Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Why Did ‘8 Simple Rules’ End After Just 3 Seasons?

Why Did ‘8 Simple Rules’ End After Just 3 Seasons?

John Ritter and Katey Sagal headlined 8 Simple Rules on ABC – with such a star-studded cast, why did the sitcom end after just three seasons?

In Season 1, the sitcom focused on Paul Hennessy, played by Ritter. Sagal played Paul’s wife Cate on the show. The show ran between 2002 and 2005 on ABC. In its first two seasons, 8 Simple Rules ranked No. 46 and No. 50 in the Nielsen ratings. The third season ended up at 90th in the Nielsens, bringing an end to 8 Simple Rules.

Why Did ‘8 Simple Rules’ End So Soon?

Now, why did 8 Simple Rules last for just three seasons? It all had to do with the untimely death of John Ritter. On Sept. 11, 2003, Ritter was rehearsing for the sitcom on the show’s set when he fell ill. He was reportedly sweating, vomiting, and feeling chest pain. When they got him to the hospital, doctors first treated him for a heart attack. Then, they shifted to working on the actor for an aortic dissection.

John Ritter died at 10:48 p.m. at 54 years old. He finished working on the sitcom’s first three episodes of Season 2. His death, however, impacted the show tremendously, causing major changes with 8 Simple Rules.

In the immediate aftermath, the show went on hiatus to give the cast time to grieve their loss. New episodes were done when they came back to work. One of those was titled Goodbye, where John Ritter’s character, Paul Hennessy, died off-camera.

James Garner and David Spade then came on board as Cate’s father and nephew. While they provided experienced hands on the show, they could not save 8 Simple Rules.

Kaley Cuoco Shares Memories of John Ritter’s Life

In 2021, several cast members gathered together for a documentary on Ritter’s life called as part of ABC’s Superstar series. Cuoco said that Ritter was “like no one I’ve ever met.” She adds that Ritter was “the most generous man, the most fun.”

Cuoco, who played neighborly Penny on the popular Big Bang Theory series, recalled the first time she and Ritter met one another. It was at a table read and Cuoco was wearing a short top and even shorter shorts.

“In comes John, and I go, ‘Hi, I’m playing your daughter,’” Cuoco said. “He goes, ‘Hold on; and he takes his jacket and puts it over me. He goes, ‘Never dress like that again.’ And right then, he was my dad.”

Cuoco added: “He treated me like his own daughter. He treated all of us kids like that. It was pretty incredible.”

Yet she also remembers being on the show’s set when the cast got the sad news about his death. “I just heard screaming, and I looked over and I see all these people and everyone is just hysterical,” Cuoco said in the ABC special, her voice breaking. “‘He’s gone. He’s gone.’ And I was like, ‘Who’s gone?’”

John Ritter’s loss would prove to be too much for 8 Simple Rules to overcome. Those who worked on it did their best to make it work. But there was just a small audience compared to other sitcoms of the day.