`8 Simple Rules' is one of those shows that can be watched over and over again. I don't know how many times I've seen these first season episodes on television, but I never get tired of seeing Paul Hennessy (John Ritter) being run ragged by his teenage daughters, the superficial yet supremely confident Bridget (Kaley Cuoco), and the more serious-minded but fragile Kerry (Amy Davidson). The youngest member of the Hennessy clan, and the only other male in the house is Rory (Martin Spanjers). His main ambition is to own a monkey, or, failing that, something poisonous. Paul's wife, Cate (Katey Sagal) tries to make sense of the pandemonium that seems to engulf their lives. "I swear to God, Paul," is her exasperated constant refrain as her husband tries to keep their daughters' affection while at the same time doing his best to limit any funny business that he thinks their boyfriends may have in mind.
So what makes this sitcom better than any number of other family-based shows? I think it's the performances that all the actors bring to their characters and the razor-sharp scripts. There are 28 episodes in this first season and there's not a dud among them. Although John Ritter has the lead role, the rest of the cast gets a good share of the laughs and most of the stories revolve around Bridget and Kerry's lives. The strength of the guest stars helps too, notably Larry Miller as Paul's unscrupulous colleague, Tommy who is also the father of Bridget's none too bright boyfriend, Kyle (Billy Aaron Brown), and Patrick Warburton as Paul's boss, Nick Sharpe whose own life bears an uncanny resemblance to Paul's.
There are far too many highlights to list here in their entirety, but some of my favourite moments are: the `Three's Company' spoof in episode 16 (`Three's Company' was an Americanised version of the 1970s sitcom `Man About the House' in which John Ritter played the Richard O'Sullivan role); the moment when Bridget and her nemesis, Jenna Sharpe (Nikki Danielle Moore) square up to each other gunfighter-style, "Whatever," says Jenna viciously to which Bridget responds with a sharp intake of breath as though this was the worst insult possible; the studio audience's reaction when they see Cate just about to enter the girls' bedroom as Rory is rescuing his stash of girlie magazines that his sisters have confiscated; the hysterically awful cheerleader auditions that Kerry turns to her advantage; and Rory's reaction to seeing the new-look Aunt Maggie (Cybill Shepherd) in the season's final episode.
It would have been nice to have some cast interviews or commentaries included in this set, but the only bonus material in the package is a blooper reel. These are probably more amusing for the actors involved and the studio audience. There are only so many times you can watch actors fluffing their lines before it becomes boring. But the 28 episodes contained in this collection are wonderfully funny and it's a pleasure to own them on DVD. Don't be surprised if you unintentionally while away a whole evening watching them.