Reviews

8 Simple Rules: Season Two

This does a fantastic job honoring the late John Ritter and preserving his memory, while also remembering to be a great comedy.


8 Simple Rules

Distributor: Lionsgate
Cast: Martin Spanjers, James Garner, Katey Sagal, David Spade, Kaley Cuoco, Billy Aaron Brown, Amy Davidson, John Ritter
Network: ABC
Trailer:
UK release date: Available as import
US release date: 2009-05-19
Website
Amazon

When John Ritter passed away during the filming of the second season of ABC's 8 Simple Rules (previously known as 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, it was hard to imagine the show continuing at all, let alone doing his memory justice. After all, Ritter was the sitcom's comic center, and a father figure to cast members both on and off screen.

Thankfully, everyone involved in the show pulled together and soldiered on beautifully, just as one would hope that people would do in real life in the face of such a tragic loss. Not only did they continue in a way that lovingly honored Ritter, but, perhaps just as importantly, they never lost sight of that fact that 8 Simple Rules is a comedy.

That's not to say that the cast and creators skimmed over the difficult topics. There are some very real, very deep, and very touching emotional moments, especially in the first few episodes after the death of Paul Hennessy, Ritter's character. Particularly well portrayed are Cate's (Katey Sagal) sense of emptiness -- unable to sleep in the bedroom she shared with Paul -- and her frustration at being unable to stop the pain her children felt because she was experiencing so much pain and grief herself.

Sagal's performance is pitch-perfect as a woman who suddenly finds herself both a widow and a single mom in one fell swoop. If Cate is the family's rock in their time of crisis, then Sagal is the show's gem.

The actors playing the three Hennessy kids are also spot-on in their respective portrayals of unfathomable grief. But they are also hitting all the notes of somewhat typical teen behavior. And because they are teenagers, the comedy comes back quicker than it does with the other characters.

When Bridget (The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco) and Kerry (Amy Davidson from CSI: NY) return to high school a few weeks after their father's death and are greeted by uncomfortable silence in the cafeteria, Bridget blurts out "Geez, who died?" It's not the most sensitive sentiment, and some viewers may have found it even a little offensive, but it is in keeping with her somewhat superficial character, and best of all, it's truly funny.

Cuoco's Bridget tends to get the lion's share of comedic bits as the season continues, and she delivers them brilliantly, but the brightest spots are the poignant moments mixed in during exchanges between Bridget and Kerry. To me, the reconnection of the sisterly relationship and the strengthening of those bonds becomes the focal point of the show. Additionally, Davidson's level-headed Kerry is the perfect foil for flighty Bridget.

Completing the triad of comic teens is Martin Spanjers (HBO's True Blood) as younger brother Rory. Though often overshadowed by the girls, he has some really great moments too, both in the 14-year-old boys are inherently humorous category, and in the sense of a young man losing his hero and role model at a pivotal age. He plays both with an openness that adds volumes to the believability of the character as well as the show. Watching these three navigate these situations, it's tough to imagine more perfect casting on television.

Rounding out the core cast are season two additions James Garner as Cate's father, Jim and David Spade as her slacker nephew, CJ. Garner plays Jim as the cantankerous curmudgeon he has perfected over the years, and Spade's CJ is his patented pop-culture spewing persona with a hidden heart of gold. Clearly both were brought in to fill the vacant fatherly role, Jim with a grandfatherly version of worldly wisdom and CJ with an irreverent, slightly skewed version of sage advice. They are both good—and funny—in these parts, especially when at odds with one another, but it says a lot that it takes two comic actors to attempt to fill the void left by Ritter.

The 8 Simple Rules: Season Two DVD set features all 24 original episodes, but it doesn't include any bonus material. One imagines that this is because of Ritter's absence, and it's just as well. Tearful interviews and after-the-fact tribute features are entirely unnecessary when the show itself has done such a fantastic job of honoring the man, his memory and his comedy.

6

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image