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Posted at 02:00 PM ET, 10/04/2011

‘The Simpsons’: Could it end over dispute with voice talent?


“The Simpsons”: possibly saying farewell soon? (Anonymous - AP)

After 23 seasons and more than two decades on the air, could “The Simpsons” call it quits over a money dispute?

The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove is reporting that it’s a real possibility due to stalled salary negotiations between 20th Century Fox and the show’s voice actors, including Dan Castallaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria and others.

Fox has reportedly asked the show’s voice talent to accept a pay cut of 45 percent, with the caveat that if it is not accepted, “The Simpsons” will end its record-breaking primetime run after the close of its current season. According to The Daily Beast, the cast members had offered to accept a 30 percent salary reduction plus a small percentage of the extensive, backend profits from syndication and merchandising, but that offer was reportedly rejected.

Fox’s only comment on the situation comes in the form of a just-released statement that says: “23 seasons in, THE SIMPSONS is as creatively vibrant as ever and beloved by millions around the world. We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model. We are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the voice cast that allows THE SIMPSONS to go on entertaining audiences with original episodes for many years to come.”

This is not the first time Fox and the actors who breathe weekly life into Homer, Marge and Apu have butted heads over money.

A pay dispute in 1998 nearly led Fox to attempt to replace the existing actors with similar-sounding substitutes. (That, understandably, did not go over well with fans.)Another salary impasse was reached — and passed — back in 2004.

While “The Simpsons” may not have the pop cultural caché it once possessed, it still makes plenty of money for Fox and provides the foundation for its Sunday night line-up. From that perspective at least, cancelling it seems like an unwise move.

One fan tweeted a note to Shearer — voice of Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner and many others — that said: “simpsons facing cancellation? say it ain’t so, harry!” Shearer’s response: “Don't tell me, tell Fox.”

The lead voice actors currently make about $8 million per year from their work on “The Simpsons,” according to that Daily Beast story, so a 45 percent cut won’t exactly make them poor. The question raised by their counter-offer, and in previous negotiations, is whether their contributions are so crucial to the show’s success that they deserve to pocket some of that merch money.

Would you be upset if this salary conflict forces “The Simpsons” to hit the brakes on its seemingly non-stop monorail ride? Should the cast, crew and network at least try to make it to the show’s 25th anniversary, then halt the Homer show? Or should they pay the voice talent what they’ve asked and continue the “Ay caramba” comedy for as long as possible?

A 2010 poll on this topic indicated that you’d like to see America’s most beloved four-fingered family remain on television. But please share your current opinions by posting a comment.

By  |  02:00 PM ET, 10/04/2011

Tags:  TV

 
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