Money ‘Mad’-ness

NBC talks for renewal going to wire

It’s crunch time for renewal negotiations on NBC’s hit sitcom “Mad About You,” and the network has yet to reach an agreement with stars Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser.

Sources say Hunt and Reiser have told NBC and the show’s production company, Columbia TriStar TV, that from a purely creative standpoint, they would like to return for another year.

Talks have stalled concerning money however, and the two sides must decide by the end of next week whether they want to produce a farewell episode. Sources say Reiser and the show’s writers are preparing for any possibility by penning both series and season finales.

No rush to judgment

Most people involved with the show would prefer not to rush out a series finale that would almost certainly be overshadowed by the “Seinfeld” exit episode in May. Because there’s a desire to keep the series going next year, it seems likely that a deal will be reached.

Reps for Hunt though, say the decision could go either way at this point. A recent Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee for best actress, Hunt has plenty of options, and her asking price has gone up in recent weeks.

Sources say NBC, which is responsible for covering star salary increases in its series license fee to Columbia, is offering more than $700,000 per episode. Hunt is asking for more than $1 million per episode.

Hunt’s co-star Reiser appears to be allowing her to do most of the negotiating because his contract guarantees that his salary matches hers. Reps for Hunt say the ball is in NBC’s court and they have been waiting several weeks to get a response to her latest salary request.

“There are no active negotiations at this time,” a spokesman for Hunt said. NBC and Columbia TriStar TV declined to comment.

Common goals

The impasse appears to be the result of a high-stakes game of chicken, because both sides have made it clear they want the show to return. Sources at the Peacock web though, say they feel they’ve made a generous offer and they have plenty of good shows to work with next season.

Hunt’s side points out that no Academy Award nominee for best actress has ever concurrently starred in a TV sitcom. If she wins the award Monday, her stock presumably rises even more — meaning NBC may want to make a deal this week.

If Hunt and Reiser get their $1 million per episode, it would place them in an elite club occupied by only two other TV stars: Jerry Seinfeld and “Home Improvement” star Tim Allen, who will earn $1.25 million per seg next season.

Drew Carey for instance, will earn about $300,000 per episode over the next few seasons, although his series, “The Drew Carey Show,” is only in its third year. “Mad About You” is in its sixth season.

NBC may not be in much of a position to argue much over salaries, given the loss of “Seinfeld” and the consistently strong performance of “Mad About You” on several nights of the week. If “Mad About You” joins “Seinfeld” in the exit column, NBC will be missing key series on each of its two best nights of the week: Tuesdays and Thursdays.

NBC president and CEO Bob Wright made that clear when he got down on his knees in front of a group of reporters and prayed that “Mad About You” would come back.

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