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House Rules aired from March until April 1998 on NBC.
Three best friends since childhood roomed together in this short-lived comedy, set in Denver. Casey ( Maria Pitillo)was the smart one, a newly minted deputy District Attorney who attracted handsome , dense boyfriends like bees to honey. William and Thomas ( David Newsom , Bradley White)were her two goofball roommates, the former a reporter and the later a tall, shaggy-haired medical student. They all lived in a big Victorian house near a college campus.
A Review from Variety
(Mon. (9), 8:30-9 p.m., NBC)
By RAY RICHMOND
March 8, 1998
Taped in Hollywood by Christopher Thompson Prods. and NBC Studios in association with Columbia TriStar TV. Executive producer, Chris Thompson; co-executive pro-ducer, Wendy Goldman; producer, Annette Sahakian; director, Michael Lembeck.
Cast: Maria Pitillo, Bradley White, David Newsom, Jeff Yagher, Lisa Rinna, Patrick Warburton.
If ever a series cried out to be judged on something other than its pilot, it's this spring tryout comedy that starts off being dreadful but progresses to the level of merely semi-contrived in its second episode. Even so, "House Rules" comes packaged suspiciously like the second coming (or is it the third or fourth?) of "Three's Company." The twist: This time it's two guys and a woman living chastely under the same roof.
The back story is that executive producer Chris Thompson had only a few days to whip together the pilot with writers Adam Hamburger and Charlie Richards, and it shows. The show is a glorification of human immaturity, celebrating young men who never grew up and the women who avoid them -- all except for the one who lives with them, of course. In the opener, even the laugh track has trouble finding inspiration.
Set in Denver -- whose thin air evidently has a constricting effect on male brain synapses -- "House Rules" stars the Smurf-like Maria Pitillo ("Chaplin," "Godzilla") as Casey Farrell, a deputy district attorney with a pretty-boy stockbroker boyfriend (Jeff Yagher) who has one-episode-and-out written all over him. Keeping Casey company are a couple of sarcastic, twentysomething male roommates (Bradley White, David Newsom) who remain gleefully stuck in life's first gear.
Don't even ask why a deputy DA needs two roomies, much less guys. Evidently, they all grew up together. Because they're so tight, any outside romance is viewed as a threat to their sexless menage a trois. One of the guys is a med student, the other a reporter. Grown-ups live like this -- and have relationships this interdependent -- only on TV.
Story goes nowhere fast in the premiere as Casey acts alternately tough and coquettish and the dudes struggle to figure out a way to scare off her latest suitor (telling him, "She just stopped taking the pill" seems to do the trick). Yet she's going to follow the guy to Paris anyway, until something typically implausible intervenes. Even an energetic cameo from "Melrose Place's" Lisa Rinna can't do much to save the story.
Things pick up markedly in episode two, however, thanks primarily to the arrival of Patrick Warburton (Elaine's wonderfully eccentric boyfriend Puddy on "Seinfeld") as the deadpan Officer Dan. His sharp comic timing and off-kilter style bring to "House Rules" the endearing veneer of absurdity that it earlier lacks.
If Warburton doesn't stick around, the future of the series (subbing for "Fired Up" on the NBC sked) would appear dim, though Pitillo sports an undeniable radiance. In fact, the half-hour would be better served by bagging the two wiseguys altogether and focusing on Pitillo and Warburton, a divertingly oddball couple in the making.
A Review from The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEW; Roommates Who Resist Growing By CARYN JAMES
Published: March 9, 1998
You're not seeing double. This week there are two new sitcoms about a group of old friends in their 20's, two men and a woman, who live in the same house and are self-consciously Peter Panish about growing up. Several more with similar themes will appear in the next weeks. (It seems married people share real estate and have trouble growing up, too.) Before you can say, ''Goodbye, Seinfeld,'' you are witnessing the copycat boomlet that defines this year's midseason replacement shows.
The first to arrive, ''House Rules,'' at least carries hints of a loopy humor. Set in Denver, this one features two appealing characters: an assistant district attorney named Casey (Maria Pitillo), and her childhood friend and housemate, a medical student named McCusky (David Newsom). Riley (Bradley White) is also their friend and housemate, but the apparently unemployed character is so badly defined he simply takes up space.
Tonight's episode reveals how lame the plots are, as Casey must decide whether to move to Paris with her arrogant boyfriend. But any ''Seinfeld'' clone knows that droll observations are more important than stories. ''House Rules'' relies on scenes like the one in which McCusky and Riley make fun of how Casey's boyfriend says goodbye to her: ''Later, baby.''
