There are 8 simple rules for having a successful sit-com on television today.
1. Strong leading actor: John Ritter never really had much of a chance in his early career to show just how good his acting chops could be. Letâ€™s face it. While Threeâ€™s Company had quite a loyal following, it was never mistaken for anything more than a parody. Ritter was never asked to stretch himself here, and the role likely cost him better opportunities over the years. Fortunately, while 8 Simple Rules wasnâ€™t a great show either, it did offer quality enough work to allow Ritter to thrive. Unfortunately he would not live long enough to reap the rewards he was earning for himself.
2. Solid supporting cast: Who knew Katey Segal wasnâ€™t a one trick pony riding on the coattails of Peg Bundy? Who also knew you could find teenage girls who could act and satisfy the â€œotherâ€ attributes often necessary from female actors on television these days. The casting on this show is well above average.
3. Chemistry: All of the best acting in the world looks just like the best acting unless there is a spark in the cast. Watching just this first season, I was impressed with the camaraderie they appeared to have. The blooper reel really brings home how well these people worked together. Itâ€™s like I was watching a cast that had been together 5 years. They just clicked from the start.
4. Writing: There is nothing worse than forced comedy. You know exactly what Iâ€™m talking about, donâ€™t you. You can see a character reaching so far for a joke, itâ€™s a wonder their lips donâ€™t have stretch marks. Good comedy flows naturally. You donâ€™t have to work the jokes into the tapestry; the tapestry is the joke.
5. Live Audience: OK, there is something worse than forced comedy; itâ€™s canned laugh tracks. I know they put on those â€œlaugh nowâ€ signs, but I can tell genuine laughter from push button laughter. Somehow the producers have done a marvelous job of integrating the live audience with the staged action.
6. Concept: Family sit-coms have been done to death. There isnâ€™t an angle that hasnâ€™t been explored from the Father Knows Best all American family to the dysfunctional Bundy family from Married With Children. Weâ€™ve had the musical Partridges and the 2 dads non traditional families popular in the 1980â€™s. So how do you make a tired old concept work? You donâ€™t try so hard, thatâ€™s how. Let the dynamic between the characters sell the story. There arenâ€™t any gimmicks here, and sometimes plain vanilla tastes like heaven on a hot summer afternoon.
7. Production: Hereâ€™s a novel idea. How about we create a sit-com in HD with a letterboxed format. 8 Simple Rules is the first sit-com, to come to my attention, that put this much effort into its production. Watching this show is like getting a sneak peak at the next generation of comedy. It seems that sit-coms have decided to join the new millennium.
8. Audience: You canâ€™t have success without an audience. You canâ€™t create an audience or buy them from a store, but if you build a better show they will come.
8 Simple Rules is presented in an amazing 1.78:1 widescreen format. This looks great. Colors are dynamic and black levels are rock solid. I have never encountered a sit-com with this kind of image quality. Sadly, I never watched the show when it aired, so Iâ€™m not sure if it was broadcast in this form, but either way this is, I hope, a precedent-setting video presentation.
Even though the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not ambitious or aggressive at all, it is again laudable that a sit-com be given such serious treatment. Dialog pretty much dominates this mix, meaning it all lives in the center speaker with the rest in your front mains. Again, this is trend setting stuff that I hope is carried forward from here.
Just another very funny bloopers reel.
Iâ€™m sorry I missed this show when it first aired. Itâ€™s not great by any means, but it does mean well. The passing of John Ritter brought the show its greatest publicity, but by then it was too late for John or the show. I was admittedly one of those ignorant of the series until Ritter died. Iâ€™ve just given up on sit-coms for the most part. Iâ€™m tired of the one joke premises carried to a full season merely on sexual innuendo or toilet humor. There are bright spots in the cesspool of todayâ€™s sitcoms, and most of them are gone now. If you, like me, are looking for something else, you should give 8 Simple Rules a try. Disney has it affordably priced. You might find enough cash just lying around. After all, â€œGrandpa sometimes drops money he canâ€™t pick up.â€