ABC Chief Paul Lee: 'We Wanted to Make Sure ['Desperate Housewives'] Had its Victory Lap'

Desperate Housewives
Desperate Housewives
 Courtesy of ABC

ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee confirmed what the rest of the industry has known for days: the ladies of Wisteria Lane will bid farewell after the series' upcoming eighth season.

"[Desperate Housewives] is an iconic show, and we’re really proud of it," Lee told a roomful of reporters at the Television Critics Association's Press Tour Sunday. "I waned to make sure that this show that put this network on the map, certainly the new brand of this network for the last six or seven years, had its victory lap - and had its chance to really set out every episode and build an arc for its 22 episodes so that we could say goodbye."

STORY: 'Desperate Housewives': Season 8 Will Be Its Last

Housewives creator Marc Cherry, whose recently passed over pilot Hallelujah is being redeveloped at ABC this season, recalled his first lunch with Lee at this time last summer. Cherry admitted he was initially prickly given his respect and adoration for Lee's successor Steve McPherson --he'd tell people, "Steve's my guy! Steve's my guy!"-- but he was won over by Lee's professionalism. Over the course of the meal, the pair began discussing an end for Housewives, debating whether they'd do eight or nine seasons. Late last week, they formally decided on eight.

 "I've been in this business for 23 years, and I'm very aware of people overstaying their welcome," said Cherry, who joined Lee on stage at the Beverly Hilton. "I just didn't want that to happen to Desperate Housewives. I wanted to go out in the classiest way possible."

Cherry said he has begun reaching out to his cast, and has connected with more than half of the folks with who he works. "There was a touch of shock, but not completely," he said of the phone calls. His most tearful conversation came with Eva Longoria, who he jokingly told, "i'm just going to put you in a van and have you solve mysteries." Despite early flirtations with the idea, Cherry has no plans to do a Housewives spin-off.

To be sure, the future of Housewives, which stars Longoria along with Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and newer entry Vanessa Williams, had been in question for months, as cast salaries and other production costs have risen in the face of viewership declines. The recently concluded seventh season averaged fewer than 12 million viewers, down from the nearly 24 million that tuned in for season one, according to Nielsen.

The series will tie up its final season with a tangled web of soapy story lines, including Carlos' murder of Gaby evil stepfather and the cover up by Susan, Gaby, Bree and Lynette. Susan will withdraw from her family and friends; Lynette will see her marriage disintegrate; and a new neighbor, Ben Faulkner, will move to town. The final season will also go back to the Mary Alice plot point from the show's first season.

"I have an idea for the last episode in which I want to pay homage to everyone who's been there before and been on the show," Cherry adding, noting that even Nicollette Sheridan's Edie character could return.

Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose

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