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November 5, 2003
'8 Simple Rules' Returns Without Ritter

ABC struggles to keep its hit show, '8 Simple Rules', going without its star, the late John Ritter:

Ritter had completed three episodes for the new season when he died of a heart ailment Sept. 11. His last episode aired Oct. 7.

Gambling that a lighthearted sitcom can sustain the loss of its central figure, "8 Simple Rules..." is making a desperate bid to carry on as one of ABC's higher-rated series. Doing so, the producers and the network have risked conspicuous failure as well as criticism for tastelessness.

Let me tell you, I watched last night's episode, and I was mightily impressed with their effort. They made an excellent decision to film the show without a live audience, and so even the humor was muted and sad. James Garner and Suzanne Pleshette did an excellent job as a bitter and bickering couple who try with limited success to bury the hatchet to support their daughter. Larry Miller pitched in with a small guest shot that started out as a bit creepy but resolved itself very nicely. The real effort came from Katy Sagal and the actors playing the teen-age children, whose tears were copious throughout and, one suspects, were as much for losing their friend and co-worker than from the script.

I couldn't keep the tears out of my own eyes, either. John Ritter should have been there. Gilda Radner should be here. John Candy should be here. Last night, I missed them all.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 5, 2003 5:20 AM

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