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Based on a popular W. Bruce Cameron column, 8 Simple Rules is your basic Dom Com where Paul and Cate Hennessy (played by John Ritter and Katey Sagal) attempt to ride herd on the burgeoning love life of their teenage daughters, bookish Kerry (Amy Davidson) and promiscuous Bridget (Kaley Cuoco). Rounding out the family is son Rory (Martin Spanjers), who is Paul's only other source of testosterone, and thus they bond often.
The premise was good and it worked well... until the show was derailed by the death of John Ritter. The resultant Retool brought in Cate's cantankerous father Jim (James Garner) and slacker nephew C.J. (David Spade). Because of Ritter's death, the show's name was changed from the quirky 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter to simply 8 Simple Rules. The rating also took a plunge shortly after episodes dealing with Paul's death and it was cancelled within two years.
The series lasted from September 2002 to April 2005, a total of 76 episodes in 3 seasons.
- Actor Allusion: Paul in the Three's Company dream sequences (though he was Mr.Roper).
- Aesop Amnesia: During the first season, Cate tells Paul not to get his hopes up about the idea of being seen as popular in their daughters' eyes. However, sometime after Ritter's passing, she tries to appear to be "with it" in front of them herself.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Damian. He even has a guitar leitmotif when he appears in a scene. Bridget assumes that everyone can hear it, but it's just in her head.
- All Men Are Perverts: A ton of examples:
- Kyle cheating on Bridget with Kerry
- Kerry losing her virginity to a guy who says he'll call her but doesn't get her number
- A 30-something guy hits on Bridget at the gym
- A guy who asks Bridget and Kerry out on separate dates
- Rory kissing a random girl to practice for his girlfriend
- C.J. going gaga over a woman with big busts while dating another woman
- Ascended Extra: Cate and Rory were really just there in the first season but became more developed characters after Paul's death.
- Which is sort of sad, because a big subplot of the first season is that Rory is Paul's other source of testosterone in the house.
- Based on an Advice Book: The first season, at least.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Bridget (Blonde), Rory (Brunette) and Kerry (Redhead)
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Bridget and Kerry.
- But I Would Really Enjoy It (Trope Namer)
- The Cast Showoff: Katey Sagal got to show her singing talent twice in the show. Kaley Cuoco, a former tennis player, got to play tennis twice on the show as well.
- Caught with Your Pants Down: Rory. Twice.
- Cerebus Syndrome: After Ritter died, the entire show pretty much became "Let's Mourn John Ritter for 30 Minutes Each Week."
- Not really, the show really only did that in a few episodes while largely doing it's own thing.
- Character Development: Kerry started out as a cynical and depressed teenager but eventually grew to be nicer and more confident.
- The Character Died with Him: Paul Hennessy, played by John Ritter.
- Character Exaggeration: Inverted. In the book, the older daughter was much ditzier and more materialistic, the younger daughter was an Emo Goth, and the son was a total Cloudcuckoolander. The show toned this down a lot.
- Couch Gag: Rory's way to taunt the supposed girls' date changed between title sequences in season 1.
- Curse Cut Short: During Season 1.
Rory: Santa can kiss my--
- Dawson Casting/Playing Gertrude: the older daughter was played by Kaley Cuoco, b. 1985; the younger daughter was played by Amy Davidson, b. 1979.
- Teens Are Short: Justification for why Amy plays the younger daughter rather than the older.
- Deadpan Snarker: Kerry.
- The Ditz: Bridget.
- Dumb Blonde: Bridget. And Kyle.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Bridget of course. She gets voted Class President, is able to make men do anything she wants and even is still loved when she has to walk around with a facial mask on. Everyone loves her so much that when she announces herself on the intercom, a faint standing ovation is heard.
- Fallen Princess: Bridget, after Kyle breaks up with her.
- Freaky Friday: Cate and Bridget, Jim and CJ, Rory and..... his hamster, and a jealous, left out Kerry.
