×

Ullman loses ‘Simpsons’ suit

Tracey Ullman has lost her lawsuit against 20th Century Fox Film Corp. seeking profits related to merchandising of “The Simpsons,” which was created as vignettes for “The Tracey Ullman Show.”

A Superior Court jury deliberated for less than five hours yesterday before rejecting Ullman’s claim, which would have brought her more than $ 2.25 million in profits from the hit Fox Broadcasting Co. series.

Ullman maintained in her original complaint 18 months ago that her contract on “The Tracey Ullman Show” called for her to receive 5% to 10% of net receipts from “series characters” created for the show other than those she played.

The complaint also said that the actress-comedian was to receive 7 1/2% of adjusted gross profits related to merchandising–a bonanza for the animated series, including T-shirts, toys and lunch boxes.

Those connected with developing “The Simpsons,” including exec producer James L. Brooks, testified during the trial that the characters were created by cartoonist Matt Groening and that Ullman wasn’t involved.

In addition to the Ullman suit, “Ullman” co-creator Kenneth Estin–one of four exec producers on that series–has also filed a suit against Fox saying that his contract called for him to receive 7.5% of revenues from the show, including portions of merchandising on “The Simpsons” (Daily Variety, July 8). That action is still pending.

“The Simpsons” characters were created as interstitial material during the Ullman show, which ran on Fox during the weblet’s first four seasons before being canceled in 1990.

Although that show was a weak ratings performer, “The Simpsons” has gone on to become a stand-alone hit since premiering in January 1990 and will likely reap a major windfall in off-network syndication, where Fox is currently exploring its launch strategy.

Ullman was reportedly out of the country and couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday but had quipped at the 1990 Emmy Awards that she had “breast-fed those little devils” before they achieved success on their own. A Fox spokesman said only that the studio is “very pleased with the decision.”

Ullman’s attorney, Michael Bergman, said he had not yet discussed with his client whether to appeal the verdict. “I’m very disappointed,” he said. “I think the jury did their best, but it was a very complex case … and the issues just got lost somewhere along the line.”

Brooks’ Gracie Films, which produces “The Simpsons” in association with Twentieth TV, wasn’t named in Ullman’s original action. Ironically, Ullman currently is co-starring in a movie Brooks is directing, “I’ll Do Anything.” The project stars Albert Brooks and Nick Nolte.

More TV

  • Jim Jefferies

    NBC Orders Comedy Pilots From Jim Jefferies, 'Superstore' Creator Justin Spitzer

    NBC has picked up a pair of comedy pilots for the 2020-2021 season. The first is the multi-cam “Jefferies,” which will star Australian comedian Jim Jefferies as a fictionalized version of himself. Jefferies will also write and executive produce along with Suzanne Martin. Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner of Hazy Mills will also executive produce [...]

  • Kari Lizer

    ABC Orders Comedy Pilot From 'New Adventures of Old Christine' Creator

    ABC has picked up the multi-cam comedy pilot “My Village” from Kari Lizer. The project follows an empty-nester mom who wonders how she ended up alone while her children live their best lives thousands of miles away. She decides her place is with her family and as she reinserts herself into their lives, her kids [...]

  • Chuck Lorre77th Annual Golden Globe Awards,

    Chuck Lorre Comedy Pilot 'B Positive' Ordered at CBS

    Chuck Lorre is working on yet another project at CBS. The legendary “Big Band Theory” creator is an executive producer on the multi-cam comedy “B Positive,” which has received a pilot order at CBS. “B Positive” centers around newly divorced dad Drew, who is at the end of his rope when face when finding a [...]

  • Author Gill Hornby gives a talk

    Steve Coogan, Christine Langan's Baby Cow Options Gill Hornby Novel ‘Miss Austen’

    Steve Coogan and Christine Langan’s U.K. company Baby Cow Productions has optioned television rights to Gill Hornby’s new novel, “Miss Austen.” The critically acclaimed book – already lauded as one of the best novels of 2020 by The Times of London, Financial Times and BBC Online – follows the lives and loves of sisters Cassandra [...]

  • Shay MitchellHulu 'Dollface' TV Show panel,

    'Pretty Little Liars' Alum Shay Mitchell Sets Mob Drama Pilot 'The Cleaning Lady' at Fox

    Fox is adding a mob drama about a cleaning lady to its development slate. The network has issued a pilot order for “The Cleaning Lady,” a one-hour drama which hails from “Pretty Little Liars,” “Dollface” and “You” star Shay Mitchell via her Amore & Vita Productions banner. Based on the original Argentine series “La Chica [...]

  • Jim Lehrer

    Jim Lehrer, Longtime PBS Anchor, Dies at 85

    Jim Lehrer, the legendary journalist who helped set a high bar for TV journalism via his long-running program on PBS, died on Thursday at his home, according to the network. He was 85 years old. Lehrer was a correspondent for the Dallas Morning News who moved to TV reporting for the local public TV station, [...]

  • Peter Logreco

    Peter LoGreco Inks Overall Deal With Intellectual Property Corporation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Documentarian Peter LoGreco has signed an overall deal with the Intellectual Property Corporation (IPC). LoGreco is a documentary showrunner, director, and producer. Under the deal, he will collaborate with IPC’s CEO, Eli Holzman, and president, Aaron Saidman, to develop original series and showrun series for IPC. LoGreco previously served as showrunner and director for the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content