23 years in, it sometimes feels like The Simpsons will keep producing new episodes forever, with a 10,000th episode celebration happening when you’re about to be put into a nursing home. But there are some pretty serious troubles happening at the show behind the scenes, and they threaten to make this season the last one.
It all comes down to sharing the back-end profits from the show’s 500+ episodes. Fox is reportedly demanding that the principle voice actors agree to a 45% pay cut, and the actors are refusing. They countered with an offer to take a 30% cut in pay for a tiny slice of the show’s back-end profits, which include syndication and merchandising, which would probably more than make up for any pay cuts, and Fox refused. One Simpsons insider said that “Fox is taking the position that unless they can cut the production costs really drastically, they’ll pull the plug on new shows.”
It’s tough to feel too sympathetic with either side here. Fox is making tons of money from The Simpsons, and I’m assuming that cutting the actors’ pay isn’t going to turn the show from a money loser into a money winner. It’ll turn it from a money winner into even more of a money winner. As for the actors, well, they each make around $8 million a year for 22 weeks of work.
It feels a lot like the recent NFL labor disputes that almost delayed or cancelled the current season: two groups of insanely wealthy people, bickering in public about how they’re going to split up billions of dollars. In light of the current economic climate, it was gross then and it’s pretty gross now.
And really, they’ll work this out. The Simpsons still does well enough for Fox to not want to give it the axe, and it’s not like some of these voice actors have anything else to do that will pay them anywhere near the amount they make doing this, even when it’s closer to $4 million a year instead of $8 million. No offense, Yeardley Smith.