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Series / 8 Simple Rules

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Based on a popular W. Bruce Cameron column, 8 Simple Rules is your basic Dom Com where Paul and Cate Hennessy (played by John Ritter and Katey Sagal) attempt to ride herd on the burgeoning love life of their teenage daughters, bookish Kerry (Amy Davidson) and promiscuous Bridget (Kaley Cuoco). Rounding out the family is son Rory (Martin Spanjers), who is Paul's only other source of testosterone, and thus they bond often.

The premise was good and it worked well... until the show was derailed by the death of John Ritter just two weeks before the Season 2 premiere. The resultant Retool brought in Cate's cantankerous father Jim (James Garner) and slacker nephew C.J. (David Spade). Because of Ritter's death, the show's name was shortened from the quirky 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter to simply 8 Simple Rules. The ratings also took a plunge shortly after episodes dealing with Paul's death and it was cancelled within two years. Despite this the show still managed to last a total of 76 episodes, 45 after Ritter's death when he had completed 31.

The series aired on ABC from September 2002 to April 2005, a total of 76 episodes in 3 seasons.

8 Simple Rules provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • In an episode, Paul imagines the entire cast in the roles of John Ritter's previous sitcom, Three's Company.
    • Cate's old flame is portrayed by Ed O'Neill, who played Katey Sagal's husband on Married... with Children.
  • Aesop Amnesia: During the first season, Cate tells Paul not to get his hopes up about the idea of being seen as popular in their daughters' eyes. However, sometime after Ritter's passing, she tries to appear to be "with it" in front of them herself.
  • Age Lift: Despite Kerry being Bridget's younger sister, Amy Davidson is actually 6 years older than Kaley Cuoco.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Damian. He even has a guitar leitmotif when he appears in a scene. Bridget assumes that everyone can hear it, but it's just in her head.
  • All Men Are Perverts: A ton of examples:
    • Kerry losing her virginity to a guy who says he'll call her but doesn't get her number.
    • A 30-something guy who hits on Bridget at the gym.
    • A guy who asks Bridget and Kerry out on separate dates.
    • Rory kissing a random girl to practice for his girlfriend.
    • C.J. going gaga over a woman with large breasts while dating another woman.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Paul is one of the walking definitions of this trope. A lot of episodes shown he's fully aware of this trope and invokes it to have fun with the girls. Cate herself is not immune from this trope either — especially when she teaches Sex Ed in Bridget's class. Whenever Paul looks at his daughters, no matter how grown up and sexy they become he can only ever perceive them as a pair of adorable 8 year olds and treats them accordingly.
  • Appeal to Flattery: In one episode, Cate finds out she used to date her daughters' principal. She believes he's being too harsh on them because she broke up with him. However, he claims he was the one who broke up with her. Cate spends the rest of the episode trying to prove she was the one who broke up with him. Her daughter Kerry tries to tell her to let it go. Cate then says she's just trying to prove she was both studious and sexy in high school, just like Kerry. This convinces Kerry to support her.
  • Argument of Contradictions:
    • Paul having a phone conversation with Bridget. We only get to hear Paul's side:
    Paul: "Dob" means "date of birth." Yes, it does. ... Yes, it does. ... Yes, it does.
    • "Twenty or fewer is called a kick-back! ... Yes, it is! ... Yes, it is!"
    • It comes up again when he tells her in a phone conversation to "break a leg". May be a Running Gag.
  • Ascended Extra: Cate was mainly a supporting role in the first season, as was Rory with Paul's conflict with his daughters as the central plot. After Paul's death, Cate became the lead and she and Rory received more plots.
  • Backing Away Slowly: After Cate's failed attempt at currying flavor to Kerry to get her to help Bridget study and pass her class by baking cookies in one episode due to the flavor being the favorite of Bridget's instead of Kerry's, she bakes cookies once more at the end of the selfsame episode, this time to compliment Kerry for her helping Bridge pass her class successfully. Unfortunately, Cate remains unable to remember Kerry's favorite cookie flavor, as evidence by everyone else's reaction when Cate announces the flavor of the cookies in question — Jim, Rory, C.J., and Bridget all sport an Oh, Crap! expression, drop the cookie each of them is holding at the moment, and proceed to inch away from the kitchen in this fashion.
    Kerry: PEANUT BUTTER!!!
  • Based on an Advice Book: The first season, at least.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • Bridget uses this trope as her social image. When a boy calls for her and Rory tells him she can't come to the phone because she's in the bathroom, she flips out.
    Bridget: Oh my God! No one can know I use the bathroom! My life is ruined! Damage control, I have to do damage control! (picks up the phone and starts dialing)
    Paul: No calls, Bridget! Put the phone down! I've got a very important announcement for the whole family.
