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8 SIMPLE RULES

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  John Ritter, Katey Segal, Kaley Cuoco, Amy Davidson, Martin Spanjers
Video:  Color Full Screen, French and Spanish subtitles, aspect ratio 1.78:1
Audio:  Dolby 5.1, French language track
Studio:  Buena Vista Entertainment
Features:  Blooper Reel
Length: 601 Minutes, three dual-layer discs
Release date:  August 7, 2007

“Hey, disco was not my mistake; it was the mistake…of a NATION!” 

Show ***1/2

It seems that the sit-com is not dead but has been on life support for so long it is dying of atrophy or apathy.  But there are a few shows that are lite but fun and worth a view.  8 Simple Rules is not a fantastic show but it deserves credit for a family drama that is genuinely funny most of the time without resorting to the lowest common denominator.  It is shocking to see John Ritter as a father at all, let alone a moralistic one.  Kaley Cuoco as Bridget is a real find as a good young actress who is prettier than any teeny bopper out there and can really act pretty well, considering her character is a true princess stereotype.  She is able to rise above the stereotype.  Watching her on her first day working at the mall is priceless, as she moves from clueless to conqueror in the Ivana Trump mold, to clueless again when she wipes out her whole paycheck and then some.  The middle child Kerry, played by Amy Davidson, is also a find though she is also a stereotype as a save-the-world whiner.  The middle child is usual the most interesting character anyway and Davidson is featured more and more often as the series goes on.  Martin Spanjers as Rory is the low kid on the totem pole and Ritter tries to make him into every sportswriter-dad’s dream athlete but he is busy hiding in his sisters’ closets and playing with dangerous pets. 

It is hard of course to be objective about the show, knowing that this was John Ritter’s last series before he died so unexpectedly of a heart defect in 2003.  His father character is pretty annoying since he still thinks his kids are half their real ages, but his performance is earnest and believable.  Segal is as well; my only complaint with her is that she is an attractive woman who looks like she has terminal bed hair in this show.  But then Ritter is not exactly dressed or groomed like a star either so maybe it was intentional.

The premise of the first season is that Cate returns to working as a nurse with irregular full-time schedules, and the family has to adjust to this while they all enter puberty at practically the same time. I would say this show is far classier that Roseanne ever was and not as focused on the parents or their Catholic-Jersey world the way that Grounded for Life was.  It is funnier than either and the characters are all charming. 

It did continue its run after Ritter’s death with James Garner as their grandfather and David Spade as a slacker cousin, and it was better than expected but was never really the same.  It is not as original and it does not resonate with me as much as Grounded but actually has more good laughs per episode.  Highlights include hearing Katy sing “At Last” at a wedding and seeing the whole group dress up in a “Three’s Company” spoof in the episode “Come and Knock on Our Door.”   The latter is great because the daughters play Chrissie and Janet, and the boy they both kiss plays Jack. 

The discs are also a good deal considering there are 28 episodes in only one season. 

Video ***

Well-shot and a good transfer that is expected of modern television. 

Audio ***

Not much use of the rear speakers but then this is only a sit-com, not 24.  Plenty of clear dialogue and not too much volume from dialogue.

Features ***

Only one, but the “blooper” reel is a scream and I recommend watching it first. 

Summary

Another good comedy comes to DVD.  Although we are never told what the simple rules are, the show’s first season was a breath of fresh comedy air.  It was also a fitting though far too early conclusion to John Ritter’s career.

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