ABC Still Weighing Future of '8 Rules'

10/07/2003 at 03:35 PM EDT

While several TV critics have called for an outright cancellation of ABC's "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" following the death of star John Ritter on Sept. 11, the show's network is still weighing its options, The New York Times reports.

The final new episode starring Ritter -- who was 54 when he collapsed on the set last month (he died of an undiagnosed tear in the aorta of his heart) -- is due to air Oct. 7, after which the show will go on hiatus for several weeks before returning with the death of the Ritter character worked into the plot.

"The first few days we really didn't talk much about the show," Lloyd Braun, the chairman of the ABC Entertainment Television Group, tells The Times. "People were emotional messes. Everyone was grieving. We knew it had to be one day at a time."

Even so, no sooner had Ritter died, Hollywood trade papers were reporting that Tony Danza and Henry Winkler were being considered as replacements.

"Nothing made me angrier in the days after the tragedy than to read various names of people being considered to replace John," Braun said. "It was absolutely insane. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It was never on our radar."

Among those who were consulted, says The Times, was actress Amy Yasbeck, Ritter's widow. She reportedly met with ABC executives. She also was quoted in the network's initial statements that the show would go on, saying her husband "believed in this show and its message that a strong family can get through anything."

That sentiment, apparently, is what ABC will keep in mind as it ultimately decides how best to proceed.

"We were getting so many e-mails and calls and letters from people about John, a lot of people sending in their own stories about losing a family member," Susan Lyne, president of ABC Entertainment, tells the paper.

"Before the funeral we had not been mulling things over. Lloyd and I are usually in sync on things," said Lyne. "And at some point, one of us said to the other -- and I can't remember which of us said it -- 'What do you think about keeping the show going and making this part of the story?' "

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