West Wing fans recently got their first glimpse of what President Bartlet's White House staff will look like when Rob Lowe exits in March. An NBC promo leading into last Wednesday's two-hour season premiere featured practically every member of the show's regular cast — with the exception of the ex-Brat Packer. Has the phasing-out of deputy communications director Sam Seaborn already begun?

"Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict, Rob was unable to attend NBC's big promo shoot that occurs once at the beginning of each [season]," an NBC spokeswoman tells TV Guide Online. "This explains his absence from the cast promo you saw Wednesday night.

"Rob will be included in [future] on-air promos for specific episodes," she adds, "which will use clips from The West Wing to promote upcoming shows." (Lowe's camp confirms that he was in Canada shooting a film at the time of the shoot.)

At last month's Emmy Awards, Lowe indicated that his WW departure wasn't necessarily a fait accompli — but noted that the bargaining ball remained in the court of the show's producer, Warner Bros. Television. (In a nutshell, Lowe is angling for a pay increase; so far, WB execs aren't budging.) "The decision is not up to me," he told TV Guide Online shortly after WW picked up a third consecutive Emmy for best drama series. "It's up to Warner Bros."