The 54-year-old Emmy-winner died Thursday night of what's believed to be a congenital heart defect.The three Ritter episodes, to feature special intros from surviving cast members, will air in order beginning with next week's year-two opener.They all had such a warm friendship, and I know John would want his friends to be able to continue doing what they love." Cynics, being cynics, will say Disney-owned ABC, of late reduced to a Mickey Mouse-sized figure in the prime-time standings behind CBS, NBC and Fox, had little choice but to continue a show, however wounded, that was one of its few non-bombs, not to mention the product of its own Touchstone Television division. In the history of TV, there is no example of a series thriving following the loss of one of its titular stars.But ABC execs sounded weary, not cynical, as they spoke of how continuing the show would be cathartic for the "incredibly tight-knit cast, incredibly tight-knit crew," if not the TV nation. As Braun said, it's been a long week.) In the end, going on with 8 Simple Rules... The ABC Western Alias Smith and Jones lasted one season after its Smith, Peter Duel, shot himself to death in 1971; the NBC sitcom Chico and the Man, likewise, eked out one low-rated season after its Chico, Freddie Prinze, shot himself to death in 1977.The show went into production hiatus immediately following Ritter's death.The set is expected to be dark for another three to four weeks, although the writing staff returned to work Tuesday."John believed in this show and its message that a strong family can get through anything," Yasbeck said in a statement Tuesday."He felt so lucky to be working with such wonderful people every day.
Garner and Spade later received starring roles in order to fill the void left by Ritter for the remainder of the series' run.
With the move, 8 Simple Rules..., which has averaged 9.8 million viewers since debuting last fall, will keep its scheduled September 23 season premiere, taking on NBC's Whoopi, which got off to a fast start last week opposite a rerun of the ABC family comedy.
Ritter completed three episodes before taking ill last Thursday, a day before taping what was to be the fourth episode.
After the untimely death of John Ritter I thought this series may have been cancelled but they carried on and I'm glad they did.
The day after John Ritter was buried, his TV show wasn't.