A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that despite a bit of iffy language ("damn," "ass") and some fairly light sexual innuendo, this sitcom offers a positive representation of family, teens, and parental guidance. The first season focuses on a father who becomes more involved with his teenagers' lives after his wife goes back to work; in later episodes, coping with the sudden death of a parent and living/coping with extended family become central themes of the show.
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What's the story?
In the first season of 8 SIMPLE RULES, viewers are introduced to Paul (John Ritter) and Cate Hennessey (Katey Sagal), a Michigan couple raising teenagers Bridget (Kaley Cuoco), Kerry (Amy Davidson), and Rory (Martin Spanjers). When Cate returns to her full-time nursing career, Paul puts his sports writing career on hold to be more involved with his kids, but he finds being a hands-on dad overwhelming, especially when his daughters start dating. He manages his stress by publishing an advice column for parents who are struggling with similar challenges. And -- much to his daughters' embarrassment -- he begins imposing rules borrowed from the resulting book, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, on the young men brave enough to go out with his girls. The second season focuses more on the family's struggles to cope after Paul's sudden death (a plot twist precipitated by Ritter's unexpected death at the beginning of the show's second season).
Is it any good?
The Hennesseys' lives are full of humorous, heart-warming moments as Paul and Cate help their kids (and each other) survive the journey through puberty. But when Paul suddenly passes away, Cate is faced with the challenge of raising the kids alone. Her father, Jim (James Garner), moves in to help them cope with the loss -- and to get farther from his estranged wife. Also joining them is Cate's nephew C.J. (David Spade), whose unruly but loving personality helps the family keep its sense of humor.
While 8 Simple Rules sometimes relies on clichéd comedy devices -- such as Bridget's ditzy dumb blonde persona -- this award-winning sitcom offers a positive representation of family, teens, and strong parental guidance. It's also a heart-warming and optimistic reminder of how, in times of difficult or even traumatic change, family can provide us with the strength to keep going.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how families cope with change. What happens when one parent goes back to work after being at home full-time? What changes when a family member, like a grandparent, moves in? How does a family survive the death of a parent? Families can also talk about how death can impact a TV show. How can a popular series reinvent itself after one of its main characters suddenly leaves the show? What other shows have been affected by that type of situation?