Full disclosure: There is no way I could possibly write an unbiased review of Follow The Rules because I am, sincerely, a little obsessed with Ja Rule. But I do honestly believe that even if I didn’t have a giant poster of him, taken from Right On! magazine, tacked to my bedroom wall all through high school, I’d still love this comedic docu-series. “Charming” isn’t the word you’d usually associate with Ja Rule yet, here we are.
Follow The Rules (that title!) does exactly that: It follows the Rule family, consisting of Ja Rule, his wife, who is known as “Mizz Rule,” according to the introductory chyron, his three children — oldest daughter Brittany (AKA B-Stacks), middle child Jeffrey Jr (who, especially from certain angles, looks so much like his father it’s uncanny), and adorable youngest son Jordan (or Jordy) — and both Ja Rule’s mother and mother-in-law, who moved in to help out after Ja went to prison. He’s out of prison now (but unashamed to mention his time there; at one point, he jokes that he has to stay relaxed because he’s “still on parole”) but they remain in the large house.
The “docu-series” is about his every day family life — which is surprisingly normal considering it’s Ja Rule. It tends to consists of drinking wine, hanging with his kids, glaring at the boys who hang around his daughter, clowning on his son’s outfit, and just lounging around in pajamas before running to do a quick show at a casino. It could easily be another boring celebrity-turned-reality-star series (Nellyville, obviously starring Nelly, is boring but I have some high hopes for Master P’s, premiering in late November) but there’s something special about it, mostly due to Ja’s charisma.
Ja’s energy is infectious for those around him (and he’s also pretty funny, as evidenced by the time he jumps in to interrupt his wife’s interview segment), and even for the viewers watching at home. He runs around and cracks jokes, he loves playing board games, and he teeters between family-oriented father and hip-hop star so often that the two worlds tend to blend into each other. In the pilot, when Brittany brings home her boyfriend (who is really just a friend that she has act horribly in order to get back at her dad for not letting her go on a trip), Ja Rule responds by waving around his glass of white wine and yelling, “There’s about to be a murder in this motherfucker!”
Of course, these storylines are obviously faked — or at least heavily encouraged and prodded by the series’ producers — but it’s hard to really criticize a “reality” series for that when all reality shows, especially more recent ones and ones centered on famous families, have been blurring the line between reality and being scripted. It’s basically a given nowadays, but one that you can easily ignore and allow yourself to get sucked into the nonsensical “reality” that these series celebrate.
The second episode is about the children throwing a party while their parents and grandparents are away (It’s called “Bending The Rules,” because this series loves puns — the pilot is titled “Ja-Fooled” — but I can’t believe they didn’t go for “No Parents, No Rules”). Again, the action is clearly scripted — how could the kids possibly think that their parents wouldn’t find out about a party that is being broadcast all over television? — but it’s pretty entertaining regardless, especially a b-story involving 11-year-old Jordy flirting adorably with his first crush. The scripted-quality of the series only becomes more apparent when the parents return home to the party in full swing, but Ja Rule’s reactions are still worth it.
Follow The Rules isn’t groundbreaking television but it isn’t trying to be. It’s simplistic MTV television: just funny and entertaining enough for a half-hour each week, and you’ll probably forget about it until the next Monday. But that’s perfectly fine: Not all shows — especially reality shows — have to try to reinvent the wheel or provide fodder for thinkpieces. Follow The Rules is simply here to have fun, to be silly, to showcase how Ja Rule is a pretty great father, and to keep viewers amused for a while. It succeeds at that, and that’s all you can really ask for.