The series' creator and showrunner, Tracy Gamble, left the series for a time over creative differences prior to the third season, but he later returned as a consulting producer midway through the third season. Even before the third-season finale's airing, rumors began circulating that 8 Simple Rules was facing cancellation due to Ritter's death and poor ratings.
Gamble was replaced by Judd Pillot and John Peaslee, who had performed the same role in the final season of Spade's sitcom, Just Shoot Me! The Friday night "death slot" ratings took their toll on 8 Simple Rules.
The series' name and premise were derived from the book 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter by W. While 8 Simple Rules was renewed for a second season and production had begun, Ritter's sudden death in September 2003 left the series in an uncertain position.
After a hiatus, the series returned and continued without Ritter, with the producers deciding to kill off Paul and not replace him.
The first four post-Ritter episodes were shot without a live audience with James Garner and Suzanne Pleshette guest-starring as Cate's strict parents and David Spade guest-starring as Cate's wayward nephew, C. Before Ritter's death, 8 Simple Rules ranked 42nd in the Nielsen ratings.
After Ritter's death, it had slipped to 50th, but was renewed for a third season, in which ABC moved the series to Friday at pm as part of its TGIF comedy line-up.
The third season (after Ritter's death) took a creative turn, revolving more around cousin C. (David Spade) and grandfather Jim (James Garner), than the immediate Hennessy family, more specifically not revolving around the raising of the Hennessy girls.
The finale received a 3.9/8 rating share which gave ABC a third-place finish behind NBC's Dateline (5.8/11) and CBS's Joan of Arcadia (4.9/10), which starred Ritter's son, Jason.
The series ran on ABC from September 17, 2002 to April 15, 2005.
The first season focused on Paul being left in charge of the kids after Cate takes a full-time job as a nurse, with comedic emphasis on his often strict rules concerning his daughters and dating.
I love this outfit because you can wear it during the day and easily dress it up for a night out with your significant other.
I guess that doesn’t really make it a date night now does it?!
8 Simple Rules returned two months after Ritter's death with a one-hour episode, "Goodbye", which was turned into a tribute to Ritter's character.