Sometimes even good ratings and acts of God don't ensure a series' future. Just look at 7th Heaven, which The WB axed last week after nearly 10 seasons on the air. Although Heaven has been The WB's top series for most of the network's life (this year the series has fallen to No. 3 behind Smallville and Gilmore Girls), insiders say the family drama is losing money. Heaven costs more than $2 million per episode, a price tag that includes $100,000-plus weekly salaries for stars Stephen Collins (Rev. Eric Camden) and Catherine Hicks (Annie Camden).
''Creatively, yes I could keep going with it for three or four more years,'' admits creator Brenda Hampton, who says she's doubtful she can persuade Heaven alums Jessica Biel (prodigal daughter Mary) and Barry Watson (oldest son Matt) to return for the series finale in May. ''But it does get very expensive.'' Nonetheless, The WB is hoping to stay in business with Hampton and Heaven; The WB Entertainment president David Janollari is already thinking spin-off. ''We hope to have some incarnation of this group,'' he says. ''There are many Camdens and friends of Camdens that could exist in a newly configured show.'' Our suggestion: Children of a Lower-Cost God.