Imagine being a father with a goofy 13-year old son, a discouraged teenage daughter and a stunning blond-haired, slightly rebellious high school senior who has questionable boyfriends. Now make yourself totally inept at handling the daily problems of parenting, and you have the life of Paul Hennessey, a journalist/father on the new ABC show “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.”

Paul Wong
Courtesy of ABC
Better than “Problem Child.” Maybe.

Apparently, rule one for dating one of Hennessey’s (John Ritter, “Three’s Company”) daughters is to be some degree of normal. Take, for example, the opening scene featuring Ritter, and his son Rory (portrayed by Martin Spanjers). They are watching James Bond when Kyle, the obnoxious boyfriend, comes to the house to pick up the gorgeous Bridget (Kaley Cuoco). Ritter plays the typical overbearing father type by referring to his “black belt” and the like. Immediately, you think to yourself “Another silly dysfunctional family sitcom”.

However, this show actually contains some believable characters and plots, even though they switch from one to another a little too fast for most viewers to appreciate. In the first show, Kerry (Amy Davidson) gets suspended from school, and with mom Cate (Katey Sagal, “Married with Children”) busy at the hospital, it’s up to Paul to handle all developing conflicts from the homecoming dance to a boss who causes Paul to worry about his daughter’s “study habits.”

Being in a house with all these girls with only one energetic, yet sometimes loony, son is certainly a challenge for our man Paul. (What? “Three’s Company Jr.”) Cate is clearly in charge of the household, inasmuch as that Paul’s big accomplishment of the day is taking the kids to school. Kerry is the troubled teen who slips in and out of various moods, while Bridget is the party- girl whose “it’s all about me” attitude is guaranteed to make any parent worry about their child.

Paul may act a little juvenile at times, which shows he has no idea how to handle girls, but he also expresses a realistic, loving side at times, and that’s what gives the show a human touch. Unlike a typical “Full House” ending with one family member saying “You’re right. I’m sorry”, “Eight Simple Rules” has a ending you would expect in an ordinary American household. One touching scene at the conclusion will give you a sense of satisfaction and the notion to come back next week for another taste. Unless, of course, ABC cancels it.

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