David E. Kelley’s Emmy-winning legal drama “The Practice” will bow out May 16 after eight seasons.
The final episodes of the ABC show will set up a spinoff series, which has been given a 22-episode order by the network for the fall.
Sources said the pickup is not contingent on any actor, but speculation is that the latest additions to the show -- James Spader and Rhona Mitra -- have been approached for the spinoff.
In an episode to air this season, Spader’s character, Alan Shore, is set to quit the firm for the high-priced world of civil law, where the new series will be set. Details about the spinoff are still sketchy, but it is said to be lighter in tone than “The Practice.”
Sources said Kelley, ABC and producer 20th Century Fox TV evaluated creatively the options of picking up “The Practice” for a ninth season or spinning off the series into a new drama before mutually agreeing on the latter.
“David, with the help of a truly extraordinary cast, accomplished the impossible this season: They breathed new life into a show that had been on the air for seven years,” ABC entertainment president Susan Lyne said. “Now it’s time to take this series to the next level by moving it to a bigger, more complex law firm where David can introduce new characters and a broader range of legal and personal stories.”
“The Practice” was on the fence in the spring until clinching an eleventh-hour pickup for an eight season. The pickup was followed by the high-profile cast shake-up by Kelley, who let go of such original cast members as Dylan McDermott and Lara Flynn Boyle and brought Spader and Mitra on board.
“This is very gratifying,” Kelley said. “Last year it seemed that the series was over. Instead, we’ve been given the opportunity to evolve and go on. We look forward to the future.”
Returning to its regular Sunday 10 p.m. slot, “The Practice” rebounded from an ill-fated scheduling move to Monday last year. While far from its dominating ratings performance of several years ago, the show still regularly held on to or built on its “Alias” viewers and demo lead-in, ranking third in the time period behind NBC and CBS.