8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter: Season 2” Studio: Lionsgate Year: 2009 Rated: NR Film Length: 528 minutes Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (details not provided) Languages: English Dolby Digital 2.0 The Show In the world of TV sitcoms, it seems as if some shows gain fame and/or notoriety on the basis of the writing, the content, or the actors. In the case of 8 Simple Rules, it seems that notoriety was gained through loss. John Ritter’s sudden and untimely death became the spotlight of the show and immediately the series was put under a microscope it never had before. The second season of 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter continues the lives of the Hennessys; father Paul (John Ritter), mother Cate (Katey Sagal), daughters Bridget (Kaley Cuoco) and Kerry (Amy Davidson), and son Rory (Martin Spanjers). Using W. Bruce Cameron’s identically named comedy book as the source material, the sitcom follows the overworked mother and father in their attempts to manage their teenager’s burgeoning lives while still finding time for each other. Cate’s life is thrown into chaos by Paul’s tragic heart attack while shopping for groceries. She suddenly finds herself struggling to perform both roles of parenting as well as being the sole provider for the family. These new circumstances prompt Cate’s father Jim (James Gardner) to come from out of state and help her keep the family running. Shortly after that, Cate’s slacker nephew C.J. (David Spade) comes to visit the house and ends up moving in. I was taken by surprise by this show, mostly because my initial impressions were that it wasn’t very funny. Before the episode devoted to Paul’s death, I felt as if I was being strong-armed into subscribing to a certain set of family values. It seemed as if every episode had a moral tale to tell and the audience was going to *get* that moral tale, and damn the torpedoes. The few episodes after Paul's passing didn’t fare much better, with very few legitimate laughs and way too much canned audience laughter. Then, the heavens opened with the arrival of C.J. into the house. David Spade’s character takes the show from scraping the bottom of the laugh barrel to rolling in smart, clever, and witty jokes. You can almost sense the joy from the writers who were responsible for C.J.’s dialogue. To put it bluntly, I laughed more times in his first episode than in all ones before it combined. Surprisingly, and happily, 8 Simple Rules seems to gain speed and really find its step with the addition of this final main character. The jokes became a bit more subtle, more adult, and a lot less ham fisted with the punchline dialog. Suddenly characters that previously were very two dimensional, like the eternally hopeless and conceited Bridget, had better jokes and more sophistication. Kudos to the production team for that. Picture Quality The second season of 8 Simple Rules looks pretty good on DVD, but nothing spectacular. Extra credit for the widescreen presentation of a standard TV show. From what I saw, the colors were solid and well separated with strong details. The series takes place almost entirely inside the Hennessy’s house, so there’s not much outdoor views of any sort. All in all, a great presentation and worthy of the DVD release. Audio Quality The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is adequate for the needs of the show, but it’s not a godsend. I could wish for a 5.1 track of some kind, but for a standard issue sitcom I suppose it’s not a necessity. Special Features There were no special features provided on this set. Conclusion As much as I ended up enjoying 8 Simple Rules, I couldn’t shake the feeling of the heavy hand of Disney on this series. The beginning half of the season came off as just a bit too wholesome, trying a bit too hard to send a message of morality that didn’t really need to be sent. I could almost picture in my head the familial discussions meant to occur after the credits roll on an episode, which has always been a calling card of the mouse house. In the end though, 8 Simple Rules manages to succeed after it gets out of its own way. C.J.’s arrival midway into the season became the point where I started to really enjoy the show and pay attention to it again. Paul’s death, a definite catalyst for the first half of the season, is handled with grace and care and I applaud the producers for continuing the show despite such daunting odds created by the loss of a main character and family patriarch. This season is worth checking out, even if only as a rental. I ended up really enjoying it in the end.