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The Simpsons Folder

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Exxxcellent! Simpsons Strike Over
by Josh Grossberg May 3, 2004


Woo-freakin’-hoo! The Simpsons are coming back. The Springfield strike is over.

After more than a month of Simpsons fans collectively having a cow while the cast struck for a huge pay hike and Fox in turn threatened to shorten next season, the two sides have announced a new four-year deal that seems to be to everyone’s liking.

“We couldn’t be happier to have reached a multi-year deal with the enormously talented cast of The Simpsons,” series producer 20th Century Fox TV said in a statement.

Details of the new contract, inked late last week, were not disclosed.

However, Daily Variety reports that the studio will pay the six stars–Dan Castellaneta (Homer, Krusty, Grandpa Simpson, Mayor Quimby), Nancy Cartwright (Bart, Nelson, Ralph Wiggum), Julie Kavner (Marge, Selma, Patty), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe, Apu, Chief Wiggum, Comic-Book Guy) and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner)–about $250,000 per episode.

That’s double the $125,000 each has been earning since May 2001, the last time they renegotiated. Those talks went much smoother by comparison.

The actors, who walked out in late March, will return to work next week. Fox, which had considered truncating the 2004-05 season, or even halting production altogether, has committed to a full 22-episode order for next season.

“Fans will be pleased to know that despite our recent production delay, we are optimistic that they can look forward to a full season’s episodes next year on Fox and hopefully many years to come,” the studio said.

The stars had complained that they were woefully undercompensated, considering The Simpsons is a billion-dollar franchise for Fox, thanks to syndication revenue, DVD sales and an endless stream of licensed merchandise. Series creators Matt Groening and James L. Brooks have raked in at least $150 million during the show’s tenure.

The actors were demanding a whopping $360,000 per episode along with a cut of the total profits.

During contract negotiations, Fox TV executives argued that the actors were already well compensated for only a few hours’ work per show. (Unlike live-action sitcom stars, who rehearse for five days before taping an episode, The Simpsons cast have just one table reading and then record the voiceovers in a day.)

With Fox mulling cancellation, insiders close to the negotiations said that at least two of the castmembers managed to convince the others to drop that profit-sharing demand in exchange for the hefty pay hike.

This isn’t the first time the Simpsons Six have struck. The sextet took a cue from the casts of Friends and Seinfeld and negotiated en masse in 1998. They threatened to quit if Fox didn’t up their initial salaries of $30,000 per show. They eventually won a raise to $50,000 per show.

Going into its 16th season, The Simpsons is still going strong and consistently ranks number one in its Sunday time slot for adults 18-49, the category coveted by advertisers. It has become the longest-running series on the tube. There’s even a Simpsons animated movie on the drawing board, though no timetable for its production has been announced.