“8 Simple Rules…for Dating My Teenage Daughter”

By Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
July 15, 2007

After gaining fame as ladies man Jack Tripper on the 1970s sitcom Three’s Company, John Ritter steals the show as a father of three–including two nubile teenage girls–on 8 Simple Rules…for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

The first season, which aired on ABC during 2002 and 2003, introduces viewers to Paul (Ritter) and Cate Hennessy (Katey Sagal) and their precocious children Bridget (Kaley Cuoco), Kerry (Amy Davidson), and Rory (Martin Spanjers).

When former stay-at-home mom Cate returns to the work force as a nurse, it’s up to Paul to write his newspaper column at home on occasion and mind the kids.

The first season deals with that uneasy transition. It’s actually refreshing to see a family depicted where the parents don’t always like the kids. Paul often jokes with Cate that he’s mad she ever suggested they start a family. He also notes, “What’s it called if you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t? Oh yes, fatherhood.”

As for the children, we’ve seen similar stereotypical characters on other sitcoms. Bridget is the 16-year-old blonde bombshell. Kerry is her awkward, brunette younger sister, and Rory is their kid brother who has the creepy habit of hiding in their closets.

Paul’s relationship with Rory is even keeled. But it’s his daughters that he is trying to win over. They love him, but they’re also embarrassed and befuddled by him.

Just when he thinks he’s bonding with them, the girls will sarcastically point out his faults–such as his being at least 100 years old. As he succinctly points out to his wife, “They live in my house, but they don’t even like me. They’re not kids. They’re cats!”

Though the show is big on comic moments, it also is generous in sharing poignant memories. When Paul looks at his girls, he doesn’t see young women that even his friends think of as hotties. Rather, he still views them as innocent toddlers who looked up to and adored him.

Sagal, who was so over-the-top in both looks and mannerisms when she played the matriarch on Married with Children, is a wonderful foil for Ritter. Beautiful, smart, and funny, she’s a tough act for him to follow when it comes to being a stay-at-home dad.

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