NBC, ‘Mad’ stars ink on money deal

Negotiations end just before Hunt's Oscar win

Hours before Helen Hunt nabbed the Oscar for Best Actress, NBC and Columbia TriStar TV gave in to the salary demands of the “Mad About You” star and her male lead Paul Reiser, ensuring the show will return to the schedule next season.

Hunt’s triumph makes her the first Academy Award winner for best actress to concurrently star in a TV sitcom.

Hunt and Reiser now join the $1 million-per-episode club, which will have only one other member next season: “Home Improvement” star Tim Allen, who will earn $1.25 million. Jerry Seinfeld was the first sitcom star to hit the $1 million-per-episode mark, but he, of course, is signing off at the end of the season.

Aside from starring in “Mad About You,” Reiser is also creator and executive producer, and Hunt is a co-executive producer of the sitcom.

“I’m happy to confirm to Paul and Helen that we’re still mad about you,” NBC entertainment president Warren Littlefield said Monday.

Both NBC and Columbia will contribute to their new salaries — which jump from roughly $250,000 per episode to $1 million — although NBC will pay the bulk of the increase as part of its license fee to Columbia. Neither the network nor the studio would comment on the details, but sources say NBC’s license fee to Columbia is about $3.3 million next season.

By all indications, NBC and Columbia wanted to make a deal before the Academy Awards ceremony because Hunt was considered a strong contender in the best actress category, and they feared a win might give her even more negotiating power. The return of “Mad About You” for a seventh season gives NBC another key series to work with in setting a fall schedule without “Seinfeld.” “Mad About You” is on a short list of contenders to fill “Seinfeld’s” coveted Thursday 9 p.m. timeslot.

“Mad About You” has aired on five different nights during its six seasons and is currently winning its Tuesday 8 p.m. timeslot with a 10.3/17 household average and a 6.3 in the key adults 18-49 demo.

Those ratings rank the sitcom 23rd out of all network series this season in adults 18-49. The sitcom ties for ninth place, along with the drama “Law & Order,” among NBC shows.

” ‘Mad About You’ holds a special place in all of our hearts, since it was the first major comedy hit for us when we relaunched TriStar TV six seasons ago,” said Eric Tannenbaum, president of Columbia TriStar TV. “We’re simply delighted that Paul and Helen, along with our talented creative team headed by executive producer Vic Levin, will be back for a seventh special season.”