After Ritter's Death, Status of Rules Uncertain


The sudden death of John Ritter late last week leaves ABC with a gaping hole on its prime-time schedule. Ritter's comeback show, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, was set to premiere at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, but, at press time, ABC had not made a decision about whether to go forward with the show without its main star.

With its core 18-49 demographic audience, Rules last season averaged a 4.0 rating, 11 share and 10.9 million total viewers weekly. For the season, the sitcom ranked No. 42 in total viewers among all broadcast-network programs. It was ABC's number-one new series last year, its second-highest-rated comedy.

Ritter, who was about to celebrate his 55th birthday, died suddenly last Thursday after suffering an aortic dissection, an undetectable condition.

He is survived by his wife, actress Amy Yasbeck; their daughter, Stella; and three children from an earlier marriage: Carly, Tyler and Jason.

Ritter was best-known for starring as Jack Tripper in the smash-hit comedy Three's Company in the 1970s, but he also had developed a thriving career in independent film and theater.

"All of us at ABC, Touchstone Television and The Walt Disney Co. are shocked and heartbroken at the terrible news of John's passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children at this very difficult time," ABC said.

Various TV outlets planned remembrances. ABC's 20/20 aired a retrospective last Friday, while Viacom's Nick at Nite and TV Land planned programming salutes for Sunday, Sept. 14 and today. A&E aired Ritter's biography last Friday night.