I’m glad I don’t have to make these type of decisions

ABC Faces Tough Choice on Season After Ritter Death
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – ABC was left with a major hole in its prime-time lineup on Friday after the sudden death of actor John Ritter, who had shown promise of bringing a larger audience back to the struggling network with the comedy “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.”
Ritter, 54, collapsed on Thursday evening while filming the fourth episode of the show for the upcoming season in Burbank, California.
The main artery from his heart tore in an undiagnosed ailment often related to high blood pressure. He died at a hospital near the studio lot.
Shocked ABC executives expressed sympathy to the family of the former “Three’s Company” star and had no immediate comment on their broadcast schedule.
Previously ABC had planned on Sept. 23 to start the second season of “8 Simple Rules,” which at 8 p.m. leads off the Tuesday night prime-time lineup that was the highlight of ABC’s 2002 season, when its steady audience numbers virtually stopped the network’s overall ratings decline.
The program placed a respectable 43 among nearly 190 prime time shows in 2002, the best performance of an ABC comedy, according to Nielsen Media Research, drawing an average of 11 million viewers and helping ABC in its efforts to reestablish itself as the home of family-friendly comedies.
Shares of ABC-owner Walt Disney Co. dropped 44 cents, 2.1 percent, to close at $20.24 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.
Syracuse University television professor Robert Thompson said that ABC had almost no option but to end the series, although he said the network could honor the actor’s legacy by showing the three filmed episodes, which could draw a large audience.
Ritter was best known for his “Three’s Company” role of Jack Tripper, a bachelor cook living with two single women and masquerading as a homosexual in order to mollify a landlord who did not want single men and women living together.
The sex farce was seen as pushing the limits of good taste by the standards of network television in the 1970s and Ritter uniquely important, using traditional slapstick and pratfalls to give the then-shocking series broad appeal, he said.
“8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” also depended on Ritter’s comedic strength, and the title referred to a father-daughter dynamic that cannot exist without the father character, he said.
“As for ABC’s options, I don’t think they’ve got many,” he said, predicting cancellation.
When actor Michael J. Fox left “Spin City,” the comedy was able to gently usher out his character and welcome in another who took his job. That would not work in a show about a family, Thompson said.
Comedian Redd Foxx died a month after premiering “The Royal Family” in 1991, and CBS wrote in the death of his character, but the series did not catch on and was canceled.
Financial analyst Mike Gallant of brokerage CIBC said the loss of Ritter would hurt an ABC season from which he believed investors already expect too much. The network trails CBS, Fox and NBC in the ratings and is the key near-term driver for Disney stock, he said.
Reality shows, the quick fix of last season, have faded in popularity and offer less opportunity to fill schedule holes for ABC as well as its rivals, Gallant said.
The only silver lining is that the network, already working on shows to introduce midseason and with a number of returning series such as “Life with Bonnie,” was in much better shape to weather such a loss than last year, he said.