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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 rating also took a plunge shortly after episodes dealing with Paul's death and it was cancelled within two years.


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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
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    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Bridget. Good luck finding an episode where she doesn't do this.
    • Kerry as well, although to a lesser extent.
  • 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 One.
  • 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)
  • 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?"
  • 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.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Rory has tried repeatedly to get his own monkey. Every time he succeeds he is forced to give it back.
  • Fallen Princess: Bridget, after Kyle breaks up with her.
  • Freaky Friday: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 One.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Overprotective Dad: The whole premise, at first.
  • 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 3rd 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.
  • 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)
  • 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.


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