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Sep 12, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Aronson to Take On ‘Bernie Mac’ Showrunning Duties

For the second time in 2003, there has been a change at the top of Fox’s “The Bernie Mac Show.” Peter Aronson, president of Regency TV, which produces the sitcom, will take over showrunning duties on “Bernie Mac,” stepping down from his role atop the production company. Mr. Aronson replaces Michael Borkow as executive producer. In March, Mr. Borkow was tapped to replace the show’s creator, Larry Wilmore, in producing duties. Mr. Borkow will maintain his development deal with 20th Century Fox TV.

John Ritter Dead at 54: The sudden death of funnyman John Ritter cast a pall over Hollywood and the public he always made laugh with an award-winning style that was rooted both in the broadest slapstick comedy and impeccably timed dialogue. Mr. Ritter collapsed Thursday on the set of “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teen-Age Daughter,” which had brought ABC some much-needed ratings boosts after it debuted in fall 2002. He would have been 55 next Wednesday.

Mr. Ritter was taken to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, where he died despite surgeons’ attempts to save him. According to a statement from Mr. Ritter’s publicist, the cause of death was an undetectable “dissection of the aorta.” Mr. Ritter is survived by his wife, actress Amy Yasbeck, their daughter, Stella, and three children-Carly, Tyler and Jason-from his first marriage to Nancy Morgan.

There was no word early Friday on funeral arrangements or on how production of “8 Simple Rules,” which had been scheduled to open its second season on ABC Sept. 23, would be affected.

“All of us at ABC, Touchstone Television and The Walt Disney Company are shocked and heartbroken at the terrible news of John’s passing,” ABC said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children at this very difficult time.”

Mr. Ritter had been a figure on the pop-culture scene since he played a minister on “The Waltons,” but it was his role as Jack Tripper in “Three’s Company,” the 1977-84 sitcom that helped define “jiggle TV,” that made him a TV star.

He would remain an award-winning staple of TV, whether in sitcoms such as “Hooperman,” in TV movies such as “Unnatural Causes,” or in a wide range of guest-starring roles-but he also polished his star with roles in such challenging movies as Billy Bob Thornton’s “Sling Blade.” He appeared opposite Mr. Thornton in “Bad Santa,” which is scheduled for theatrical release Nov. 26. He conquered Broadway with a nine-month starring role in Neal Simon’s “The Dinner Party.”

Mr. Ritter’s long list of awards began when he won the Emmy, Golden Globe and People’s Choice for “Three’s Company” and extended through the People’s Choice nod as favorite new sitcom and Teen Choice award for “8 Simple Rules.”He had won over a younger generation of couch potatoes as the voice of “Clifford The Big Red Dog” on PBS Kids.

“We came to know him not only as a man with huge talent but also as the very embodiment of Clifford’s generous spirit and unconditional love. His contribution to the world of children will be felt for years to come,” Deborah Forte, president of Scholastic Entertainment and executive producer of “Clifford,” said in a statement.