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NBC Cancels 'West Wing' After 7 Seasons

NBC Cancels Emmy-Winning 'West Wing' After Seven Seasons, Makes Several Midseason Moves

The cast of "The West Wing," from left, Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, John Spencer, Stockard Channing, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney and Dule Hill, poses backstage after the show won best drama series at the 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, in this file photo from Sept. 22, 2002, in Los Angeles. NBC announced Sunday, Jan. 22, 2006, it was pulling the plug in May on the Emmy-winning political drama after seven seasons. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

By DAVID BAUDER AP Television Writer

PASADENA, Calif. Jan 22, 2006 (AP)— The new president on "The West Wing" will be a real short-timer: NBC announced Sunday it was pulling the plug on the Emmy-winning political drama in May after seven seasons.

NBC, struggling to regain its footing after the worst season in its history, also outlined several midseason schedule changes including the moves of popular dramas "Law & Order" and "Las Vegas."

"The West Wing" announcement wasn't much of a surprise. Although this season's story line with a presidential campaign involving a Democrat played by Jimmy Smits and Republican portrayed by Alan Alda has been strong critically, ratings have sunk with its move to Sunday nights.

The decision to cancel it was made before actor John Spencer, who played former presidential chief of staff Leo McGarry, died of a heart attack Dec. 16, said Kevin Reilly, NBC entertainment president.

"There's a point when you look at the ratings and say, it feels like it's time," Reilly said.

The series finale will be May 14, preceded by a one-hour retrospective. The campaign to replace the fictional Josiah Bartlet as president will be settled, NBC said.

Producers Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme, who created the show and guided it through its early years, will not be involved in the finale, Reilly said.

"The West Wing" won four Emmy Awards for best television drama in a row for its tales of political intrigue. At its prime, it also offered NBC two valuable benefits: critical acclaim and the most upscale audience on television, an important drawing point for advertisers.

NBC's revamped schedule offered veteran "Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf good and bad news. NBC is putting Wolf's new drama "Conviction," about young prosecutors in New York, on Friday's schedule starting March 3. But it is moving "Law & Order" up an hour to Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET competing directly with ABC's blockbuster "Lost."

Wolf, who has had at least one show on NBC's schedule for 21 years, shrugged when asked about the move.

"It's like a long-term marriage," he said. "There are stresses and strains intermittently, but we are kind of stuck with each other."