It’s been a staple of TV family sitcoms (along with a brayingly offensive laugh-track) that the father of the family be a well-meaning but bumbling doofus. The best that one can say of the very best of this kind of show is that A: they are funny, and B: the viewer is not slammed over the head incessantly with the doofusosity of the paterfamilias. And unlike, say, “The Simpsons” or “Married With Children” it is not a key plot device in “8 Simple Rules”.

To people of a certain age, the plot device of an affectionate father who spent a lot of time at work suddenly discombobulated by the knowledge that his daughters are perched on the edge of the parental nest, madly flapping their wings in preparation for independent flight resonates. That feeling of being torn between pride and concern, while trying to hang on to the well-loved rituals of family life should be familiar to anyone who has raised children into the knuckle-chewing teenage years. The late John Ritter and Katey Sagal make a believable, affectionate couple, as the parents of two bickering daughters and a smart-ass son.

The first season of “8 Simple Rules” plays very well, perhaps better than it would have when broken up by commercials. (And the places were commercials would have been inserted is not that obvious when viewing the DVD) The pilot episode seemed to have been rather labored over, as if a lot of people frantically tinkered with every aspect in order to make sure everything was just right, at the cost of spontaneity. But within three or four more episodes, the actors hit a certain comfortable stride, and level of ease with their characters and each other and the result was a bitter-sweet and amusing look at a modern and mostly functional family.

Inclusion of the blooper-reel, with many spontaneous and funny ad-libs, makes it touchingly clear that John Ritter was almost indispensable to the show. The producers made a gallant effort to carry on, after his appallingly sudden death, but to no avail. The story of a family, with the focus on the father and his relationships with his children had changed too much.

“8 Simple Rules” will be available after August 7th, through

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer, who lives in San Antonio, and blogs at The Daily Brief. More about her own books is at

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