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'7th Heaven' signing off

The cast of "7th Heaven" way back in 1997.
The cast of "7th Heaven" way back in 1997.
James Sorensen, The WB

It's not hard to imagine the WB's Monday night lineup without "7th Heaven"; it's darn near impossible. Because it's never happened.

But those days are about to end. The network has announced that this season will be the last for the family drama, which will sign off in May at the end of its 10th season.

"I don't think I had any expectations about how long the show would run," said creator/executive producer Brenda Hampton. "And certainly not that it would go for 10 years."

Heck, when "Heaven" premiered, nobody was sure if the WB would last 10 years, let alone the show. But it's been on Mondays at 7 p.m. on the network's schedule since Aug. 26, 1998 — the first time the WB put a show on Monday night — while 92 shows on the other networks have come and (mostly) gone.

"Maybe we should learn from this," said WB executive Brad Turrell. "It's never moved. . . . I think it is one of the secrets of its success — that it's just been an institution there."

While others have gotten more notice, "7th Heaven" was the most-watched show on the network through most of its run. But, as is the case with TV, shows tend to lose some of their ratings power as the seasons pass and costs tend to rise, and "7th Heaven" has become expendable.

But no one expected a 10-year run for a show about a minister and his family — albeit not a show about religion.

"The show is not a religious show," Hampton said. "It's a family show."

And one that will get a "monumental send-off" in May, WB Entertainment president David Janollari promised. The announcement comes early enough so that the series can get a wrap-it-up, say-goodbye series finale.

Which is what both the show and its fans deserve.

REGIS PHILBIN WILL RETURN to ABC's prime-time schedule sometime relatively soon, but not as a game-show host. The former star of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" will host a new version of "This Is Your Life," which ran from 1952-61 on NBC.

Considering pop culture's obsession with celebrities, you almost wonder why somebody hasn't already revived this series, which surprised famous folk with people from their past and mini-biographies.

Whether anyone will be surprised this time around remains to be seen. There's no word on the format of the new "Life" — only that 74-year-old Philbin will be hosting it.

YOU DON'T HAVE to be good or talented to be successful on network television.

Case in point — ABC has renewed Freddy Prinze Jr.'s sitcom "Freddie" through the end of the season.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com