‘Rules’ under the microscope

Ritter, Segal feeling the pressure

ABC is hoping “8” is enough to fill many Nielsen diaries with love — and help re-establish the Alphabet’s credentials as the family web.

While network execs always have high hopes for their new fall shows, few skeins come with built-in expectations as large as those surrounding “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter,” the family laffer led by sitcom vets John Ritter and Katey Segal. ABC thinks the show’s meat-and-potatoes approach to comedy is exactly what the network needs to reverse its sagging ratings.

Indeed, “Rules” will air Tuesdays at 8 p.m., leading off an almost completely new night of comedy. Its success or failure in that slot will play a large role in determining how ABC does for the night — and the season.

Even the show’s stars are feeling the pressure.

“With this sort of response we’ve been getting, it makes us dizzy,” Ritter says. “We have high expectations, but now it seems like the expectations have accelerated a little bit.”

Flody Suarez, exec producer of “8 Simple Rules” with Tracy Gamble, Michael Bostick and Tom Shadyac, says everyone connected with the show feels the need to live up to ABC’s expectations. “We’re looking at every page, every word, every scene” of each show to ensure quality.

Producers are already walking a delicate tightrope as they construct future episodes, trying to come up with ones that are family-friendly yet not sugary sweet. The early buzz is that “Rules” will be more “Roseanne” and less “Home Improvement,” though the dad-driven focus of the latter laffer will likely pop up as well.

While many a show has been killed by excessive preseason hype — remember Jackie Mason’s ill-fated “Chicken Soup”? — the gang on “8 Simple Rules” isn’t about to complain about all the publicity.

“It’s better to have this kind of buzz than the other kind,” Segal says.

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