After stringing the plot line along for at least two seasons, the Binghams are finally getting a baby. One successful stick pee by Brenda (Sara Rue) and Jeff is about to be a father (scary, right?). And there’s no question that I think it’s about time the plot progressed.
At the same time I wonder about the speed with which it was handled. Consider the fact that the plot is hardly, if ever, featured on an episode, so while Jeff and Audrey’s problems conceiving have been with us for awhile, it doesn’t feel as if we’ve spent all that much time on their struggles. Slightly more bizarre was how quickly they went from “We’re pregnant!” to Jeff cracking open a beer and expecting life to continue as normal. Why?
I realize that this is a sitcom … certainly Rules of Engagement isn’t going to become a family drama — how they’ll handle the baby is another question — but it felt like there was some middle stage that was absent last night. Where was the window where Jeff and Audrey celebrated their success and impending child? Where was the progression from childless couple to Jeff beginning to get annoyed with the demands of a pregnancy? The story went from a positive pregnancy test to Jeff hiding out in his office, and that was a real waste of an opportunity.
Even if Brenda hadn’t come to stay with them — and things should get funnier because she did — I would think there would be weeks of bungling Jeff and pregnant Brenda, or Audrey’s going through some variation of sympathy labor driving Jeff crazy. Certainly there’s a lot of time left for awkward moments with the surrogate — “She’s carrying my baby; can I have sex with her?” — but what promise is there for that when Jeff’s already fleeing the apartment? What was the rush?
Then, of course, is the question of how this show will handle a baby. The Office has succeeded in this by mainly ignoring the fact that Jim and Pam have a baby, something that’s doable because the show takes place in an office and not their home. But Rules of Engagement has many sets, including the Binghams’ apartment … wouldn’t we have to see baby Bingham every time we see them at home? Can Jeff make that funny?
The alternative is that they somehow lose the baby. The test could turn out to be a false positive, Brenda could abscond with the baby after bonding with it, or worse something could happen during the pregnancy. But then this becomes an entirely different show. No, I think there’s no turning back at this point — Jeff and Audrey are on an irreversible road to becoming parents. But how will it affect the show?
Or maybe it’s all part of a grand finale to the series. One could argue that Jen and Adam are moving closer to a wedding, something that would change the dynamics in its own right. Add to that a baby, and maybe Jeff and Audrey deciding to go suburban … I don’t know, but this may all be preparations for bad news on a renewal. And maybe that’s why the pregnancy seemed so rushed — if the creators thought they had more time and then suddenly discovered that they didn’t. Or maybe that they didn’t want more time anymore … either way we don’t have long to wait to find out.