ABC blesses laffers from Touchstone

'Simple' and 'Bonnie' get full seasons

The new season’s not even two weeks old, but ABC has already given good news to frosh Touchstone Television laffers “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” and “Life With Bonnie.”

Skeins both snagged back-nine orders Thursday, meaning ABC will air at least 22 half-hour episodes of the shows this season. “Rules,” starring John Ritter and Katey Sagal, airs Tuesdays at 8; Bonnie Hunt starrer “Life With Bonnie” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

“In three weeks, they’ve demonstrated they’re very strong shows for the network, shows we need to rebuild,” ABC Entertainment prexy Susan Lyne told Daily Variety, adding that the early nature of the pickups was meant to send a signal.

“We wanted to demonstrate our confidence in the shows to the producers and the rest of the network,” she said. “And they’ve earned it.”

Touchstone topper Steve McPherson said he and his development team were “really happy to get the pickups so quickly.”

“The vote of confidence is really important for the show,” he said. “It sends an important message to the community and builds on the momentum we’ve had right out of the box.”

Among adults 18-49 and total viewers, “Rules” has won its 8 p.m. slot in each of its three outings. Its 5.5/16 demo average is a 62% leap over the same three weeks last year, while this past Tuesday’s score repped the Alphabet’s best in-season sitcom numbers since November 1999, according to Nielsen.

“Bonnie” also won its half-hour during two 8:30 p.m. preview segs, and finished a solid second behind NBC’s “Frasier” in its first 9 p.m. outing. Latter score repped ABC’s best demo numbers in the slot in 8 months.

Flody Suarez, who exec produces “Rules” with Tracy Gamble, Tom Shadyac and Michael Bostick, said he was thrilled by the pickup.

“To be an 8 o’clock show and a self-starter for the night and perform as we have — it’s beyond our wildest hopes,” he said.

‘Rules’ had tough road

Lyne agreed that “Rules” had “a really tough task” this fall.

“It had to lead off what was almost an entirely new comedy block,” she said. “(But) it’s demonstrated it’s got very wide appeal, from teens to adults 35-49. And it’s right in ABC’s wheelhouse. It’s the kind of show people have watched on ABC for decades.”

“Rules” is produced in association with FlodyCo. and Shady Acres.

As for “Bonnie,” from exec producers Hunt and Don Lake, Lyne said the skein’s status as one of the season’s few critically acclaimed new laffers is “a bonus.”

“We’ve said that family comedies don’t have to be safe and follow any cookie cutter design, and this is definitely a very fresh show in every way: Bonnie’s voice, the taping of the show, the improv parts of it,” Lyne said. “This was a risky show and yet people embraced it because Bonnie (Hunt) is genuinely funny.”

While some have criticized ABC for relying too heavily on inhouse unit Touchstone, McPherson said the success of the two skeins “points to a real success story of vertical integration.

“We set out last season to target some family shows with real strong points of view for ABC, and we were able to successfully develop them together for the network.”

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