Rob Lowe, Brothers & Sisters

The Walkers will have to prepare one less place setting at Nora's dinner parties next year: Rob Lowe will depart Brothers & Sisters at the end of the season, TVGuide.com has confirmed. But the network would like him to host a party of his own.

Brothers & Sisters makes showrunner switcheroo

Lowe believes his character, U.S. Sen. Robert McCallister, has been underutilized in the story, according to Deadline Hollywood, which first reported the news. ABC granted Lowe's request to be released from his contract, but network President Steve McPherson says ABC wants to keep Lowe on its air.

"We would like to keep Rob at ABC; we feel he should be anchoring his own franchise," McPherson said in a statement. "We are in talks now."

See photos of the Brothers & Sisters cast

McPherson brought Lowe onto the show in the middle of the first season to counteract stumbling ratings. Lowe then became a series regular, and Sen. McCallister married Kitty (Calista Flockhart).

The producers of Brothers & Sisters are keeping mum on their plans to write Lowe's character out of the show. Last season, his character suffered a heart attack, but he recovered and has appeared healthy this year. The more likely exit strategy could be tied up in Robert and Kitty's rocky marriage, which has been on the verge of crumbling the last two seasons.

Lowe also left The West Wing in the middle of that show's run. He recently poked fun at his departure from the NBC drama while consoling Conan O'Brien on The Tonight Show.

"As someone who has left a celebrated NBC franchise myself... it can be done," Lowe said, referencing O'Brien losing his Tonight hosting gig. "Believe me, if my experience can you give you anything, it's that in a couple of years, nobody will even remember The Tonight Show," he joked, "just like they don't remember The West Wing."