- Full Name Ultimatum: Rory gets this treatment more than once.
- Gilligan Cut: An episode contains Kerry thinking of working at some food joint at the mall irksome... followed by her doing what she hated thinking about in the next scene.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry
- Groin Attack: When Cate mentioned a school coach who tried to impress her despite her lack of interest, Jim offered this advice: "Have you considered kicking him in the grapes?"
- Happily Married: Paul and Cate, before Ritter's death obviously.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Grandpa Jim in the first Thanksgiving episode (pre-Ritter-death).
- Hidden Depths: Bridget, Rory and CJ all showed these after Paul died.
- Homage: One ep pre-Ritter-death contains a dream sequence that mimics Three's Company with the kids in the main roles.
- And Paul in the role of the landlord. He noticed something odd about the situation.
- Kyle's older brother's bachelor pad even resembles the set.
- I Want You to Meet An Old Friend of Mine: Ed O'Neill (Al Bundy) plays one of Cate's old flames.
- Jerkass: The guy Kerry lost her virginity to. She's been trying to call him back, but he doesn't answer. She asked C.J. to drive her to him. But when C.J. parked just outside the house, Kerry cries and wants to go home.
- Laugh Track: Used in every episode, except for the one where Paul dies.
- Although a laugh track WAS later added to that episode in syndicated airings.
- Marshmallow Hell: Rory with his aunt.
- Middle Child Syndrome: Kerry
- Mistaken for Gay: Both Kerry and her prom date are straight, assume the other to be gay, and are only going to the prom together to support gay rights.
- At one point, Jim thought Principal Gibb was hitting on Rory.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: C.J. ruined Jim's chance of being together with his wife.
- No Bisexuals: During the gay episode, Kerry and her prom date are immediately assumed to be lesbians, and Rory's date discovers that she's not attracted to men at all.
- No Indoor Voice: "Kerry is not a virgin!?"
- Noodle Incident: The water bottle scene.
- The reason C.J. goes by C.J. is implied to be the result of some illegal activity.
- One Side of the Story: Standard shoplifting mix-up.
- Overprotective Dad: The whole premise, at first.
- Parting Words Regret: The last thing Bridget said to her father before he died was "I hate you."
- Put on a Bus: The majority of the supporting characters were written out after John Ritter's death, since they were largely characters that only shared scenes with Ritter's character.
- Several did made a few appearances.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Fans still argue if the show jumped the shark or grew the beard after John Ritter's untimely demise. On one hand, the main premise was gone. On the other hand, the characters gained a lot more depth.
- Also Kaley Cuoco injured her leg during filming of the 3rd season and her injury was subsequently written into several episodes.
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: "Dorky" Donny Doyle, a clean-cut Naval Academy student that Bridget dates shortly. They didn't last long together.
- The Tag: While the episodes with John Ritter had tags, the post-Ritter ones did not. In post-Ritter episodes, the Closing Credits would start in the middle of the final scene.
- Take Our Word for It: Kerry's painting is so brave and controversial, that even Paul can't look at it. We don't get to see it. Also, the video where Paul breaks Bridget's nose while playing tennis, we don't get to see that moment neither, but the entire family turns away in disgust when they see it.
- Tempting Fate: When Jim manages to get his driver's license despite not studying the materials properly and acts smug in front of Cate, the following exchange takes place:
Jim: Try to wipe it off.
Cate: (beat) C.J.'s moving back in the basement with you.
Jim: You're bluffing.
(Cue C.J. walking into the room)
- Twerp Sweating
- The Unfair Sex: Averted: Kerry cheats on Kyle while in France mostly out of lust, and is clearly portrayed as being the faulty party of the two.
- Although after its broadcast over the school intercom that she's had sex, he (Kyle) remarks he can't be too mad at her for cheating on him, since everyone thinks he was the one she lost her virginity to.
- Will They or Won't They?: Post-Ritter, between Cate and Principal Gibb.