11/04/2003 at 12:00 AM EST
The first episode of "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" without John Ritter will air Tuesday on ABC, in an hour-long special called "Goodbye."
As the episode started shooting, says the Hollywood Reporter, director James Widdoes told the cast and crew, "This is going to be a hard and painful week." Production of the episode started on Oct. 13, almost four weeks to the day after Ritter's sudden death.
By the end of the week, as the episode wrapped and the cast members were taking their bows, actress Katey Sagal, who plays the wife of Ritter's character, looked up at the soundstage ceiling and said an impromptu, "We love you, John."
Tracy Gamble, the show's creator and executive producer, said Sagal's gesture left few dry eyes in the room, and the episode itself was emotionally wrenching for everyone involved.
"The first week back was very rough but also cathartic," Gamble says. "By going on, and going in the direction that we have with the show, it's our way of honoring John."
Whether the show should even continue has been hotly debated, with many TV critics wagging a finger at ABC, claiming the network is exploiting Ritter's death to help boost ratings.
But Gamble says, "We all had discussions within ourselves and with each other about whether the show would continue and whether we would want to be a part of it. We started thinking that if our viewers have invested in this family, then let's take that left-hand turn."
Of the family on the sitcom, Gamble said: "Let's put the Hennessys on this journey of discovering what happens when life treats you cruel."