    Bridget: Dad, priorities here, okay? If I don't get on this phone in the next ten minutes, people are going to think I actually use the bathroom!
    • Played for Drama in another episode where Bridget gets a broken nose and wants to stay home from school until it heals. Everyone at school still loves her.
  • Betty and Veronica: Kerry (Betty) and Bridget (Veronica) become this over her old boyfriend Kyle (Archie) in Season 1.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Bridget (Blonde), Rory (Brunet) and Kerry (Redhead).
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter:
    • Bridget is the more conventional example, where she likes boys, parties and rebelling.
    • Kerry in a different way where she acts out for not fitting in.
  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: Trope Namer. Specifically, in "Closure," Kerry has her ex-boyfriend over and his hiding him in the attic. She ends up kissing him and panics and leaves the room, saying that she's not ready for that, that she's starting to want to and she doesn't think that she wants to want to. She runs to her older sister, Bridget, explaining what happened and that she's starting to get feelings for him again but isn't sure she wants to. Bridget tells her that she needs to get of the house. She agrees that it's a good plan, that she shouldn't be around him because she might do something that she'd regret. Though she would enjoy it, but she would regret it. "I mean, I'd really enjoy it, but..."
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: when Aunt Maggie (Cybil Shepherd) turns up both Bridget and more surprisingly Kerry are delighted when she buys them their first cleavage-enhancing wonderbras.
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: Bridget wears a schoolgirl outfit for her Halloween costume despite being an actual schoolgirl and even her grandfather thinks she looks like a stripper.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Rory. Twice.
  • Character Development: Kerry started out as a cynical and depressed teenager but eventually grew to be nicer and more confident.
  • Character Exaggeration: Inverted. In the book, the older daughter was much ditzier and more materialistic, the younger daughter was an emo goth, and the son was a total cloudcuckoolander. The show toned this down a lot.
  • Childish Older Sibling: Older sister Bridget is ditzy, shallow, and obsessed with her popularity and appearance. The middle child, Kerry, is very studious, responsible, and socially conscious. However, both mature after the death of their father.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Rory's class make fun of him for Paul coming into the school wearing slippers. At the end of the episode Rory dumps a box of slippers on Paul's bed — saying kids have been stuffing them in his locker. Paul gets interested in one sheepskin pair.
    • When Cate finds a joint in Kerry's bag and asks her where it came from, CJ grabs it, takes a long sniff, and says "I'm guessing not Amsterdam. Maybe western Canada. I'm really good at this." When everyone glares at him, he sheepishly adds, "And that's not the point, is it?"
  • Compliment Backfire: Cate baking cookies for the second time, in attempt to compliment Kerry for helping Bridget with her studies, doesn't get her the result Cate hoped for because she fails to remember Kerry's favorite cookie flavor.
    Kerry: PEANUT BUTTER!!!
  • Couch Gag: Rory's way to taunt the supposed girls' date changed between title sequences in Season 1 and during the episodes of Season 2 before Paul passed away.
  • Curse Cut Short: During Season 1.
    Rory: Santa can kiss my—
    Paul: Rory!
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kerry.
  • The Ditz: Bridget.
  • Dumb Blonde: Bridget. And Kyle.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Bridget gets voted Class President, is able to make men do anything she wants and even is still loved when she has to walk around with a facial mask on. Everyone loves her so much that when she announces herself on the intercom, a faint standing ovation is heard. Later on Kerry is accidentally turned blonde when Bridget botches dyeing her hair and begins to appreciate its' power when men start buying her drinks in bars.
  • Fallen Princess: Bridget, after Kyle breaks up with her.
  • Food as Bribe: Cate tries to do this with Kerry by baking cookies. The keyword here is "tries", because Cate fails to remember Kerry's favorite cookie flavor (peanut butter) and ends up baking cookies with butterscotch flavor (Bridget's favorite flavor) instead.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Cate and Bridget, Jim and CJ, Rory and..... his hamster, and a jealous, left out Kerry.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: Rory gets this treatment more than once.
  • Get Out!: Paul to Rory after he finds him hiding in Kerry's closet in the pilot. And later, as Kerry needles Bridget after she lied about going to the library. "Kerry! Out!" And a third time after Rory comes up Paul mocking his sisters — "Dad? Do you think I'm pretty?" "Get out!" In fact, this is something of a running gag with Rory throughout the series.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • An episode contains Kerry thinking of working at some food joint at the mall irksome... followed by her doing what she hated thinking about in the next scene.
    • When Cate is teaching Sex Ed in Bridget's class, she assures her daughter she won't be embarrassed. Cut to the class where Cate finishes off saying "and that is how Bridget was born".
