Patrick Warburton, <i>Rules of Engagement</i> Patrick Warburton, Rules of Engagement

Rules of Engagement's recurring status as a midseason show is sort of like being a second-string player.

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"I feel like we've been discounted quite a bit," Patrick Warburton

tells of his CBS sitcom, which kicks off its fourth season Monday (8:30/7:30c).The show, which debuted at midseason in 2007, performed well enough to earn a full Season 2 pickup. But the writers strike cut short its season after it began in the fall — a bit like being yanked from the lineup before getting a chance to shine. Then for Season 3 and this season, CBS ordered just 13 episodes to debut this deep into the TV year.So does the show deserve a starting position? Its ratings have remained consistent at various places on CBS' schedule, and its third-season viewership numbers are stronger than the averages of new comedy Accidentally on Purpose, whose timeslot Rules is taking over.Warburton acknowledges the show had difficulties as it's developed, but he thinks the show has overcome them.

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"Although I felt like we had a really good season last year — the show came around, and there were things that definitely needed to be fixed — this year, the show just came together," says Warburton, who has redoubtable experience on sitcoms, including a memorable run on Seinfeld.

About Rules, he goes on: "This show grew. All of a sudden, it just got really fun. The scripts were great and ... the cast has a lot of chemistry. It's what half-hour TV is supposed to be:  It's got some laughs and it's entertaining, and I think it's relatable."Warburton attributes part of the show's improvement to the promotion of Adhir Kalyan to series regular. Kalyan's character — Timmy, the put-upon assistant of David Spade's Russell — is slightly outside the show's couples-based conceit, but Warburton says that distinction is a strength."He is a great addition to the show," Warburton says. "The show has a much better balance to it, and it seems to work a lot better that way. [Timmy] has an air about him, and he's very intellectual and very perceptive. He's everything that Russell is not. So, you have this great conflict between these two, but also as the rest of the cast get to know Timmy, we have our own fun and awkward moments with Timmy. It's fun to have a totally different character, who helps create another dimension to everything."

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As for Warburton's character, Jeff, he and his wife, Audrey (Megyn Price), will face couple's therapy this season as they continue to consider having children. Look for Alan Ruck (Spin City) to guest as their therapist and expect hijinks related to the couple's trouble conceiving, including Jeff accidentally injecting himself with female hormones.

Eventually, Jeff and Audrey will turn to a surrogate, played by guest star Jaime Pressly (My Name Is Earl). And just like that, Warburton thinks the show has set itself up to get that full-season order.

"I think it's a great set-up," Warburton says. "It looks like she'd be coming back next season to be the surrogate mother. And I think that lends itself to a lot of awkward and funny moments, just because of Jeff's personality and the way he perceives things."