×

Still no deal for ‘Simpsons’ cast

Production delay means 20-episode season

Last week, Fox announced a fall schedule that included animated staple “The Simpsons” in its normal Sunday timeslot.

The hitch? There’s still no deal with the voice talent behind “The Simpsons.” And without one, the 20th season of the series could be in jeopardy.

While sources close to both the voice actors and 20th Century Fox TV are optimistic that they’re on the road to a new deal, production on the show’s 20th season has been on hold for months — meaning the studio will probably produce just 20, rather than 22, segs next season.

Should a deal not be reached anytime soon, that number could be reduced further. Pacts are already in place with “The Simpsons” scribes and producer Gracie Films.

The key “Simpsons” cast members — Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe) and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns) — are believed to make around $360,000 an episode. A new deal could bump that number closer to $500,000, including various bonuses. That’s more in line with the paydays of many live-action sitcom stars (with the exception of bigtime leads like “Two and a Half Men’s” Charlie Sheen).

The-already increased salaries could be why there doesn’t appear to be the kind of angst that has characterized past negotiations between the “Simpsons” voices and 20th.

“Unlike the last negotiations, there hasn’t been a lot of anger or frustration,” one insider said.

Production was also halted in 2004 when the cast members didn’t show up for two table reads. Back then, they were looking to increase their salaries from $125,000 an episode.

In 1998, the thesps (who were then making just $30,000 a seg) asked for a big raise — and 20th went as far as hiring casting directors in five cities to potentially find replacements.

This time out, insiders said the talent is looking for a “healthy bump,” given the show’s history as a money-making machine for News Corp. (Coincidentally, the “Simpsons”-themed ride, which features the thesps’ voices, opens this weekend at Universal Studios’ Hollywood and Orlando locations.)

The voice talent have traditionally argued that they’re asking for a relatively small piece of the “Simpsons” pie given its status as a global phenom worth several billions of dollars. Indeed, via syndication, international, licensing and merchandising, among other things, “The Simpsons” has been invaluable to the conglom.

But the fewer fireworks accompanying this round of negotiations may also stem from mutual acknowledgment that “The Simpsons,” like everything on TV, hasn’t been immune to broadcast’s rapid viewership erosion. With ratings down, the show isn’t bringing in the same kind of revenues it once did. The talent will likely get their pay increase even as the show becomes less of a cash cow.

If a deal isn’t made soon, whatever gains the talent may ultimately secure could be tempered by the fact that fewer episodes are produced.

One optimistic insider said it could all be resolved as soon as this week.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a

    Bolsonaro LGBTQI Outburst, Subsidy Freeze, Stirs Outrage

    Ramping up the drive into censorship in Brazil, its Minister of Citizenship, Omar Terra, has suspended a call for applications for governmental TV funding – until new criteria are established for its application. The country’s secretary for culture, Henrique Pires, who reports to Terra, has resigned in protest of the incentive freeze. The suspension, for [...]

  • Shanta Fripp Claudia Milne Jon Tower

    'CBS This Morning' Names New Director, Managing Editor and Senior Producer

    “CBS This Morning” has made three key staff appointments as the show’s new leadership team settles in. Shanta Fripp, an 18-year CBS News veteran, has been named director of the weekday broadcast. Claudia Milne has joined CBS News from ProPublica as managing editor while Jon Tower has been upped to senior broadcast producer. “I’m thrilled [...]

  • Sean Spicer DWTS

    Sean Spicer Will Make Six Figures for 'Dancing With the Stars'

    Sean Spicer could waltz away with a nice payday if he wins “Dancing With the Stars.” According to multiple sources, contestants on the ABC competition series make $125,000 for the show’s rehearsal period and their first two weeks on the air. If they make it to week three and beyond, they begin to earn additional [...]

  • Sean Spicer Dancing With the Stars

    Sean Spicer's 'Dancing With the Stars' Casting Is a Terrible, Cynical Ratings Grab (Column)

    ABC’s announcement that its newest “Dancing With the Stars” cast will feature Sean Spicer, former press secretary for Donald Trump and frequent punchline, got immediate heat. The show’s tweet sharing the news was immediately flooded with derision and calls for reconsideration given the fact that Spicer gained his modicum of fame from defending some of [...]

  • Channel 4's Dorothy Byrne Calls on

    Channel 4's Dorothy Byrne Calls on Broadcasters to 'Get Serious'

    Broadcasters can arrest their fall in ratings by making “really clever and difficult programs,” according to Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4’s head of news and current affairs, who delivered the keynote MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Wednesday night. Speaking to an Edinburgh auditorium packed with many of the U.K.’s most senior executives, Byrne said [...]

  • 50 Cent Power S6 Premiere

    50 Cent, Snoop Dogg & Trey Songz 'Power' Up New York City for Massive Season 6 Premiere

    “Power” is entering its final season, but you would never know if you walked by Madison Square Garden in Manhattan on Tuesday night. Starz pulled out all the stops for its ratings powerhouse “Power,” throwing a massive premiere event, complete with a full-length concert at Madison Square Garden from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and a [...]

  • AT&T TV

    AT&T TV: An Unskinny Streaming Bundle That Looks a Lot Like Traditional Pay TV

    AT&T this week launched AT&T TV, a new subscription streaming television service that uses an Android-based internet set-top, in 10 markets. But the way it’s priced and packaged looks very similar to cable and satellite TV services — in other words, AT&T TV isn’t targeted at the cord-cutter crowd. It’s basically designed as a way [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content