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'Desperate Housewives,' 'House' are cuing up final episodes

Goodbye, Wisteria Lane.

Adios, Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital.

So long, Susan Mayer, Lynette Scavo, Bree Van de Kamp and Gabrielle Solis. See you in reruns, Drs. Gregory House, James Wilson, Robert Chase and Eric Foreman. It has been fun.

Two iconic series will close up shop this spring.

After eight seasons and 176 episodes, "Desperate Housewives" wraps up Sunday on ABC.

"House," which debuted a month later on Fox, ends its run May 21 with 173 episodes to its credit.

Eight seasons is an impressive run for a prime-time series, and both were success stories from the start.

"Desperate Housewives" drew 21.6 million viewers for its premiere and built to more than 30 million, finishing its first season as the No. 1 network series.

"House" averaged a solid 13 million viewers for its first season but grew to a Top 10 hit in Seasons 2-4. At its peak, in 2007, almost 20 million viewers were tuning in every week.

Both shows, though, pressed their luck, staying on a season (or four) too long and scrambling for new stories to tell and twists to keep those stories fresh. In the end, by the time the networks announced the final seasons, a lot of fans had drifted away and even former boosters of both shows were complaining that they should have called it quits sooner.

One of the pleasures of series television is the chance to get to know characters and follow them over years and seasons. Networks, of course, love a long-running show that can bring in viewers reliably and win its time slot week after week.

The catch: when to let go.

When "Lost" wanted to set an end date, ABC agreed only reluctantly, but the decision was the right one. So was the decision to end "Desperate Housewives," but it came too late.

"The only thing harder than creating a hit show is knowing when to end it," creator Marc Cherry told TV critics last summer after ABC confirmed that Season 8 would be the last. "It's something that's weighed on my mind for quite awhile now, I'm also very aware of [shows] overstaying their welcome."

For the finale, some former regulars will return, including James Denton, who was recently killed off as Mike Delfino. That suggests to some observers that another death may occur in the finale, resulting in a funeral and possibly visitors from the afterlife.

Other guesses have "Desperate Housewives" wrapping up in a similar way to "Six Feet Under," which flashed ahead to show each character's demise. Photos of Felicity Huffman (Lynette) dressed as an elderly woman gave fuel to that rumor.

Cherry says he's had a plan all along.

"The last act, which I've had in my head for 7 1/2 years, is absolutely what we're going to do," he said.

"House" was never as ambitious a series as "Desperate Housewives." It was conceived as a procedural, a "CSI" clone set in a hospital where doctors tackled mysterious cases.

The casting of Hugh Laurie as cranky, crippled Dr. House, endlessly irritated by patients and staff and everything but the cerebral medical mysteries he enjoyed, took the series to a different level. Laurie was so great -- perfect, in fact -- in the role that for years, just watching him was enough to make an enjoyable hour.

The casting of the supporting roles was equally successful. Robert Sean Leonard, a serious Broadway actor, was solidly believable as House's odd-couple best friend, Wilson.

Viewers also grew to love House's team: Jesse Spencer as Chase, Jennifer Morrison as Cameron and Omar Epps as Foreman. Lisa Edelstein played the hospital administrator, Dr. Lisa Cuddy, who specialized in low-cut tops and standing in House's way at all times.

All this was fun and fungus until the end of Season 3, when some brilliant mind decided to shake things up by getting rid of the whole team and starting fresh. The most loyal fans grumbled the most -- we liked the old people; who were these new people?

Although the regulars drifted back in, things were never the same, and that gave us more time to focus on the sameness of every plot. Meanwhile, an early vow not to reform House forced creator David Shore and his writers to worsen his pill habit and escalate his bad behavior.

In February, Fox pulled the plug, with everyone behind the scenes in agreement that it was time.