The first four post-Ritter episodes were shot without a live audience with James Garner and Suzanne Pleshette guest-starring as Cate's strict parents and David Spade guest-starring as Cate's wayward nephew, C. Before Ritter's death, 8 Simple Rules ranked 42nd in the Nielsen ratings.
Shortly afterwards, ABC officially cancelled 8 Simple Rules in May 2005.
While 8 Simple Rules ratings were well above those of the surrounding TGIF shows during its third season, ABC cancelled it due to the perceived inability to sell reruns of the show into syndication (a fourth season would have given the show the 100 episodes necessary to enter daily syndication).
The first three episodes of the series' second season had been completed when Ritter experienced discomfort during a rehearsal on the afternoon of September 11, 2003.
Crew members took him to a nearby hospital, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where he was misdiagnosed as having a heart attack and as a result, his condition had worsened when physicians later diagnosed him with an aortic dissection, and he died that evening at the age of 54.
The third season (after Ritter's death) took a creative turn, revolving more around cousin C. (David Spade) and grandfather Jim (James Garner), than the immediate Hennessy family, more specifically not revolving around the raising of the Hennessy girls.