ABC News’ Chris Connelly reports:
That’s 45 percent less dough, to be precise.
One of television’s most beloved comedies, “The Simpsons,” may end over a salary dispute pitting the actors who voice the cartoon’s characters against what those working-class characters would no doubt call “the man.”
20th Century Fox Television, the production company that makes the series for its sister broadcast network, Fox, said it “cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model,” and has asked the show’s stars to take the 45 percent cut.
The key actors who voice the show, including Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe the bartender, Chief Wiggum and Apu) and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns and Ned Flanders), argue they deserve a slice of the huge cash cow “The Simpsons,” television’s longest-running scripted series, has been for Fox parent News Corp.
The cast members earn a reported $8 million each per year for 22 weeks’ worth of work. Their salary would be reduced to around $4 million after the proposed cuts.
The cast offered to take a 30 percent cut in exchange for a percentage of the billions of dollars in “back-end profits” the show rakes in from the sales of items like DVDs, clothing, lunchboxes, video games and a feature film.
Fox has said no, issuing a statement: “We are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the voice cast that allows ‘The Simpsons’ to go on entertaining audiences with original episodes for many years to come.”
Whether the show’s actors will call Fox’s bluff remains to be seen, but they have been down this road before.
Three earlier salary disputes between the cast and Fox were worked out in negotiations, while another well-publicized dispute in 2004 sent the actors on a one-month strike.
As Homer Simpson himself asked in one famous episode, “Why did this have to happen now during prime time…when TV’s biggest stars come out to shine?”