Next week's episode is better, with Patrick Warburton (Puddy on ''Seinfeld'') appearing as a intense, deadpan policeman whose idea of fun is asking Casey to shoot him in his bulletproof vest.
The show's executive producer is Chris Thompson, who created and was executive producer for the first season of ''The Naked Truth,'' its only funny season.
But that's looking at this show's brightest possibility. The retro atmosphere of ''Three's Company'' hangs ominously over ''House Rules,'' suggesting the series could nose dive any minute.
A Review from the Washington Post
'HOUSE RULES': ALREADY BROKEN
By Tom Shales March 9, 1998
Cloning is nothing new to TV networks, of course. NBC has been trying to clone "Friends," for example, for years. The latest try mixes the "Friends" model with the venerably idiotic "Three's Company" and the result, as you might expect, is a hideous mutation devoutly to be avoided.
"House Rules," premiering at 8:30 tonight on Channel 4, finds three longtime pals, a perky cutie and two jabbering wimps, sharing a big Victorian in Denver and brandishing such "Friendsian" expressions as, "Oh, that is so not true."
Oh, this is so not funny.
As insurance, this sitcomically correct sitcom includes in its cast not only a cute little dog but a cute big dog as well. Your heart goes out to dogs like these being manipulated by cold-blooded producers who see them only as ingredients in another cheesy TV formula.
In the premiere and in next Monday night's episode, the studio audience (electronically augmented where necessary) laughs when one of the guys talks about making "monkeys fly out of your butt" and also when another mentions putting "live woodchucks up our butts." Hmm. Something of a fixation developing there. Earlier there are jokes about a hermaphrodite needing "a special kind of toilet" and a rat licking a man's face.
Even NBC sitcoms usually aim a tiny bit higher than this. Okay, a very tiny bit, yet still measurable on the bit scale.
Maria Pitillo plays Casey, the perky cutie whose job, we are told, is deputy district attorney; yeah, right. McCusky (David Newsom) is an inane intern who regales his roommates with tales of pulling a fork out of a man's eye, and Riley (Bradley White) is some sort of reporter who never does any reporting. He's too busy composing limp quips.
Mostly they all sit around the house and exchange sexual innuendo, even though the relationship is depicted as a platonic menage a trois. The second episode is brightened by an appearance from Patrick Warburton as Officer Dan, a hyper-macho cop. Warburton has been seen in a recurring role as Elaine's beefiest and most monotoned boyfriend on "Seinfeld." The producers of "House Rules" trade on that by having him play pretty much the same character essentially the same way.
But, for the most part, without the laughs.
The three roommates are not funny or appealing together. Where Pitillo might once have come across as a would-be Goldie Hawn, she now comes across as a would-be Jenna Elfman of "Dharma & Greg," and even Elfman has become a rather pale caricature of herself. This kind of thing isn't really cloning, where the clone is a duplicate of the original, but more like old-fashioned carbon copying, where each successive impression gets weaker and feebler.
Can it be just a coincidence that the size of the aggregate network audience keeps getting simultaneously smaller? Watching bad imitations of good shows is wearying enough, but sitting through bad imitations of bad shows imitating good shows can really bum you out. If "House Rules" were to succeed, an even worse version would soon follow, on one network or another.
Fortunately, anybody following in this show's footsteps is more likely to end up several levels below the gutter with nowhere to go but nowhere.
A Review from the Chicago Tribune
"House Rules": The publicity sheet for this new NBC sitcom...
March 09, 1998|By Steve Johnson, Tribune Television Critic.
"House Rules": The publicity sheet for this new NBC sitcom (7:30 p.m., WMAQ-Ch. 5) says that costar Maria Pitillo was in "NBC's `Partners.' " Which proves my point about that late, lamented series: It was smart enough that it seemed like an NBC show, even to NBC. In reality it aired on Fox. "House Rules," sort of a "Three's Company" update, has Pitillo and two childhood buddies (Bradley White and David Newsom) sharing a house in Denver and apparently always trying to muck up each other's romances so they won't have to split up. In episode one, the premise feels desperate, as Pitillo nearly jets off to Paris with a boyfriend and receives marriage proposals from both roommates. Next week's second episode, though, is much sharper and ultimately winning, as it veers smartly into the absurd with Pitillo falling for a way-too-macho cop (Patrick Warburton, Elaine's car salesman boyfriend on "Seinfeld"). Executive producer Chris Thompson (the first version of "The Naked Truth") has assembled a strong cast that, in combination with some inspired jokemaking, makes this show worth keeping an eye on.
