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‘Becker’ five suing Par TV

Thesps claim studio reneged on raise renegotiations

Calling in sick didn’t work — so now the supporting cast of “Becker” is suing Paramount Network Television to get a raise.

Attorneys for thesps Terry Farrell, Hattie Winston, Alex Desert, Shawnee Smith and Saverio Guerra filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Par on Tuesday, claiming the studio reneged on a written agreement to renegotiate a raise with the actors that would take effect beginning with the show’s fourth season.

Suit, filed at Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks a judgment requiring Par to begin renegotiations for a pay hike retroactive to the start of the fourth season, as well as unspecified general monetary damages.

Move follows a one-day sickout by the “Becker” five (Daily Variety, Aug. 2.) Series star Ted Danson has not been involved in the dispute.

Par has said it’s willing to talk about a raise for the “Becker” quintet, but only after the show is sold into syndication. Thesps, however, said the studio promised to do so regardless of any syndie sale.

“At the beginning of the third season of ‘Becker’ … Paramount expressly agreed with each of the plaintiffs orally and by writing dated August 4, 2000, that it would negotiate for increased compensation for each of the plaintiffs,” the suit claims, adding that the agreement was “not conditioned on the sale of ‘Becker’ into syndication or any other condition or factor.”

Thesps admit that the document Par allegedly signed doesn’t require any resolution to the renegotiation talks — only that the studio negotiate in good faith.

“Becker” thesps, like most TV actors, are contractually locked in at an established salary through the show’s sixth season. It’s common practice, however, for studios to renegotiate salaries if a series makes it to a third or fourth season.

Par execs have refused to discuss the “Becker” contract squabble and declined comment on the lawsuit. It seems likely, however, that the studio may be unwilling to talk to the actors about a raise until it knows how much coin “Becker” will fetch in the off-net market.

While “Becker” is a solid success for CBS, regularly ranking in the top 20, show has never generated much critical buzz, nor has it proved its ability to work outside of the Eye’s Monday laff juggernaut.

Lawsuit, however, paints a different picture of “Becker’s” success, claiming “Becker” has “outperformed many other successful series, including (Par’s) ‘Frasier.’ ”

Suit also claims “Becker” serves as a bridge between “Everybody Loves Raymond” and the Eye’s “Survivor” — even though the latter skein has aired on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but not Mondays.

At the time of the “Becker” sickout, Hollywood insiders expressed surprise that the show’s cast would take such an action.

(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)

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