By Stephen M. Silverman
October 16, 2003 03:38 PM

While ABC decides what permanent measures to take with its hit “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” following the Sept. 11 death of John Ritter, one stopgap measure is adding TV favorite James Garner to the sitcom’s cast, Reuters reports.

The “Maverick” and “Rockford Files” star, 75, has been asked to step in to play the father of newly widowed Cate Hennessy (played by Katey Sagal) and grandfather to her teenage children.

Ritter, who was 54, played sports writer Paul Hennessy, whose death will set off the new direction of the show. Last week, the final episode with Ritter was broadcast and ranked No. 8 in the Nielsen ratings, attracting an average of 17.7 million viewers.

Originally, ABC said it would preempt the show or broadcast repeats until it decided how best to proceed without its star. But now, says Reuters, the network will put “8 Simple Rules” back into production next week, and bring back the remaining characters — and introduce Garner — in an hourlong episode set to air Nov. 4.

Garner’s character will arrive to comfort his daughter and remain in the house, says Reuters. No word on how long his stint will last.