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'8 Simple Rules' rises above traditional sitcom fare

| Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2002

8 Simples Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" has to be one of the worst titles for a television sitcom. It takes longer to say that mouthful than it does to watch the 30-minute program. Fortunately the show rises above the title be a nice comedy about a dad struggling to understand his daughters.

Paul (John Ritter) has never understood women, but things become worse when his two daughters become teenagers. He begins to learn the intricacies of young womanhood after he trades in his sports writer position to work at home writing columns so his wife, Cate (Katey Sagal), can go back to work as a nurse.

"Both of us working and sharing the duties seem to be the only way to make it work," says Cate.

Paul tries to take a firm hand with his girls, especially when they have a date. He demands that boys treat his girls with respect, which means boys come to the door and don't honk the car horns.

"Just so you know, Kyle, if you ever pull into my driveway and honk, you best be delivering a package because you sure as hell ain't picking anything up," says Paul to a prospective boyfriend.

Paul has plenty of advice for boys including, "If you make (my daughter) cry, I will make you cry."

Paul should expect lots of encounters with young men. His oldest daughter, Bridget (Kaley Cuoco), is known as the "hot" one. She likes to wear skimpy clothes and lots of makeup.

"Well, we're the thong generation," Bridget explains to her dad.

"Maybe that's why your generation is so angry," replies Paul. "You all are walking around with a wedgie."

Middle child Kerry (Amy Davidson) is moody, intense and very intelligent. She also worries that she's not attractive, at least not like Bridget.

"You've got to let me in, just sometimes," Paul tells a troubled Kerry.

He's able to give her advice that makes Kerry feel better, but like all teens she refuses to admit he's right.

"What do you know, you're like 100," says Kerry.

Paul's only consolation is his son, Rory (Martin Spanjers). Rory sympathizes with his dad and can often be heard murmuring, "Oh, dad," as he pats dad on the back. Paul does not receive much sympathy from his wife; after all she was left with the three kids for years while he traveled the country writing about sports.

"The boy is fine," Paul tells her. "It's the girls. They don't seem to like me much."

"You're just having problems adjusting to the fact that your daughters are becoming women," replies Cate. "Whatever is going on in their lives, you just have to trust they love you, too."

Ritter and Sagal are wonderfully familiar for viewers. But they have traded in their previous TV images to play a loving, mature couple. Gone is the womanizing Jack Tripper of "Three's Company" fame and the big-haired, wildly dressed Peg Bundy of "Married... With Children."

"8 Simple Rules..." surprisingly rises above the standard sitcom fare to be a funny comedy. Many of the situations, and dad's advice, will sound familiar to everyone because, despite the changing society, teenagers and parents face the eternal struggle to understand each other.

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