When it comes to family sitcoms, I sense gloom but not doom. That is, the genre is in a lull right now: many shows doing nothing new, not providing our minimum nightly requirement of laughs. But I also don't think reality shows like ''Are You Hot?'' and ''Married by America,'' along with the 384 other leer-'n'-smirk ''unscripted'' series coming up, are going to drive Harvard grads out of the sitcom factory and into the fast-food industry, either.
Shows such as ABC's 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter rely upon their male marquee star for initial viewer lure, but it's the meshing of the supporting cast and the quality of the jokes that determine how long you'll watch. I find Ritter's performance -- as a father besieged by a pop culture he no longer understands -- to be, within the confines of the series' dumb-dad punchlines, rousingly substantial. Ritter throws himself into arguing over missed curfews and the exposed thong lines of his eldest daughter, the effectively appalling Bridget (Kaley Cuoco).