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It’s official: The CW’s The Vampire Diaries will end with its upcoming eighth season.
Producers made the announcement Saturday during the show’s annual trek to San Diego Comic-Con, though the decision to wrap the series created by Kevin Williamson — who will return as a writer for the final season — and Julie Plec comes as little surprise.
Stars Ian Somerhalder and Kat Graham had signaled that the end of the drama was in sight. Both actors had previously indicated their plans to do one last season of the series, though Somerhalder later retracted the comments.
“We all have discussed it and we’ve made the decision that this is it,” Plec told fans Saturday. “This is going to be the final season of The Vampire Diaries. It’s bittersweet and emotional and we’re all going to be crying in a minute. It’s been a beautiful run…. Get ready, because it’s going to be an epic ride.”
The final season also will be a shortened one, consisting of 16 episodes. The show returns Oct. 21 at 8 p.m.
While once the cornerstone of The CW, The Vampire Diaries, based on the books of the same name, has, like many other veteran series, begun to show its age. In the past few years, the drama was bypassed as the network’s most-watched show by The Flash as The CW has made DC Comics fare (including Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and CBS import Supergirl) a priority.
“The Vampire Diaries has meant so much to so many fans around the world, and has meant so much to all of us at The CW,” network president Mark Pedowitz said in a release shortly after the news broke at Comic-Con. “I am a huge fan of the show myself, and I’ve seen every episode. So I am very happy that we can give Julie and Kevin the chance to finish their story the way they have envisioned, and to give viewers a fantastic conclusion to eight spectacular seasons.”
Renewed for an eighth season earlier this year when the network picked up nearly its entire scripted slate (save for Plec’s since-canceled Containment), the series was moved to the typically low-rated Fridays — where, paired with spinoff The Originals, it faced lower expectations from the network. In their new homes, both series ultimately helped improve The CW’s performance on the night year-over-year.
Speaking to THR following female lead Nina Dobrev’s exit in season six, executive producer Plec said her staff had pitched season eight as the series was rebooting itself for season seven.
“We’ve always said as long as we feel like we can keep the show fresh and moving forward, we can keep making it,” she said last May. “We have a lot of actors that love remaining with the show, and we have writers who are thrilled to remain with the show, and crew who would love to keep going. As long as people keep watching, we’ll try to keep making it until we run out of ideas. We run out of ideas or we run out of viewers; whatever comes first. (Laughs.) But we’re really committed to the show. When it is time to end, we all agreed we’ll decide that together, and we want to go out sailing.”
The decision also comes as The CW seemingly has an overabundance of scripted fare with 11 returning series, three new ones and an 11th-hour renewal for Supergirl, which will move from CBS to The CW for season two. That’s 15 originals — one more than the network has already aired this season, including the final run of Beauty and the Beast.
Saturday’s Comic-Con panel ended with a sweet video (watch below) and Plec’s final message to fans: “Now as we enter the final year, there are just two things left to say: thank you and goodbye.”
Bookmark THR.com/ComicCon to keep up with all the highlights.
Sydney Bucksbaum contributed to this report.
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