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    "7th Heaven" Heads into the Ether

    Fans prayed for 7th Heaven, but it looks as if we will all be bidding the Camdens farewell on Monday.

    Despite rumors that the family-friendly WB drama might keep going after wrapping up its 10th season next week, Variety reported Wednesday that this will indeed be the end of the road for the network's longest-running series.

    So, when viewers gather to watch Simon Camden (David Gallagher, who was just a wee young thing when the show began) get married to Rose (Sarah Thompson), they can expect the usual series finale treatment--the tying up of loose ends, the return of former cast members and, of course, flashbacks galore.

    In this case, Barry Watson and Jessica Biel (Camden sibs Matt and Mary) will show up for their little brother's nuptials, past conflict and strained relationships be darned. According to the WB's preview synopsis, Matt and Sarah (Sarah Danielle) will "make a surprising announcement." And "the wedding day ends happily, though not in a way anyone could have predicted."

    Well, we won't even try to guess what preteen-oriented curveballs 7th Heaven might throw at us May 8, but in keeping with the show's heartwarming message--"a family's love will get you through anything and everything"--the wrap-up show, titled "And Thank You," won't stray much from the formula.

    "I think it will be pretty satisfying to people," Stephen Collins, who plays dad Eric Camden, told the Associated Press.

    We promise it will be way more satisfying than the Seinfeld finale.

    The WB announced in November that 7th Heaven would head into the sunset this year, but once the network and UPN made plans to close up shop and combine to form the CW in the fall, television's longest-running family drama was back on the table. Or a spin-off was in the works, or?

    The rumors added up. But now the newly appointed CW execs appear to have nixed the idea(s), with one explanation being that 7th Heaven was a tad too expensive for their tastes at this juncture.

    "I think it's because we were kind of an old shoe and they probably wanted something more glittery and new," Collins said. "TV seems to fall for that over and over again. We were very fortunate to kind of fly under the radar for 10 years."

    Which is a modest perspective, considering the fact that 7th Heaven has remained one of the WB's most successful series since its inception. This season it's the network's highest-rated show, averaging nearly 5.2 million viewers per week and proving that good, clean fun can be addictive.

    A two-parent household has a large brood of adorable kids who inevitably have problems that said mom and dad--who's a minister, no less--help them work through. Ah, like a breath of fresh air.

    And true to the theme of "the more the merrier," 7th Heaven's cast has expanded over the years, signing on a bushel of talented young actors, including famous sibs like Ashlee Simpson and Haylie Duff. But, with a growing roster comes a growing budget, so maybe this comfy old shoe was starting to wear a designer price tag.

    Series creator Brenda Hampton, who is definitely treating Monday's show as the series farewell, is sad to see it go but aware of what she has accomplished.

    "I'd love to keep doing it," she told the AP, "but I'm grateful for the 10 years we've had on the air. Nothing lasts forever. This is a long time to have the same job in Hollywood."

    Also bowing out in the next few weeks are The West Wing and Malcolm in the Middle on May 14; That '70s Show and Will & Grace May 18; and Alias May 22.

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