Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

The Simpsons May End After This Season Due to Money Squabbling

23 years in, it sometimes feels like The Simpsons will keep producing new episodes forever, with a 10,000th episode celebration happening when you're about to be put into a nursing home. But there are some pretty serious troubles happening at the show behind the scenes, and they threaten to make this season the last one.

It all comes down to sharing the back-end profits from the show's 500+ episodes. Fox is reportedly demanding that the principle voice actors agree to a 45% pay cut, and the actors are refusing. They countered with an offer to take a 30% cut in pay for a tiny slice of the show's back-end profits, which include syndication and merchandising, which would probably more than make up for any pay cuts, and Fox refused. One Simpsons insider said that "Fox is taking the position that unless they can cut the production costs really drastically, they’ll pull the plug on new shows."

It's tough to feel too sympathetic with either side here. Fox is making tons of money from The Simpsons, and I'm assuming that cutting the actors' pay isn't going to turn the show from a money loser into a money winner. It'll turn it from a money winner into even more of a money winner. As for the actors, well, they each make around $8 million a year for 22 weeks of work.

It feels a lot like the recent NFL labor disputes that almost delayed or cancelled the current season: two groups of insanely wealthy people, bickering in public about how they're going to split up billions of dollars. In light of the current economic climate, it was gross then and it's pretty gross now.

And really, they'll work this out. The Simpsons still does well enough for Fox to not want to give it the axe, and it's not like some of these voice actors have anything else to do that will pay them anywhere near the amount they make doing this, even when it's closer to $4 million a year instead of $8 million. No offense, Yeardley Smith.

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  • annev6

    This is infuriating and ridiculous. The actors make the show. If the show is making money, why cut their pay? And damn right they make a ton of money. Like you said, they may never book another lucrative gig. They might have to live off of those millions for the rest of their lives, and college is expensive, guys.

  • Crackerjacker

    I'll believe it when it happens – at this point it feels just like the last time this happened(Or maybe I'm just thinking of the FOX exec who announced they would replace the cast with any old bunch of people found on campuses nationwide).

    Having said that, I'm fine with it both ways. If it continues, then a high degree of the money should go to the people responsible for making the thing, less so for the people who administrate the pipe it gets fed through. If that won't happen and the show ends, I am also fine with that, because despite the current output being better than it was a few years ago, it's still not a patch on earlier years(Inevitably). Regardless of artistic/cultural/comedy merit, it's been a magnificent cash cow for all involved for a long time, and of what I understand, a hoot for most, if not all involved.

  • Greg Dewar@twitter

    For many years, the voice actors were not making residuals the way they would if this had been a live action show. this allowed the show to become a gold mine for Fox. Later, when they asked to be paid better, FOX went out an auditioned replacements (Yeah, good luck with that). The entire operation, between the shows, the ads the DVDs the merchandise and more has made plenty of money for everyone, but that is never enough for Fox, which is still smarting after refusing the toy rights to a movie called "Star Wars."

    Interestingly enough, the original deal was for Matt Groening to make a "Life in Hell" show, but Fox wanted the rights to all the calendars, mugs and whatnots he was selling, so he invented "the Simpsons." Smart guy.

    The ultimate lesson is : if you want to do whatever you want but not worry about making money, work with FOX. If you want to get paid fairly and not have some suit stealing from you, don't work with FOX (CC: Joss Whedon, etc)

  • Joshua Kurp

    I've always wondered whether Harry (who is notoriously prickly) and Dan ever get pissed at Yeardley and Julie, considering they only contribute four voices total (and three of those characters sound exactly alike, i.e. Marge, Patty, and Selma).