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.After Ritter's death, the cast and the network mourned, quite publicly, to strong ratings that, overnight, turned the network's modest hit into a legitimate contender bleeding viewers from its comedy competition on NBC.Having seen that power, the announcement that "8 Simple Rules" would continue was understandably met with a bit of cynicism.Then John Ritter ("Three's Company" and "Three's a Crowd") passed away suddenly. Due to Ritter's passing, the title was shortened to "8 Simple Rules". You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck.
Amy Davidson ("So Little Time") played the younger sister of Kaley Cuoco ("Ladies Man" and "Charmed") on 8 Simple Rules.
Conveyed through a series of glimpses, the episode's deft writing showed how death swoops in and weighs down the simplest of conversations. He would say anything, he didn't care how silly he was. Tonight at 8 on KOMO/4, the series takes the Hennessys back to their half-hour time slot, while the specter of Dad's death remains present.
Their final moments with their dad were typical gaffes and random moments -- Cate (Katey Sagal) laughing at her husband's lost socks, Rory (Martin Spanjers) tripping over Paul's shoes left on the stair, Bridget (Kaley Cuoco) and Kerry (Amy Davidson) lamenting their meaningless insults as he left -- all imbued with terrible importance after his death. The laugh track is supposed to return, although to maintain the series' feeling, the formula's going to need some tinkering.
James Garner's entry as Jim, Cate's dad, provided a rock-steady, somewhat grizzled counterpoint to the occasional outbursts of adolescent rage. Perhaps a solution will be to incorporate Garner's grumpy old man into the mix, but he's more grump than cornball.
And all speech became dumb, pointless, yet kind, as characters struggled to say and do the right thing, in a situation for which there is no foolproof emotional etiquette. Ritter was clearly the hub of "8 Simple Rules' " humor, and if Sagal takes up some of his paternal quirks for the sake of wringing out a few laughs, viewers might not buy it.