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Garner To Join Cast of 8 Simple Rules

ABC looks to ex-Rockford Files star to help fill the gap left by John Ritter's death 10/19/2003 08:00:00 PM Eastern

In ABC's first casting move since the death of star John Ritter, James Garner, best known as the star of The Rockford Files
and Maverick, is joining 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

Garner will play the father of Cate Hennessy, played by Katey Sagal, who comes to help after the death of her husband, Paul, played by Ritter. Garner has signed on for at least four episodes. His character will be separated from Cate's mother, played by Suzanne Pleshette.

8 Simple Rules
goes back into production this Monday, shooting the first show without Ritter. The special hour-long episode is expected to air Nov. 4, early in November sweeps.

After Ritter's untimely death on Sept. 11, ABC has been reaping ratings benefits from 8 Simple Rules, airing a news special on Ritter's life in place of the show's season premiere and then the last three episodes the actor filmed.

Those three episodes were averaging around a 20 share in adults 18-49. When the show went to its first repeat last week, it dropped back to an 11 share.

Whether ABC can rework the show so that it continues to draw an audience is the big question. Industry observers expect the first original episode since Ritter's death to do well but are unsure about what will happen after that.

Garner has been a well-known TV actor since 1957, when he appeared as Bret Maverick, a part he played until 1960. After many movie roles, he returned to TV in 1974 as Jim Rockford, which he played until 1980. In recent years, Garner has appeared in the TV movie Roughing It
and Supreme Court drama First Monday. He also voiced the part of God in the animated sitcom God, the Devil and Bob. He has also been in the films Space Cowboys, with Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland, and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

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