TV Junkie Interview: Patrick Warburton - 'Rules of Engagement'
Patrick Warburton stars in "Rules of Engagement" - Mondays at 8:30pm on CBS
Believe it or not, we've been watching Patrick Warburton on TV for over 20 years. From a bit part on the venerable series, "The Paper Chase", to Elaine Benes' perfect counterpoint, David Puddy, on "Seinfeld", to the ultracult fave "The Tick", Warburton has been a reliable source of comedy and entertainment in a wide range of shows and roles. Currently Warburton has been making us laugh as Jeff on CBS' "Rules of Engagement" which is in the midst of its fourth mid-season run on Monday's at 8:30pm. We had to admit that it's taken us a little while to warm up to the show but it now seems to be much more mature and dramatically improved than even just last season. Warbuton fills us in on what he's been doing and why your Monday's at 8:30pm should be devoted to "Rules of Engagement".LAist: We have to comment on the stentorian quality of your voice - you make everything you say sound so brilliant.
Patrick Warburton: If you take the vocal aspect, sure, but if you take the content... I might be able to fool them with the tone and attitude but the content could be quite lacking.
LAist: Tell us about how you became involved as Jeff in "Rules of Engagement".
Patrick Warburton: I took a meeting with Tom Hertz, the creator and producer of the show, who told me that he thought I should take the role because he was really thinking about me when writing the character. So I read it, I liked it, and I got involved. We've been a mid-season show each year which is a little disappointing because we feel like we should get a full-season pick-up. The show has been doing really well and spikes up the ratings every week.
I really like the show, I feel like the show has really come around. It takes a bit longer to get there because it's a mid-season show but I've always thought the show had potential and I think it's thoroughly enjoyable now.
LAist: The show really has matured.
Patrick Warburton: Give us a full season and watch where the show can go - the show has gotten a lot sharper. It usually takes a couple seasons for a show to find itself, "Seinfeld" took a couple seasons. Essentially that's all we've had, we've had the equivalent of two seasons worth of episodes which is important when you try to figure out what works and doesn't work for a show.
There were a few episodes in the first couple of seasons that I thought were just corny and not sharp - we're much better than that, why were we making those mistakes? I feel like we're not making those mistakes now, or at least we're making much fewer of them. The show is a much better show now with Adhir Kalyan who is a great addition as David Spade's sidekick - there's a much better balance to the show. I have to say I'm not in love with every single storyline every week but we are hitting many more high notes and we're hitting them much more consistently. We're just getting better and better, we need that support from the network and get that full season next year.
LAist: What is it about the environment now that the big four networks feel like that they can't let a show develop?
Patrick Warburton: Well now you have a much smaller window to prove yourself. The fact that we've been here for four mid-seasons is a testament to something. But the networks really need to figure out a smarter way to look at things other than the cold analytics to determine what has potential.
When I did "The Tick" ten years ago, which nobody could deny at the time was different, it was clever, it was fun - we had a great production team with Barry Sonnenfeld and Larry Charles producing the show, it really was all there. I'm not going to say that all nine of those episodes were perfect but they were clever and fun and had a big cult following. The critics loved it but the network wouldn't support it because it "cost too much money" which is disappointing because "The Tick" could have had a great life to it. The proof is that ten years later people still love to talk about nine episodes of a TV show which proves that Fox had their heads up their ass when they decided not to support that show and they just fed us to the dogs.
Of course, there's always been that long-standing war between the network suits and the creators on shows. The constant butting of heads between the creative side and the business side and you just hope that those wearing the suits can understand that something isn't a breakout hit right away but the cast has chemistry and that the writers have talent so let's develop this show, let's stand behind this show. Especially if the show, like "Rules", always continues to go up in the ratings, instead of dropping off.
If the show continues to grow and get better, it should be supported. It's really easy to find fault with the network no matter what show you're on, so I don't want to come off as Mr. Griper, "put me in the ring with these guys", we just want the support and I'm pretty optimistic that we'll get it.
LAist: Do you ever feel like it would be fun to be involved with something on premium cable, where the pressure isn't there because the business model is different?
Patrick Warburton: Sure, something deeper, more dangerous or more complex than what I could do in a half-hour program on mainstream network TV. Over the years I've done a lot of half-hour TV, and I love the schedule, particularly if I'm happy about the quality of the show. Right now I'm really optimistic about this because this is a show on the upswing - I like being involved from the beginning and helping turn it into something. But I'd like to do something darker and more mysterious.
I'm also not a hater of reality TV - that's just part of the evolution of television. We watch some reality programming at our house. The kind of reality TV I don't like is the stuff that jumps hip-deep into the worse behavior of humanity. There's a lot of it that, at best, is just isn't positive.
LAist: Give us The Pitch, tell us why to watch "Rules of Engagement" at 8:30pm on Mondays.
Patrick Warburton: Right now you want to watch "Rules" because I feel, with my experience in television, that this is a show in a transition season, it has become so much more entertaining and watchable. [In earlier seasons] I can't say that I would have always highly recommended watching our show but right now it's a really good, solid half-hour of entertainment.
I mean, c'mon, do we really give a shit about people dancing? Could we really give a crap about that? Granted, watching Kate Gosselin try to dance is painful, but if that's what you really want to watch..... someone who is not that coordinated struggle.... if you want to sit there in that kind of discomfort and that's what you enjoy, then we can't compete with that. But if you want some laughs and enjoy some really relatable stuff that our writers come up with, and I tell you, half the time we don't know if it's art imitating life or life imitating art, then you should be watching "Rules".
Not to keep on Jon and Kate, but [my wife] Cathi and I already have four children, and do a pretty good job at parenting and if we were to adopt theirs it would be "Pat & Cathi Plus Twelve". I promise I wouldn't wear any Ed Hardy but I can't promise that my wife is any better of a dancer than Kate Gosselin. Probably not.
LAist: I feel like I can get away without actually watching any of the reality stuff by just watching "The Soup" on Fridays.
Patrick Warburton: "The Soup" is awesome - we love "The Soup". My wife has a bit of a crush on Joel [McHale] who is a really cool guy - and I tell her, you know what, you are allowed to have your crush.
LAist: She would score major points with him if she got him a bottle of 30-year Macallan Scotch as he's a big fan of the Macallan.
Patrick Warburton: Now I like him even more! You've got to like a whiskey-drinkin' man who's also not one of the Hollywood dwarves. She's allowed to have her crushes - I've got mine: I've got a 1969 Dodge Charger, black, named Angelina after _that_ Angelina.
LAist: Tell us what else you've got going on.
Patrick Warburton: We finished production on "Rules" at the end of November. I just finished work on a little project with one of the Farrelly Brothers and Chris Mintz-Plasse [of Kick Ass and Superbad] which was a lot of fun, it's still in production and hasn't been titled yet, but it's great. I also did a family-type movie project for DVD, a sequel to Flicka. I feel like I might catch crap for this but I really liked the script and we live in a horse community so I figured it would be fun to take a month's shoot up in Canada and play a rancher, to help make something safe enough for my 14 nieces and nephews to enjoy.
"Rules of Engagement" airs on Mondays (Tonight) on CBS at 8:30pm.