A Review from The Michigan Daily
NBC's new 'Rules' is meant to be broken
By Chris Cousino
Daily Arts Writer
When NBC premiered its new comedy "House Rules," the show was billed as a situation comedy of "Three friends, one house, no rules." There are two handsome guys, one very cute girl and a quirky Denver dwelling, but one thing is certain - this house doesn't rule.
Focused on the daily lives of three college roommates in their twenties, "House Rules" explores the friendship between the roommates that stems back to childhood. Since they know everything about each other and share similar experiences, they are perfect companions. This relationship, however, is not perfect for comedy or anything else.
The trio of two men, William McCusky and Thomas Riley III, played by David Newsom and Bradley White, and one woman, Casey Farrell, played notably by Maria Pitillo, never sow emotions nor spark a laugh over the notion that all three together make the perfect match. The friendship stays plastic, and the plot stays predictable.
When Farrell accepts an invitation to move to Paris with her boyfriend, the future of the trio's friendship is threatened by the separation. Would NBC get rid of one of the main characters of a new show in its premiere episode? No way in hell. But viewers are supposed to feel suspense when midway through the show, Farrell says to the guys, "I'm going, ya know," and there is a cut to an omniscient shot of all three gazing into the sky right before the commercial break.
Oooohh!!! Will she go? To add to this suspense, the soundtrack plays a bending guitar lick, just one of the annoying alternative guitar sounds that are heard at the beginning of each new scene. After the limo driver exits the door with her bags, without surprise she decides to stay because she would have to leave her dog, or maybe her best buds.
These best buds are two immature, blubbering fools, though one is a medical student and the other is a reporter. McCusky is a cheap combination of Chandler and Joey from NBC's "Friends," always looking for sex and women, cracking quick jokes. He shows both maturity in his plea for Farrell to stay and immaturity when he is afraid to go in the basement because it is dark.
Newsom fails to bring humor or likable qualities to the character. With lines like, "Have a glass eye," in response to being asked for a glass, there is not much to go on.
White also falters with his character of Riley, though more irritatingly. Best known as "the guy who kissed Jamie" on NBC's "Mad About You," White over exaggerates his acting. He throws in lots of hoots, hollers and repeated words and gets no laughs. Like his cohort, he too is an immature adult, running out of the basement yelling, "Web on face," with a fake spider web draped across his brow.
While the two men produce nothing in terms of comedy, Pitillo doesn't lend much of a hand either. She is, however, the only promising spot of "Rules."
Pitillo is cute in a Drew Barrymore sort of way. Her character has some maturity, though she squeaks a lot of eww's and ohh's. Though the typical cardboard mature and immature Generation X-er, Pitillo's character shows some believability in her strength and in her devotion to her friends.
What's also believable about "House Rules" is that I barely cracked a smile watching the ill-fated half-hour premiere. Worst of all the line, "It's not like I asked you to make monkeys fly out of your butt," was uttered by Newsom. Where is Mike Myers when you need him?
Viewers don't deserve to waste time with this babble. Neither does Pitillo, who deserves more than "Rules." She's lucky she has a starring role in the sure-to-be-hit film "Godzilla" this spring, because come May, it's a good bet she won't have this one.
A Short Article on Maria Pitillo
You've seen Maria Pitillo before. She has appeared in everything from Dear God and She-Devil on the big screen to Ryan's Hope and Partners on TV.
But this will be the year you really see her. The twentysomething New Yorker with the curly blond locks--which used to be flowing brunette tresses, by the way--stars on the NBC sitcom House Rules, a midseason replacement also featuring former Homefront hunk David Newsom and centering on a trio of pals in Colorado. (Think Friends in the snow.)
Now, brace yourself for Pitillo's next project. Come Labor Day, she stands side by side with Matthew Broderick and a certain oversize lizard in this summer's leading blockbuster candidate, Godzilla. Pitillo plays Audrey Timmonds, an aspiring TV reporter who's hellbent on getting the story when the big green lug wreaks havoc on the Big Apple.
Just how will Pitillo celebrate her coming out? Her new place on the beach in Southern California is a start. It's a long way from her Big Apple roots--a smart move considering the damage Godzilla's about to inflict on the city.
To watch a clip from House Rules go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69_RCgVcAJ8
For more on House Rules go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_Rules_(1998_TV_series)
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Keywords: House Rules: Cast Photo (Links Updated 7/30/18)