I have never been a fan of the sitcom Rules of Engagement, despite it being that type of sitcom that I usually find myself attracted to (ensemble based, revolving around people in relationships in a big city, always taking shots at each other). I can’t explain it, but since its debut in February of 2007, it just never drew my attention.
I have always felt that CBS has hated the show too. It’s always been treated like the ugly step-child out of all of CBS’ comedies. The one that always gets put on the schedule when needed for backup, never to be bragged about in front of critics or the media, but always on the renewal list for the end of the season. However, this show has an audience. If it didn’t have an audience, it wouldn’t have been able to see its sixth season premiere (SIXTH!!!!!!) last night after The Big Bang Theory. These are the reasons why I feel Rules of Engagement is indeed, the little show that could.
Reason 1: Over the course of 6 seasons, only ONE season consist of a full 24 episode order. It’s rare to hear of a sitcom on network lasting as long as six seasons and not having multiple seasons of 22-24 episodes, even it’s sixth season doesn’t have a full order of episodes. Excluding its fifth season, which enjoyed a 22 episode season, as well as a permanent timeslot on Monday nights, all of the previous seasons have been for orders of 13 or less (Season 2 was supposedly to be a full season, but due to the writer’s strike, only 15 were produced).
Reason 2: The show has been bounced around the CBS schedule multiple times. Three timeslot changes in a five-year span. Many shows can go numerous seasons, or their entire run without ever leaving a timeslot. Not for Rules of Engagement. Always being the lead-out for other, more successful sitcoms on the CBS lineup like How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, and The Big Bang Theory, Rules has never had the opportunity to lead off a night, or an hour to help a new or struggling sitcom.
Reason 3: Always being held off until mid-season, or until a show gets cancelled. During the 2008-2009 season, Rules of Engagement didn’t premiere until March because of the cancellation of the comedy Worst Week. During the 2009-2010 season, its season premiere was in March again because Accidentally on Purpose was allowed a spot on the fall schedule, forcing Rules to wait until the aforementioned show completed its 18 episode run. During the 2010-2011 season (its only full season), Rules finally had its own timeslot on Mondays at 8:30p.m., until $#*! My Dad Says was cancelled and forced Rules to replace it Thursdays at 8:30p.m.
Reason 4: CBS gave it the worst timeslot possible – Saturdays at 8p.m. This has to be the biggest reason of them all. No network schedules a show, new or returning, to air on Saturday nights. Even though CBS debuted two new sitcoms this fall, there was no reason to embarrass the show, the cast, and the crew by scheduling it on Saturday with the sitcom and drama repeats of the prior week. Luckily, Rules never had to see a Saturday night airing, as it was moved to Thursdays to replace the cancelled comedy How to Be a Gentleman (Reason 3).
Even though Rules of Engagement has never been my favorite show, and I wonder why the network keeps renewing season after season, it’s because it’s the networks comedy safety net. If you read through all he reasons I listed above and applied it to any other show, that show would have been cancelled within a season. Rules of Engagement proves to CBS that is has a loyal audience that will follow it anywhere, no matter what night and time its on, no matter what time of the year it debuts.
Last night airing after The Big Bang Theory, Rules of Engagement drew 11.7 million people and a A18-49 rating of 3.7, up a whooping 32% compared to last years Thursday debut. This is why CBS keeps this show around. They know it will perform for them, and outperform the show it replaces. This is why Rules of Engagement is the little show that could.