OK, yes, I know, it’s not hip to say you love watching Rules
of Engagement, a neglected CBS comedy that
is, on its surface, about two straight married couples, their randy single het
friend, and his long-suffering assistant. But even before the show introduced
the lesbian storyline last season (wait, does one character a “storyline”
make?), there was enough about Rules
to make me think viewers who were looking hard enough could find enough
subversively queer content to make the show a must-see. Now that it’s back on
must-see Thursdays instead of relegated to Saturday, why not take a gander?
(Although you’ll want to TiVo Parks & Rec, of course.)
1. Orlando Jones is Brad, a gay, black man — minus the
stereotypes. TV does not do black gay men justice. Example: We love Tatyana
Ali, and TV One’s Love that Girl
deserves more props than it gets for having a hot, kind of funny black cast,
but the swishy gay guys are so over-the-top that it’s like one of those In
Living Color “Men on Film” segments. Jones
is none of that. He’s cute, smart, married, and funny. We need more scenes with
him — especially ones that play off the other cast members’ discomforts around
race, masculinity, and sexual orientation. Bonus points: Orlando Jones also
starred in the lovely little gay comedy Misconceptions.
2. Jeff’s built-in gaydar. Jeff is played by Patrick
Warburton, a gay icon from his days as the spandex-sporting superhero The
Tick. One of the two married straight guys
on the show, he has a knack for finding queer friends. When Jeff first meets
Brad at the gym, he has no idea he’s gay. When he realizes it, he knows he has
to be cool — and the ensuing episode revolves around debunking gay stereotypes,
and panic over Jeff’s own masculinity and attractiveness (both common themes
that elevate Rules to savvy
3. Sara Rue is Jeff’s other friend — and she’s a big ol’
lesbian. OK, yeah it sucks that Brenda, the lesbian, gets saddled withmaternity as soon as she hits screens. (She’s a surrogate for Jeff and his wife
Audrey.) But she’s a nice mix of femme and butch (long hair, flannel shirts)
and gets to poke fun at the male misogyny that rules on Rules. Rue, you may recall, first got our attention
playing a teenage Roseanne in a flashback scene, then played opposite Tammy
Lynn Michaels and Carly Pope on Popular (which, was a breeding ground for lesbian icons because Michaels became
the second Mrs. Etheridge and Pope starred in Jamie Babbit’s lesbian film Itty
Bitty Titty Committee).
4. Sam Harris occasionally stops by. Jackie, Brad’s more
flavorful boyfriend, isn’t on as much as he should be because, well, dammit,
this is Sam Harris, grand champion of the original Star Search, who sang “Sugar Don’t Bite” (a gay anthem and a Top 40 hit in 1984). Star Search led to Motown, which led to his famous rendition of
“Over the Rainbow” (a little gay hit you may have heard of before).
5. Sara Rue has had Sapphic smooches before. She famously
kissed Lindsay Price on Eastwick. It was hot. Every lesbian media outlet
endlessly recapped it like a Monday morning quarterback. So now every time Rue
leans towards Audrey (played by Megyn Price) queer chicks can’t help but hold
their breath in expectation. It could happen. Rue also told reporters she’d
like a girlfriend on screen (her number 1 pick? Katherine Moennig from The L
Word) so we’re holding out hope for that,
6. Megyn Price is a Stanford grad and former investment
banker has gone our way before — at least on screen. Price (who plays Audrey on
Rules) is also the voice of Linda
Memari, the bisexual Iranian American neighbor on the super queer Fox comedy American
Dad. On that series, she’s always hoping to
seduce a hot blond. On this show she is the hot blonde, and we just have to
hope she’s open to being seduced herself. Like I said, it could happen.
7. If you squint, David Spade actually looks like Ellen
DeGeneres. Spade plays randy horn dog Russell, but this SNL alum toys with gender and masculinity in such an over-the-top
ridiculous fashion that it can’t help but feel subversive. When he’s being
chided for his Mrs. Brady coif, for example, Russell retorts, “Florence
Henderson, America’s mom? Hmm, I’ll take it!” Also, squint long enough and you won’t be able to tell David
Spade from Ellen, which makes the girl-crazy stuff kind of charming in that
8. Adam is gay. Well, bi. Well, OK, just metrosexual but
that’s pretty gay to viewers. Actually, Adam is played by Oliver Hudson who is,
essentially, Hollywood royalty. His mother is Goldie Hawn, sister is Kate
Hudson, and step mom is Cindy Williams of Laverne and Shirley fame. He’s one of the hottest guys on TV and his
character is the sole cruxes by which the men on Rules of Engagement measure their masculinity, their heterosexuality,
and all of their fears of women and womanhood. In one episode, Brad thinks Adam
is gay (technically, he has a girlfriend, Jennifer); in another, his love of a
reality TV dancing show gets him pegged as less-than-straight, too. He may
protest, but in reality, Adam is just fine with who he is — and with all the
angst projected onto him. This is best illustrated by the subversively queer
episode in which Adam reveals he was a cheerleader (not a football player like
his girlfriend had assumed) and he does a cheerleading routine in which he
moves his booty while chanting about his team and the phrase, “but Pirates” is
replayed again and again. (Get it? “But Pirates” sounds a lot like butt
pirates?) Cheeky gay subtext I tell ya.
9. Patrick Warburton has gay honorability. The voice of the
gay-seeming droid G2-4T on Disneyland’s Star Tours II, and a voice actor in everything
from Emperor’s New Groove to Family
Guy, Warburton is actually a gay advocate
who isn’t afraid to support us. He told Bullz-eye.com, “I think I
have a rather large gay following and I’ve always had great love for the gays…
and compassion, actually. I mean, I had a manager who passed away from AIDS
early on, and I was actually with the family members and friends at his bedside.
You know, in this industry, throughout the years, you could have the most
conservative family… you know I have four kids and have been married… but you
end up working and having many gay friends throughout the years. I don’t know
what I’m trying to say, except that… I mean, only the most truly ignorant rube
or ass has a real prejudice against them if they work in the industry and know
or have worked with gay people.” You gotta love him.
10. Bianca Kajlich and Adhir Kalyan who play Jennifer and
Timmy respectively are both beautiful creatures. Kalyan, whose mother is a
member of the South African Parliament, previously (convincingly) played a gay
man in the cheerleading comedy Fired Up!
Adam is not gay
Adam cheering "but pirates" is cheeky gay subtext.
Adam is not gay. Can’t tell anymore.
Adam likes a dancing show.