When actors in key roles on a long-running TV series with dwindling ratings (say, Justin Kirk on Showtime’s aged “Weeds”) get cast in starring roles in new TV series (say, NBC’s new comedy “Animal Practice”), it’s usually a good indication that the long-running series is about to, you know, end its long run.

Which is why few were surprised when Showtime confirmed Wednesday what had been assumed since a mere 556,000 people bothered to watch the seventh-season finale’s first telecast: This summer’s eighth season of “Weeds” will be its last.

When “Weeds” debuted in August of 2005, it was about this mom — played by Mary-Louise Parker — who starts selling weed in her upper-middle-class California neighborhood to support her family after the unexpected death of her husband. Since then, The Widow Nancy has gotten around a lot, moving from city to city, done some pretty nasty stuff, including jail time, and been shipped off to rehab.

“ ‘Weeds’ has been a seminal series for Showtime and was key in establishing the network as a home for great original programming,” Showtime entertainment chief David Nevins said in Wednesday’s announcement. “It has had a groundbreaking run, and will be one of the longest-running comedies in the history of cable.

“It was very important to us that we bring the story of Nancy Botwin and her family to a satisfying conclusion for the devoted fans who have spent years following these characters.”

From riders to writers

FX’s most popular series, “Sons of Anarchy,” has reached a series of merchandising deals that will make it possible for you to be one of a lucky 100 who owns an official “SOA” Harley-Davidson motorcycle, for a mere $25,000 — or, if you’re operating on a tighter budget, an “SOA” hat, trivia game or stationery.

Yes, stationery. The biker gang’s rabid fanbase, which hit 5.5 million in its most recent season, apparently writes a lot of letters.

“There are different audiences buying the products,” Jeffrey Godsick, president of 20th Century Fox Consumer Products, told trade publication Hollywood Reporter in an “exclusive” on the merchandising campaign.

Yes, merchandising deals now merit “exclusives.”

“They range from the show’s fan base to people who just like the counterculture biker attitude, to people who are weekend bikers.”

“SOA” is the creation of Kurt Sutter — the guy who is much loved by The Reporters Who Cover Television for his unfailing enthusiasm for providing colorful, obscenity-laced blog posts and tweets every year on Emmy Nominations Day, by way of protesting how very much he does not care that his show got snubbed. Again.

Speaking thereof, Emmy Nominations/Kurt Sutter Rampage Day is coming right up — July 19!

Best Fan Awards vote?

Hey — you know who else gets snubbed by the Emmys?


With some exceptions — a “Big Bang Theory” nod here, a “Good Wife” nom there, the TV academy — like TV critics — generally has little love for the programming on the country’s most popular television network.

This year, CBS has decided to do something about it.

No, not obscenity-laced tweets and blog posts. CBS announced Wednesday that it’s launching the CBS Fan Awards. That will give fans of its shows a chance to vote for their favorite moments of the network’s 2011-12 TV season, which ended in May.

Through July 11, users can go to CBS.com/awards to cast their vote in various categories, including:

Best catchphrase

Best meltdown moment

Best dramatic pause

Most unexpected hookup

Best car chase

Best didn’t-see-that-coming moment

Most shocking cliffhanger

and, our personal fave:

Best use of a corpse

In its announcement, CBS did not say what spoils go to the winners. But, frankly, it does not really matter. In this regard, the CBS Fan Awards are exactly like the Emmys.

A ‘King’s’ farewell

CNN/U.S. Executive Vice President Ken Jautz announced in a memo to staff Wednesday that this month of “John King USA” would be its last.

The move is being made to bolster CNN’s coverage heading into the crucial stretch of the 2012 presidential election race, Jautz said. That may be code for: CNN’s ratings last month plunged to a 20-year-plus low.

“Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room” will be expanded from 4 to 7 p.m., and King, who joined CNN in ’97, will become lead national campaign correspondent.

For previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/