If you have a 9:30 date with CBS tonight, there's bad news and good news. The New Adventures of Old Christine is still on hiatus, and even when it does return, on March 12, it will be airing an hour earlier. But in Old Christine's place is an old friend of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' — Patrick Warbuton, who played Puddy to her Elaine on Seinfeld, stars on Rules of Engagement, a new laffer juxtaposing the mindsets of a married couple (Warburton and Megyn Price), a betrothed duo (Oliver Hudson and Bianca Kajlich), and a Barney-esque bachelor (David Spade). TVGuide.com spoke with Warburton about the irony of Rules' time slot, comparisons to "that other show," and his crush on a certain cast mate's famous mom.
TVGuide.com: This is a pretty funny show. At minimum, the three male leads are spot-on, you have a great banter there.
Patrick Warburton: Oh, good! I'm glad you like it. I'm glad to hear that. I'm concerned that there are going to be those taking shots at us because the format is so close to [Brad Garrett's] 'Til Death. But I do feel like they're very different shows. I mean, I was more concerned before we started shooting the show than afterwards. Afterwards I thought, "It's really nothing like 'Til Death," except we do have the older married couple and the younger optimistic engaged couple....
TVGuide.com: But then you have the David Spade character offering a third, different perspective.
Warburton: And I think, too, that 'Til Death is also more of a Fox show, more of a broad Married... with Children thing. [Rules] is a little more grounded, I think.
TVGuide.com: Do you appreciate the irony that you're taking Julia Louis-Dreyfus' time slot? When I reported that in my news blog, a few readers said they envisioned Elaine saying, "Get out!" and shoving you.
Warburton: [Laughs] I really hadn't thought much about that.... They're obviously going to put her show [back] in a spot that they feel good about.
TVGuide.com: So how are you summing up Jeff for people? A not-so-much older but wiser Puddy?
Warburton: I don't see him as really being Puddy. Puddy was a man of very few words.... When I first looked at this, I wasn't sure about taking a guy who's married with no kids and making him interesting, but the writing was great, so I went for it.
TVGuide.com: Your Jeff is not so much jaded by years of marriage, but realistic.
Warburton: Yeah, I think Jeff might be a little bit disgruntled at times, but he knew that getting marred was a trade-off, and he did look at it realistically. But that doesn't mean he's not beyond a gripe every now and then.
TVGuide.com: How different from your own philosophy on marriage is Jeff's?
Warburton: Well, Jeff and I aren't in the same boat. I've got four kids and we've been married for 17 years, and together for almost 25.... It's a long time, since like high school.
TVGuide.com: I think the size difference between you and Spade adds something to the comedic interplay between you two.
Warburton: It's fun working with Spade. I've always been a fan. He's pretty smart about the business, and he's a good writer, too, so every now and then he can throw in a "fix."
TVGuide.com: The second episode of Rules is about a "birthday deal" [of a seemingly sexual nature] that Jeff has with his wife. Do you have one with your own missus? Or do you now want one?
Warburton: I don't have a "birthday deal," and it's really hard to negotiate one after 17 years of marriage. Also, I can't even pretend like it's my idea. "You just spent a week shooting this episode, and now you want one? Well, you should have gotten your lawyer to negotiate one 17 years ago."
TVGuide.com: I was checking out your MySpace page. Is Pearl Jam's "World Wide Suicide" always cued up?
Warburton: Yeah, yeah. That was my pick. There are actually other Pearl Jam songs I would put on there, but there are only, like, two available. My favorite song on that new album is "Inside Job," which [Mike] McCready wrote. It's the first time, I think, McCready wrote a song.
TVGuide.com: On your friends list, in addition to apparently Jon Lovitz and supposedly Dane Cook, I see someone passing themselves off as Yakov Smirnoff, of all people.
Warburton: [Laughs] Yeah, I don't know if any of them are real. I didn't even have an e-mail until about four months ago, and then Mike set up that page for me, and was running it for a while. Then I said, "No, no, you can't be talking to all these people as me. I'll take over." So it made me learn how to communicate on the computer, which has kind of been fun.
TVGuide.com: You're one of the voices in Jerry Seinfeld's upcoming Bee Movie. Did you two actually get to reunite, or were you recording at different times?
Warburton: Oh, yeah, every time I record, it's with Jerry, so it's been great. I love to see and work with the man, and every time I do I feel blessed. I still kind of get that way, like, "Wow, Jerry Seinfeld's in the room." He's so gracious and kind and inventive and smart and funny.
TVGuide.com: Does your Bee Movie character look like you?
Warburton: I'm afraid he might look a little bit like me, which is sort of disturbing. Jerry's a bee, and he starts developing this relationship with this human-being girl, voiced by Renée Zellweger, and I'm her ass of a boyfriend. I'm always the ass.... [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: And what are you doing for the Underdog movie?
Warburton: Well, that's a live-action version of Underdog, it's not animated....
TVGuide.com: Not at all? Underdog must be, though, right?
Warburton: No, Underdog's a real dog. They do some CGI to make him fly and talk and stuff, but... I play Cad, Simon Bar Sinister's (Peter Dinklage) henchman. I also have I'll Believe You, which is coming out sometime this year. Fred Willard and Chris Elliott are in it, and it's about a late-night radio DJ who takes calls from people reporting UFOs and whatnot, and then he starts getting calls from me, "the mysterious caller with a secret."
TVGuide.com: Before we go, I have to ask: Ever have a crush on Oliver Hudson's mom?
Warburton: Yeah, sure.... Goldie's a babe. In fact, if I really want to make Oliver feel uncomfortable, I can start telling him about little "fantasies" I've had. [Laughs] I'm sure I'm not the first.
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