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8 Simple Rules: 13 Facts Only Major Fans Of ABC's Hit Sitcom Will Know

"8 Simple Rules" is perhaps best remembered for the death of John Ritter during the second season in 2003. The show continued for another season, meaning that there are actually more episodes without Ritter than there are with the famous comedian and actor. Originally titled "8 Simple Rules... for Dating My Teenage Daughter," the show saw Paul Hennessy (Ritter) try to deal with his teenage children as he works from home as a freelance reporter while his wife works as a nurse in a hospital.

It had an impressive cast made up of Ritter and Katey Sagal along with up-and-coming actors of the era such as Kaley Cuoco, Amy Davidson, and Martin Spanjers. The likes of James Garner and David Spade joined the ABC sitcom later during its run. Canceled following low ratings in 2005 (via TV Series Finale) it has nevertheless developed a dedicated fan following and remains an important piece of television history as Ritter's final live-action role. Here are some things you might not know about the series, even if you've watched every single episode.

John Ritter was nominated for a posthumous Emmy

John Ritter was not a stranger to award nominations. His performances as Jack Tripper in the ABC sitcom "Three's Company" between 1977 and 1984 alongside Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers won him widespread praise. Over the course of the eight seasons of the show, he was nominated for an Emmy award three times, and won the outstanding lead actor in a comedy series category in 1984. Ritter also garnered Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his roles in "Ally McBeal" and "Hooperman."

It is perhaps unsurprising that his work on "8 Simple Rules" was also recognized. At the 2004 Emmy Awards, he was nominated again for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series almost exactly a year after his death. He ultimately lost out to Kelsey Grammer who won for "Frasier." Grammer went on to pay tribute to Ritter in his acceptance speech, saying the actor "was a terrific guy and his death was a shock to all of us." Grammer continued, "He will be missed not only for his kindness, but for his work." (via 10 News).

Ritter and Sagal had previously worked together

John Ritter and Katey Sagal played the husband-and-wife team of Paul Hennessy and Cate Hennessy in "8 Simple Rules" but this was not the first time that they appeared together in a project. That shouldn't be all that surprising, really — between the two of them, they have more than 200 credits to their names; their ages were only a few years apart, and they were both known primarily for comedic sitcom roles in the shows "Three's Company" and "Married... with Children," respectively. 

In 1998, they both starred in the television movie "Chance of a Lifetime." In the film, freelance reporter Tom Maguire (Ritter) loses his primary source of revenue right before it becomes clear that he needs back surgery. His work associate Irene Dunbar (Sagal) marries him so they can share health insurance, although this puts them at odds with family members and a dogged insurance inspector. Ritter went to appear in an episode of the 2000 sitcom "Tucker" where Sagal played one of the main characters.

The cast all loved working together

Although it might seem like it from the outside, not every actor in every television series gets on with their co-stars. Sure, there are plenty of shows where the actors are all pals, but there are also series where the cast hated each other in real life. From what has been revealed about "8 Simple Rules," it appears to be an example of the former, with the cast and crew explaining how positive the entire experience was.

Speaking to Today, Amy Davidson said that Ritter and Sagal "lit up any room they ever walked in and I just wanted to soak up their grace." She later explained how the filming process just kept getting better and better as the episodes rolled by, with Ritter providing constant laughs. Sagal was equally effusive about the show, revealing that every day would result in fits of laughter. Meanwhile, Kaley Cuoco told Variety that she enjoyed being around Ritter, saying, "The respect and the kindness and the joy he brought to that set, it was unbelievable."

The cast didn't want Ritter replaced or written out

Most fans of "8 Simple Rules" will be aware that John Ritter tragically died in the middle of Season 2 of the show. While rehearsing for an episode, the actor became unwell, noted a variety of symptoms, and was taken to a hospital. A few hours later he was pronounced dead from an aortic dissection (via Today). His death obviously left the studio and creative team behind the series with a problem — whether to continue the show and how to do that if cancellation was not an option.

The cast themselves had a lot of influence when it came to deciding how the series would address Ritter's death. While they were willing to continue "8 Simple Rules," they let it be known they believed that the actor should not simply be replaced by someone else or written out without addressing the tragic circumstances.

"We, as a cast, we really felt like, if it was going to go ahead, we wanted to tell it as a true story, like a family that lost their dad," said Sagal in a telephone interview with Today. "And that didn't feel horrible to us. What would have felt horrible to us was just like, I don't know, replacing him or brushing it off."

Sagal thought that the show tried to be funny again too soon

The writers and executives ultimately decided that "8 Simple Rules" would continue and that the three episodes that Ritter filmed would air as originally planned (via The Washington Post). Speaking to the New York Times (via Entertainment Weekly), ABC entertainment chairman Lloyd Braun explained how the team had decided to carry on and deal with Ritter's death. This involved a hiatus that would last around a month and then two episodes that would write the actor's death into the show. Braun admitted that it was daunting to do this, but the show would eventually have to become funny again to stay true to its roots.

For some, that funny came a little too soon. When speaking to Today, Katey Sagal revealed that she felt that the show moved on too quickly after the two episodes that address Ritter and his character's death. She said, "I think we rushed to get funny again too fast." However, she went on to say that she felt that everyone involved handled the circumstances in a good and positive way but that she would have preferred to have at least a few more episodes that focused on the fallout.

James Garner and David Spade are both in more episodes than John Ritter

Although they were not direct replacements for John Ritter, both James Garner and David Spade joined the cast of "8 Simple Rules" in the episodes following Paul Hennessy's removal. Garner played Cate's dad Jim Egan who moves into the basement of the family home, while Spade played Cate's nephew C.J. Barnes. Both actors joined the cast full time as main characters and continued until the show was canceled after its third season (via Entertainment Weekly).

Garner didn't just contribute as a guest star, though — he was actually involved in some 45 episodes of "8 Simple Rules" in total. That's significantly more than Ritter, who filmed 31 episodes. Meanwhile, Spade also played a major role, appearing in 39 episodes of the sitcom over a season and a half, putting him higher than Ritter as well. Only Katey Sagal, Kaley Cuoco, Amy Davidson, and Martin Spanjers have more "8 Simple Rules" appearances than these two actors, having acted in the entire 76-episode run of the series.

Amy Davidson is actually six years older than Kaley Cuoco

Amy Davidson and Kaley Cuoco played two of the other main characters in "8 Simple Rules" in the form of Hennessy family daughters Kerry and Bridget. Cuoco's character is something of a stereotypical blonde archetype that is still widely used in sitcoms and other comedies despite its arguably misogynistic undertones. Bridget is the oldest of the three children and eventually matures following the death of her father. On the other hand, Kerry is the middle child who feels left out due to the fact that both her siblings seemingly get more attention than she does.

While Cuoco played the older sister in "8 Simple Rules," in reality Davidson was the older actor. Actors playing much younger characters aren't unusual, but fans might be surprised to learn just how big the age difference between the two sitcom stars actually is. It turns out that Davidson is six years older than Cuoco (via Mail Online). Cuoco even referenced this fact in a tweet, congratulating her "little big sis" on the birth of her child (via Yahoo).

Henry Winkler was set to appear as a guest before Ritter's death

Henry Winkler and John Ritter had been friends for many years before the latter began working on "8 Simple Rules." As the stars of "Happy Days" and "Three's Company" — two of the biggest sitcoms of the 1970s – the two had a lot in common and became instant pals upon meeting at the ABC 25th anniversary event in 1978 (via Archive of American Television). Winkler recalled their first encounter in an interview, saying, "He was sitting at the table in the chair behind me. And I bumped into him when I moved mine, and we were friends ever since."

This friendship even saw Winkler set to make an appearance in an episode of the series. In fact, he was rehearsing with the rest of the cast on the day that Ritter took ill and was rushed to hospital, meaning that he had seen his friend throughout the day (via Outsider). Following Ritter's death, the planned episode was scrapped and Winkler would never make a guest appearance on any subsequent episode of the series throughout its run. However, Entertainment Weekly reported there were rumors that he was apparently in the running as a possible replacement for Ritter.

John Goodman almost landed the role of the father

John Goodman is a veteran movie star who has appeared in countless Hollywood films over the years, including "The Big Lebowski," "King Ralph," and "Argo." Yet he has also been something of a comedy powerhouse, having played Dan Conner in "Roseanne" and its sequel series, "The Conners." It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that he's often considered for other roles as well.

When casting first began for "8 Simple Rules," the role of Paul was still very much up for grabs. One of the big names who was a strong contender was Goodman, with Kaley Cuoco telling The New York Post that the actor was originally set to take up the part. However, when Ritter expressed an interest in the show, executive producer Flody Suarez revealed that they instantly decided to go with him, saying, "You take John Ritter any time you can get John Ritter" (via Entertainment Weekly). Fate would conspire to have Goodman and Katey Sagal play husband and wife eventually when she joined "The Conners" years later. 

After Ritter's death, the show returned without a live audience or laugh track

Like many traditional three-camera sitcoms, "8 Simple Rules" was filmed in front of a live studio audience. It's a tried and tested process that not only provides a laugh track for broadcast but also gives the performers and creative minds behind the show a chance to gauge how well the material resonates based on audience reactions. The fact that "8 Simple Rules" was always planning on using this method is one of the reasons that Ritter was so interested in joining the series. In fact, he turned down a role in "The O'Keefes" because it would have meant acting without any audience in the room. "I guested on a couple of shows in front of a live audience and said, 'I really miss this,"' said Ritter to Entertainment Weekly.

The classic sitcom atmosphere changed during in the first few episodes following the actor's death. The two-part hour-long episode "Goodbye" had no laugh track and wasn't filmed in front of a live audience, giving it a more serious and somber atmosphere (via People). Meanwhile, the three episodes that had already been completed aired as normal with one small change — each started with a member of the cast explaining what had happened and paying tribute to Ritter.

Cuoco played tennis twice in the series, putting her real-life skills to use

Before she was an actor, Cuoco was an aspiring tennis player with some talent. She had played the sport since the age of 3 and took part in competitive tournaments over the course of her career. According to The Blast, she placed 54th in the Southern California's Girls' 14 Singles ranking. She's taken to social media and shared a picture of her competing in her first tournament when she was just 6 years old, so she's certainly not treating her tennis background like it's a secret. By 2001, at the age of 16, she had decided to give up playing tennis in order to fully concentrate on her acting career. Her association with the sport even extended to her marrying professional tennis player Ryan Sweeting in 2013. (They've since divorced.) 

Cuoco put those tennis skills to good use on "8 Simple Rules" when she played tennis in two episodes. In the 2004 episode "Coach" she develops a crush on her tennis coach and tries to impress him. Later, she's scouted by a college talent scout in an episode titled "Princetown Girl."

Ritter was known for flubbing his lines

John Ritter was not just popular because of his kind nature and the fact he was such a welcoming presence to everyone involved in the show. He also made the cast and crew laugh out loud on many occasions thanks to his constant flubbing on set. A blooper reel uploaded to YouTube in 2009 showcases the mistakes that the actor seems to have made regularly.

Whether it was his ad-libbed lines that had his co-stars in stitches or the strange faces he might make in reaction to something that had just happened, he was sure to provoke laughter. There were also some examples of him making jokes and talking directly to the audience. Perhaps most endearing of all is the fact that Ritter and Sagal, along with the other actors, all seem to have genuine affection for each other as they end up in fits of laughter and fall into each other's arms.

Cuoco has shared the final words Ritter said to her before he died

While everyone involved in "8 Simple Rules" felt Ritter's passing in a strong way, it may have impacted Kaley Cuoco more than anyone else. She has previously spoken about how Ritter acted as something of a mentor to her during his time on the show. After all, the series was her first major role on television and eventually led to her rising to prominence and becoming a household name on "The Big Bang Theory." Cuoco has spoken on many occasions about her affection for Ritter and how they developed a close bond (via Yahoo).

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Cuoco revealed the final words that Ritter said to her before he died. Upon realizing he was unwell, she went to see him and he took her to the side. Explaining how this situation unfolded, she said, "He sat down on the couch and he goes, 'I love you' and I was like, 'I love you, too, silly man.' He goes, 'No, I want you to know, I love you.' And I said, 'I love you too.' And he goes 'That's it!' And he gave me a hug ... and that was the last I saw of him."