John Ritter Dies at 54

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Television made John Ritter a star in the 1970s and, when he died Thursday,
he was once again starring in a popular ABC comedy.

The 54-year-old Ritter proved an enduring figure on television and, after
collapsing while shooting 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter,
he leaves a legacy of well-executed pratfalls and double-takes and a saddened
network with one of its few hit shows in crisis.

"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 in a
prepared statement.

An ABC spokesman said Friday morning that it was too early for the network to have any definitive plan about what will happen to the sitcom, which was the top new series introduced by ABC last season, the second-most-watched sitcom on ABC and helped somewhat to revive its Tuesday night.

With the core 18-49 demographic audience, Rules 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.

ABC News reported that the cause of death was a previously undetected heart
ailment, according to Ritter’s representatives.

A child of Hollywood, Ritter was the son of country singer and actor Tex
Ritter and graduated from Hollywood High School and the University of Southern
California, where he studied drama.

Best known, of course, for playing Jack Tripper on hit show Three’s
Company
and its short-lived spinoff, Three’s a Crowd, the
Emmy-winning Ritter was a versatile performer with significant credits in films,
TV movies and plays, including a continuing role on CBS hit The
Waltons
.

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

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