'Dexter' showrunner Clyde Phillips departs

'24' co-exec producer Chip Johannessen will take over

Talk about leaving on a high note.

The ratings record-breaking "Dexter" finale Sunday, which capped the Showtime drama's highest-rated season, also marked the last episode for the show's executive producer/showrunner Clyde Phillips, who is departing the series.

"24" co-executive producer Chip Johannessen has been tapped to succeed Phillips at the helm of "Dexter," which is in the middle of a two-season pickup.

Phillips, who joined "Dexter" after the pilot, is leaving to spend more time with his family in Connecticut.

He said it was a "hugely difficult decision" and, driving home Sunday night in New York from a viewing party for the Season 4 finale of "Dexter," he added, "I had complicated feelings about it."

"I lived with the people on the show for four years that were the high point of my career," Phillips said. "But I was missing out on my family."

Chip Johannessen For the past four years, Phillips would spent nine months in Los Angeles, where "Dexter" is produced, and three with his wife and his daughter, who turns 13 in January.

"I need to be part of my own life, immerse into my own life," he said.

In light of Phillips departure, "Dexter" executive producers Sara Colleton and John Goldwyn, who brought the novel the series is based on to Showtime and developed the pilot, launched a search that ended with the hire of ICM-repped Johannessen (pictured left).

"Clyde Phillips has made an enormous contribution to the phenomenal success of 'Dexter' for the past four years, but we know he needs to spend more time with his family on the East Coast than he spends with the Dexter family in L.A.," Showtime entertainment president Robert Greenblatt said. "We reluctantly say good-bye to him at a turning point in the series, but fellow 'Dexter' executive producers Sara Colleton and John Goldwyn have chosen a great successor -- Chip Johannessen, who has been a key producer of '24' for the past two years. We're confident that he will bring intelligence, emotion and great storytelling to the next chapter of 'Dexter.' "

Since its launch in 2006, "Dexter" has been Showtime's highest-rated series.

But this past season -- which featured forensic expert/serial killer Dexter (Michael C. Hall) becoming a father and facing off against evil serial killer Trinity (John Lithgow) -- broke the network's rating records week after week, starting with the season premiere, which drew 1.5 million viewers, and ending with the Sunday finale, watched by 2.6 million.

"Dexter" has earned two straight best drama Emmy nominations and won a Peabody Award in 2007. Phillips received two WGA noms along with the series' writing staff as well as two PGA Awards, shared with the rest of "Dexter's" producing team.

Before "Dexter," Phillips created and executive produced Fox's dramedy "Get Real" and created the NBC comedy "Suddenly Susan" and Fox's "Parker Lewis Can't Lose."

The writer, who finished his work on "Dexter" two weeks ago, is unwinding and getting ready to spend the holidays with his family.

"But when the time comes, something good will come along, or I will make it come along," he said. "I'm already champing at the bit, I'm already writing something."