I honestly didn't see this one coming. I assumed that all of the 'CMM and Hilarie departing OTH' buzz was just a part of their contract negotiations - and a bluff on their part (I mean really...what else are those 2 going to do?).
However, EW's Michael Ausiello has just confirmed that both Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton will not be returning in the Fall for the show's 7th season.
"Murray and Burton have been engaged in rather high-profile contract negotiations for the past several months. Ultimately, a deal couldn't be worked out and both actors will make their final appearances in next Monday's season finale.
To fill the void next season, a Hill insider tells me that two new characters will be introduced. Additionally, Austin Nichols (Julian) is being promoted to a series regular. "
Frankly, I feel as though in recent seasons there has been a definitive shift - and "Lucas" and "Peyton" have far and wide become the show's least compelling characters. That being said, having the show's main star depart is still a little bit crushing.
What say you? Devastated? Brooke, Haley, Nathan, et al can totally carry the show on their own? Discuss!