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‘Simpsons’ cast sets two-season deal with Fox

Sides had been at standoff over studio's request for pay cuts

There’s joy in Springfield. Cast members on “The Simpsons” reached a two-season pact with 20th Century Fox TV late Friday that shaves six figures off their per-episode paychecks but also extends their guarantees to all 44 segs produced under the new contract.

New deal covers a 24th and 25th season of Fox’s long-running animated hit, which bows its 23rd season later this month. The impasse was spurred by 20th asking the voice cast to take a pay cut in order to continue the series.

The actors had also sought a piece of the lucrative backend on theshow, which by multiple accounts was steadfastly rejected by the studio. The actors in the standoff included Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe) and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns).

Thesps were said to be making about $440,000 an episode under the previous contract, inked in 2008. It’s understood that the sides settled out at a per-episode salary of about $300,000 per episode, with all of the actors guaranteed to be paid for all 44 episodes over the two seasons. That was an important point to the thesps, because some of them had previously only been guaranteed for 13 segs per season. A source close to the situation said 20th’s initial offer to the thesps was about $250,000 per seg.

The studio put the hammer down on a pay cut, asserting that high salaries on the show had made production of additional episodes untenable from a financial perspective. The intricacies of 20th’s syndication deals for “Simpsons” also gave the studio an incentive to stop production.

The latest “Simpsons” cast dispute went public last week, when it also emerged that some producers on the show had agreed to pay cuts to continue the series (Daily Variety, Oct. 5). The prospects for an accord looked dim Friday ayem when Shearer issued a lengthy statement chiding the studio for greediness with a show that has generated huge profits for News Corp. and helped put the fledgling Fox network on the map.

“I’m willing to let them cut my salary not just 45% but more than 70%,” said Shearer. “All I would ask in return is that I be allowed a small share of the eventual profits.”

In the end, sources in the know said the onset of Yom Kippur was a helpful spur to all sides to get a deal done.

With the new pact, “The Simpsons” will reach an astounding tally of 559 episodes. The show already ranks as the longest-running scripted TV series in smallscreen history.

After the deal was announced Friday evening, “Simpsons” exec producer James L. Brooks tweeted, “Am crying animated tears of joy.”

Brooks and creator Matt Groening were among the producers who were said to have reduced their fees in order to persuade 20th to continue production.

The latest season of “The Simpsons” bows Oct. 30 with its trademark “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween seg.

(Andrew Wallenstein contributed to this report.).

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