front of an audience. These are not crap shows. Cheers was done in front of an audience. For me, the experience of doing it in front of an audience is the most satisfying. The experience of doing comedy in order, as opposed to out of order like a movie or single-camera, to me, is so much more satisfying. As a comedian, it's so much more fun, because you can call back to something you did in the first scene, because you're doing it in order. It's not an editor's medium. It's definitely a writer's medium. I want multi-camera on the air that is good. I won't say I want more multi-camera, because I don't want more if it's junk. I don't just want quantity. Some single-camera has gotten into a rut, because it's hand-held and writer's jokes instead of vocal jokes, where you can see it on the page but when you see it, it's like, 'Eh, I get it.'
There was such a huge resurgence of single-cam a few years ago, that multi-cam almost became archaic.
Megyn Price: Yeah, or cheap, and single-camera looked more like a movie. I don't think it's about that. People in the middle of the country, who don't live in New York or L.A., which people forget is most of the country. That's where I'm from. People want to come home from a day of work and laugh. People around the country are not stupid, so you cannot put stupid stuff on. But, they don't necessarily want to watch a 30-minute movie. To me, there's something comforting about multi-cam. I will still sit down and watch old Seinfeld's. It makes me happy. It's funny. Is that the most long-winded answer? (Laughs) I just feel really passionate about it. I love it.
Is there anything you can say about the show you're writing?
Megyn Price: It's about a relationship, and it's a little bit dark, but it's the most satisfying thing I've ever done in my entire life. I'm going to direct this show, and I thought that was where my head was going, down the directing road, but it's also down the creating road. I know what I want to watch, so I'm writing what I want to watch. I come from a lot of really funny people, so I think it will be accidentally funny. I'm finishing the first draft and I'm working with a movie and TV producer who has been giving me notes throughout, which has been really helpful to me. It's going really well, and it's been inspiring for me in every area of my life. I'm more excited to come to this job because my juices are flowing. But yeah, it's definitely about a couple who figures out a way to be married that works for them, but it's not polygamy. That's been done.
Hypothetically speaking, if this was the last season, do you have anything in mind that you would steal from the set?
Megyn Price: Oh, that's such a good question. Part of me thinks it's not just a thing, it's a whole set. I would steal the whole kitchen set because it makes me so happy. I may steal one of the cookbooks I read back there all the time. They're super archaic and they're funny. They're cookbooks about how to pack a picnic in 1964.
The show has such a bizarre history, with different nights and times, but people keep finding it. What kind of a testament is that to the show itself, that it can manage to succeed, despite the ridiculous obstacles in its way?
Megyn Price: What I think is interesting and what gives a show longevity is being relatable and also funny, but being about real people. Sometimes, I'll turn on the TV and there's a wacky situation with a wacky person, and I click it off because I don't care. I want to watch people, someone who reminds me of my sister or my friend Rob. That, to me, makes me feel connected to a show. I want to watch people, and that's what I think our show is. I've had people stop me and say, 'Oh my God. My husband is just like Jeff.' And I say, "Oh my God. I'm so sorry. Can I buy you a drink?' Or people will touch me or hug me, because they think they know me. And they kind of do. I'm not acting that much.
That wraps it up from my day on the set of Rules of Engagement, which debuts in syndication Monday, September 10. We'll keep you posted as soon as we know when Season 7 of Rules of Engagement will premiere in midseason.