As the fate of longest-running sitcom ever (and greatest show ever) The Simpsons hangs in the balance because of money disputes between cast and production, one actor, Harry Shearer (Principal Skinner, Mr. Burns, et al) has reached out to the public to explain the situation.
Shearer explains why he's after what he's after:
For many years now, the cast of "The Simpsons" has been trying to get Fox to agree that, like so many other people who've contributed significantly to the show's success, we be allowed a tiny share of the billions of dollars in profits the show has earned. Fox has consistently refused to even consider the matter. Instead, it's paid us salaries that, while ridiculous by any normal standard, pale in comparison to what the show's profit participants have been taking home.
Now, as the show enters its twenty-third season, we are engaged in what will probably be our last contract negotiation with Fox. As you may have heard, the network has taken the position that "The Simpsons" no longer makes enough money and that unless we in the cast accept a 45% pay cut, they are not going to bring the show back for a twenty-fourth season.
Obviously, there are a lot more important things going on in the world right now, in the streets of New York and elsewhere. But given how many people seem to care about what happens to our show – and how much misinformation has been flying around – I thought it might make sense for at least one member of the cast to speak out directly. I should note that I am speaking only for myself, and not for any of the other actors on the show.
Fox wants to cut our salaries in half because it says it can't afford to continue making the show under what it calls the existing business model. Fox hasn't explained what kind of new business model it has formulated to keep the show on the air, but clearly the less money they have to pay us in salary, the more they're able to afford to continue broadcasting the show. And to this I say, fine – if pay cuts are what it will take to keep the show on the air, then cut my pay. In fact, to make it as easy as possible for Fox to keep new episodes of "The Simpsons" coming, I'm willing to let them cut my salary not just 45% but more than 70% – down to half of what they said they would be willing to pay us. All I would ask in return is that I be allowed a small share of the eventual profits.
My representatives broached this idea to Fox yesterday, asking the network how low a salary number I would have to accept to make a profit participation feasible. My representatives were told there was no such number.
(The full statement is here.)
So, OK, yes, that makes sense. It does! The brilliant voice cast is absolutely integral to the show's success and they do deserve a share of the sweet, sweet profits. (Mmm... profits.)
But 1) Publicly, like issuing a public statement to help assuage your guilt publicly, demanding millions of dollars from fucking News Corp. at this particular moment in economic history is maybe not the most prudent thing to do. And 2) If The Simpsons ends abruptly over something as cynical as a haggle over money, that will be greatly disappointing. Though its political edges have certainly been worn down over the years, I can't help but think that at least the early Simpsons would be quite let down by that.
[Photo via Getty]