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Gamble was replaced by Judd Pillot and John Peaslee, who had performed the same role in the final season of Spade's sitcom, Just Shoot Me! The Friday night "death slot" ratings took their toll on 8 Simple Rules.The third season finale was not aired for May sweeps.

The 54-year-old had been rushed to hospital straight from a rehearsal for 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter.

The final series, its title trimmed down to 8 Simple Rules, ended in 2005, having won a cinematography Emmy in 2004.

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.

Following Ritter's death, ABC announced that 8 Simple Rules would continue after a hiatus, and would incorporate the death of his character.

Subsequent episodes dealt with the family's reaction to his death and how they moved on from it. Garner and Spade later received starring roles in order to fill the void left by Ritter for the remainder of the series' run.