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Michael Weatherly -- 'DiNozzo' -- to exit 'NCIS'

"NCIS" star Michael Weatherly arrives at CBS Television Studios Summer Soiree at The London Hotel, in Los Angeles on May 19, 2014. Photo Credit: AP

In the biggest (and, if you are a fan, baddest) TV news of the new year, this:

Michael Weatherly is leaving "NCIS," CBS has now confirmed. 

The statement: 

"After 13 years on NCIS, Michael Weatherly is leaving the show at the end of this season. He is a valued part of the CBS family, and the immense charm and talent he brings to the screen as "Very" Special Agent Tony DiNozzo has helped make NCIS what it is today -- the #1 drama in the world. We thank Michael for all of his contributions to this successful franchise and look forward to continuing to develop projects with him as part of our ongoing development deal."

Just to be clear. This is huge, or at least huge-ish.. Weatherly's DiNozzo is a key/core/vital whatever-word-you-like part of this cast. Millions of viewers -- of the motherly sort --  think of him as the son they wish they had.

But, for those who read TMZ, Weatherly has also had recent problems -- notably a "no contest" to a DUI charge in November.

Alas, these are not uncommon issues for Hollywood stars.

So let's assume something else is going on here. It's interesting CBS indicates that it "looks forward to continuing" in project development with Weatherly --  whatever that means. 

If anything. 

"NCIS" has had only one other major defection --  Cote de Pablo -- and of course survives to this day.

Currently in its 13th  -- lucky number! -- season, "NCIS" has about 18 million viewers each week, and those aren't of the fancy "live plus seven" variety. 

Yes, Weatherly's departure is big.

Make that huge.

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