Return, and exit, of the king

'Tudors' back for its final season in spring 2010

Next year, Showtime's "The Tudors" will run out of wives.

The network has renewed the historical melodrama for a fourth and final season. The pickup consists of 10 episodes that Showtime said will dramatize King Henry VIII's last two tumultuous marriages, to Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr.

The new episodes will continue the show's current quickened matrimonial pace of going through two wives per season, a narrative strategy planned from the show's outset given that Henry's first two wives (Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn) were the best known and most influential.

The final season will air in the spring and be written by creator Michael Hirst, who in a display of prolific energy is single-handedly writing all 38 episodes. Ending "Tudors" also frees him up to work on a Camelot project he is developing for the network.

With Showtime recently rejecting several other projects, including an "L-Word" spinoff, there's likely to be a slot or two available. (If the Camelot project follows the "Tudors" model, it would be picked up straight to series.)

The third season of "Tudors" recently debuted to steady, strong ratings. (partialdiff)