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Popular and boy-crazy Bridget is the pretty sister, while Kerry is the smart sister. A few episodes do explore the conflict between these archetypes — mainly Kerry wishing that she were thought of as the pretty sister too.
  • Groin Attack: When Cate mentioned a school coach who tried to impress her despite her lack of interest, Jim offered this advice: "Have you considered kicking him in the grapes?"
  • Happily Married: Paul and Cate, before Paul's death obviously.
  • Hidden Depths: Bridget, Rory and CJ all showed these after Paul died.
  • Hourglass Plot: No Right Way, the second episode aired after John Ritter's passing, shows Bridget easily bouncing back from Paul's death and eagerly preparing for a dance, and Kerry sulking all alone and resenting Kyle for saying he loves her, thinking he simply felt sorry for her. Come the end of the episode, Bridget gets ready to go to the dance, but suddenly breaks down in tears. After the sisters have a conversation with Kate, Kerry ends up going to the dance and having a good time with Kyle, and Bridget stays home, crying.
  • I Lied: Cate to Bridget after she snaps a photo of her and Bridget complains "You promised no more embarrassing moments."
  • Incest Subtext: After Aunt Maggie gets a water bra and becomes more buxom, Rory is more than eager and willing to continue asking his aunt for more hugs just so he could feel her chest. Their teenage neighbour Mary Doyle also clearly has the hots for her older brother Donnie although this is subverted when it turns out all the Doyle children are actually adopted.
  • Incest Yay : the whole family hugely popular in this regard.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Ed O'Neill (Al Bundy) plays one of Cate's old flames.
  • Important Haircut: Cate puts a blonde streak in her hair as a sign she's changed over the summer.
  • Jerkass: The guy Kerry lost her virginity to. She's been trying to call him back, but he doesn't answer. She asked C.J. to drive her to him. But when C.J. parked just outside the house, Kerry cries and wants to go home.
  • Laugh Track: Used in every episode, except for the one where Paul dies. Although a laugh track WAS later added to that episode in syndicated airings. It was kept out of the DVD release, though.
  • Lawful Stupid: Kerry in "Ditch Day" where she is adamant to going to school and study during ditch day, even when the TEACHERS don't want to be teaching that day.
  • Last Het Romance: Rory is this for his date. He goes to great lengths to make her fall for him, but fails. However, even she thinks it should have worked, and thus concludes that she must not be into guys at all.
  • Love Triangle: Kerry/Kyle/Bridget in the last half of Season O1.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: Initially in Season 1. Bookish conservative Kerry is contrasted with outgoing flirty Bridget. It keeps subverting the trope however as Kerry is the first to lose her virginity, by cheating on her boyfriend too. One episode actually has Kerry remark that Paul expects her to be "some old spinster like Miss Havisham" — and she acts like a Whore to annoy him.
  • Marshmallow Hell: Rory with his aunt. Invoked by him actually.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Kerry, although she spends more time whining about it than fulfilling it. She actually seems to be Paul's preferred child.
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    • Both Kerry and her female prom date are straight, assume the other to be gay, and are only going to the prom together to support gay rights.
    • At one point, Jim thought Principal Gibb was hitting on Rory.
    • Through a series of comic misunderstandings, everyone thinks CJ went to a gay bar and hooked up with a guy there.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: C.J. ruined Jim's chance of being together with his wife.
  • No Bisexuals: During the gay episode, Kerry and her prom date are immediately assumed to be lesbians, and Rory's date discovers that she's not attracted to men at all.
  • No Indoor Voice: "Kerry is not a virgin!?"
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The water bottle scene.
    • The reason C.J. goes by C.J. is implied to be the result of some illegal activity.
  • Not So Above It All: Kerry speaks about how shallow modelling is when an agent comes around to see Bridget. However the agent says her red hair is fabulous and suggests she try it too — reducing Kerry to a bashful pile of giggles. The Stinger has her acting out the commercial Bridget auditioned for in her room.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • "You know!" Shouted by Kyle to Paul after a long, awkward silence before fleeing the house. Justified since Paul knows that Kyle cheated on Bridget with Kerry.
    • Jim, Rory, C.J., and Bridget have this reaction, non-verbally, as Cate bakes cookies for Kerry while failing to remember Kerry's favorite cookie flavor for the second time.
      Kerry: PEANUT BUTTER!!!
  • One Side of the Story: Standard shoplifting mix-up.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The show was a situation comedy, but written as a drama, with drama writers, for the episodes dealing with Paul's death.
  • Parting-Words Regret: The last thing Bridget said to her father before he died was "I hate you."
  • Pass the Popcorn: Rory comes in during a middle of a dispute between Bridget and Kerry over Kyle, munching from a bowl of popcorn.
