ABC to Revamp, Keep Ritter Show Afloat
Calling the attempt a journey into "uncharted waters" for prime-time network TV, executives at ABC said all those associated with the show, including Ritter's widow Amy Yasbeck, encouraged the show to go on.
"He believed in this show and its message that a strong family can get through anything," Yasbeck, 40, is quoted as saying.
Ritter completed only three episodes for the new season, which was to have kicked off next week. The season premiere of the show will be delayed for a few weeks, say reports.
A torn aorta, a heart condition that reportedly had gone undiagnosed, caused Ritter's death, at age 54. (Wednesday would have been his 55th birthday.)
According to Reuters, ABC says that at no time did it consider replacing Ritter as the homebound dad with two troublesome teenage daughters, which is why the network settled upon writing the real-life situation into the storyline. ABC did not specify how the main character would die on the show, however.
"Future episodes will take viewers into the Hennessy household as they experience the loss of a beloved father and construct a new life," Lloyd Braun, chairman of the ABC Entertainment Television Group, said at a press conference.
"8 Simple Rules" proved to be ABC's highest-rated comedy in 2002, ranking a respectable No. 43 out of some 190 prime-time shows. It also helped the network, which trails CBS, FOX and NBC in ratings, reestablish itself as the home of family-friendly comedies.