TV Article

Behind the '8' Ball

What will become of John Ritter-less ''8 Simple Rules''? ABC tries to figure out if it can keep the hit sitcom going after the sudden death of its star

John Ritter, 8 Simple Rules | FATHER KNOWS BEST Can ''8 Rules'' go on without Ritter?
Image credit: John Ritter: Gale M. Adler
FATHER KNOWS BEST Can ''8 Rules'' go on without Ritter?

John Ritter was in the process of shooting the fourth new episode of the second season of ''8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter'' at the time of his unexpected death on Thursday. Out of respect, ABC has yet to say what will happen to the hit show, which was expected to be one of the few sure things on its primetime schedule this season. Still, the network faces three tough options: find a new actor to replace Ritter; cancel the show; or write Ritter's death into the series. According to the New York Times, ABC execs have rejected the first choice and are leaning against the second.

Replacing Ritter would be nearly impossible; he was the chief source of the show's appeal, and the plots were built around his interaction with his daughters, as the title implies. Rumors afloat have Henry Winkler, who was to have been a guest star in the uncompleted episode, coming in as the girls' uncle (would they change it to ''8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Niece?'') or having star Katey Sagal raise her kids as a widowed mom.

It's also not clear whether the three completed episodes will ever be aired. However, ABC plans to air a tribute to Ritter, whose ''Three's Company'' aired on the network for eight seasons, on Tuesday, Variety reports.

Originally posted Sep 15, 2003