  • Phoneaholic Teenager: Bridget was this. In an episode in which each member of the Hennessey had to temporarily give up a bad habit, Bridget's was talking on the phone too much.
  • Prom Wrecker: Subverted. CJ thinks Rory is going to do this at the school's Halloween dance by blowing up a giant pumpkin decoration. Since he's the head of security for the dance, CJ goes to stop him. However, the actual prank is to have Rory's friends dress as members of The Village People, surround CJ (who is dressed like a police officer), and start dancing to "Macho Man". This is meant to evoke a similar event that happened when CJ was a kid.
  • The Punishment Is the Crime: In "Bridget's New Job," Bridget tried to get her parents to agree with this when, after getting a job at a clothing store, she racked up a huge bill for clothes, then paid it off with the emergency credit card given to her by her parents. It didn't work — she was still made to do work around the house to pay off the debt.
  • Put on a Bus: The majority of the supporting characters were written out after John Ritter's death, since they were largely characters that only shared scenes with Ritter's character.
    • Several did make a few appearances.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • After John Ritter's untimely demise, the main premise was gone.
    • Also Kaley Cuoco injured her leg during filming of the third season and her injury was subsequently written into several episodes.
  • Retcon: Cate's parents were still married in Season 1 with them both visiting for Thanksgiving and the family staying at their condo in Florida. When Paul died they were suddenly retconned into being divorced for years so Jim could move in with Cate.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Male example. "Dorky" Donnie Doyle is said to have been a Gonk in his childhood. Bridget's jaw drops when she sees him all grown up.
  • Shower Shy: Rory is uncomfortable showering after gym when he compares himself to the seniors.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man:
    • "Dorky" Donnie Doyle, a clean-cut Naval Academy student who Bridget dates briefly.
    • Also Jeremy — a nerdy boy for whom Bridget develops a three-episode crush.
  • Stacy's Mom:
    • Cate is an extremely beautiful and voluptuous older woman, so much so that when Bridget inhabits her body in a "Freaky Friday" Flip episode, she grasps her bountiful breasts and asks her "How do you walk around with these?".
    • Aunt Maggie, played by the equally beautiful Cybill Shepherd.
  • Stumbling in the New Form: The show did an episode parodying Freaky Friday where Cate dreamed that she and Bridget switched bodies. There's a joke where Bridget has some trouble standing up because of Cate's larger breasts.
  • Swear Jar: Parodied — Rory has to put a dollar in a jar each time he mentions his desire to have a pet monkey.
  • The Tag: While most (though not all) of the episodes with John Ritter had tags, the post-Ritter ones did not. In post-Ritter episodes, the Closing Credits would start in the middle of the final scene.
  • Take Our Word for It: Kerry's painting is so brave and controversial, that even Paul can't look at it. We don't get to see it. There's also the video where Paul breaks Bridget's nose while playing tennis — we don't get to see that moment either, but it makes the entire family turn away in disgust.
  • Tempting Fate: When Jim manages to get his driver's license despite not studying the materials properly and acts smug in front of Cate, the following exchange takes place:
    Jim: Try to wipe it off.
    Cate: (beat) C.J.'s moving back in the basement with you.
    Jim: You're bluffing.
    (Cue C.J. walking into the room)
  • Their First Time: Kerry, the younger sister has sex for the first time before Bridget, something which doesn't please her older sibling:
    Kerry: Whattaya doing?
    Bridget: Oh you know, virgin stuff.
  • Token Houseguest: Following Paul's death, Cate' father Jim and nephew CJ moved into the house and became regular characters.
  • Twerp Sweating: Paul quotes some of the titular "simple rules" with Bridget's and Kerry's dates.
  • The Unfair Sex: Averted: Kerry cheats on Kyle while in France mostly out of lust, and is clearly portrayed as being the faulty party of the two. Although after its broadcast over the school intercom that she's had sex, he (Kyle) remarks he can't be too mad at her for cheating on him, since everyone thinks he was the one she lost her virginity to.
  • Unseen No More: Cate's parents 'appear' in the first season Thanksgiving episode but aren't seen. They do feature for real after Paul's death in Season 2.
  • "Well Done, Dad!" Guy: Paul genuinely valued the opinions of his children and wanted to make them proud.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Post-Ritter, between Cate and Principal Gibb. The series finale shows them kissing.


Video Example(s):


8 Simple Rules - Kerry

The trope namer and source of the page quote. In "Closure" from "8 Simple Rules," Kerry is trying to hide her ex-boyfriend Bruno in the family attic. She claims that they're only just friends now. However, when they share a kiss, she realizes that there may still be something there and beats a hasty retreat. She then admits to her sister, Bridget, that if she stayed around him, she might do something that she'd regret, though she would really enjoy it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ButIWouldReallyEnjoyIt

Media sources: