One of ABC's defining shows is preparing to move out of Wisteria Lane: ABC programming chief Paul Lee confirmed plans to say goodbye to Desperate Housewives next May after eight seasons.

Housewives premiered the same month as Lost and was an instant hit, leading ABC to identify itself as a haven for upscale women, and producers had discussed a possible ninth season, for which actors had been signed. But they decided to pack it in sooner.

"It's an iconic show that we're so proud of," Lee says. "We wanted to make sure that this show, which sort of put us on the map, had its victory lap."

Creator Marc Cherry, who also appeared before critics, was a struggling comedy writer who'd worked on The Golden Girls but hadn't had much success until he sold Housewives to the network. He says "the only thing harder than creating a hit show is knowing when to end it," adding he's "very aware of shows that overstay their welcome -- and I just didn't want that to happen. We wanted the show to go out as a still viable and when ratings still strong." And by planning ahead, "we can have a whole year to reflect on how lucky we've been."

Lee says the show remains profitable despite the escalating salaries of its stars. But ratings have declined sharply in recent seasons, and even with DVR viewership added, last season's audience averaged about 13 million viewers, less than half its 31 million peak at the end of its first season. (The series ranks sixth among ABC shows, trailing Dancing with the Stars, Castle, Body of Proof, Grey's Anatomy and Modern Family among all viewers).

"We decided this was the right time," Cherry says, suggesting it was a mutual decision. He hasn't thought of a

Housewives spinoff, but in an emotional phone conversation with star Eva Longoria , "Who I love more than life itself," he told her, "I'm just going to put you in a van and have you solve mysteries."

Cherry is redeveloping

Hallelujah, a small-town drama pilot featuring a gospel choir that ABC passed on last spring, and ABC has another Housewives-style series in Good Christian Belles, a Dallas-set soap due at midseason. But Cherry's idea for Housewives' finale next May is to "pay homage" to the show's past stars.

Here's how ABC describes Housewives' final season:

Carlos's murder of Gaby's evil stepfather and the cover up by Susan, Gaby, Bree and Lynette has far reaching effects. Feelings of guilt begin to overcome everyone in different ways. Susan starts to withdraw from her friends and family, and Gaby works to reach out to Carlos while his guilt weighs heavily upon him. As Lynette and Tom are grappling with their disintegrating marriage and impending separation, Lynette is having trouble making the right choices ever since she participated in the cover-up. And Bree must be especially careful around her new love, Detective Chuck Vance. Meanwhile a new sexy neighbor moves to town, Ben Faulkner, and he's Renee's first order of business.