Director James Widdoes and the four credited writers clearly sought to be sensitive, and there was something irresistibly emotional about the fictitious family’s pain given its real-life underpinnings.
In the midst of last week's storm surrounding CBS and "The Reagans," you may have missed something sweet and lovely that happened over on ABC.
On Tuesday night, the cast, producers and writers of "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" took their tragic loss of a co-star and friend and, in a nod to moving on, created honest, wonderful television. Considering the way television can bungle these things, the sitcom's return without John Ritter, whose sudden death of an aortic dissection in September shocked so many, could have been a lot worse.
It does not happen often, however, to light-hearted sitcom families, and incorporating the Ritter character’s passing is uncomfortable terrain.
After some playful banter among the kids reminding us what the series had been about, Cate (Katey Sagal) receives a phone call, learning that her husband Paul has collapsed at the grocery store.
In the immediate aftermath of John Ritter’s death, it was hard to take issue with ABC’s decisions, since execs were thrust into an untenable situation.
Since then, however, there has been a vague ghoulishness surrounding the show, including big viewer tune-in for the remaining Ritter episodes and ABC News’ synergistic efforts such as Diane Sawyer’s interview with the actor’s widow, Amy Yasbeck.In a media culture hurtling by at an increasingly frantic pace, a percentage of the audience can be counted upon to seek out any such novelty. Their curiosity satisfied, much of America will move on, letting the made-up Hennessy family and those who loved the actual man grieve privately, offscreen. Katey Sagal will continue as the family’s widowed mother, as she and her three kids cope with the aftermath of Paul’s passing. After a hiatus of about a month, new, Ritter-less episodes will begin to air.The show, a comedy whose premise and appeal depended primarily on Ritter and his character, was one of ABC’s few ratings successes last season.Parents need to know that despite a bit of iffy language ("damn," "ass") and some fairly light sexual innuendo, this sitcom offers a positive representation of family, teens, and parental guidance.