'8 Simple Rules' Airs Without Ritter

11/05/2003 at 10:05 AM EST

There was no laugh track Tuesday night on ABC's "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter," which returned to the air to address the tragic loss of its star John Ritter and the death of the character he played.

Ritter had completed three episodes for the new season when he died of a heart ailment Sept. 11. His last episode aired Oct. 7.

Tuesday's hour-long episode began with the usual domestic shenanigans as the Hennessy household began an ordinary hectic morning, the Associated Press reports.

Then, while preparing breakfast, wife Cate (Katey Sagal) and the three teenagers (Kaley Cuoco, Amy Davidson, Martin Spanjers) got a fateful phone call: Patriarch Paul Hennessy (Ritter's character), who had dashed out of the house to buy milk, had collapsed and died of a heart attack in the store.

This led, after a commercial break, to preparations for the funeral, which were under way as Cate's parents (James Garner and Suzanne Pleshette) arrived.

"Can I get you something?" asked Cate's mom. Replied Cate: "Yesterday would be nice."

Emotions kicked in as the hour progressed. The initial 30 minutes basically served to introduce the Garner and Pleshette characters, who needled each other incessantly at first, while the latter 30 turned comforting and nostalgic.

As grandpa did an emergency repair on the upstairs toilet, son Rory (Spanjers) recalled how his dad retreated to the bathroom when faced with a deadline for his newspaper column.

"Once in a while Mom would knock on the door to make sure he didn't fall in," said Rory.

Later, Cate sat with her daughters in a bedroom.

"You know what his last words to me were? 'Hasta la vista, baby!' Such a cornball," Cate said, laughing.

"You know what I'm going to miss about Dad?" said Kerry (Davidson). "Those bogus pancakes he used to make. Like eating Tupperware covers."

"Pancake mix and water!" said Bridget (Cuoco). "How do you mess that up?"

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