A Letter from Ned Flanders About the Possible Cancellation of 'The Simpsons'
As we reported earlier this week, 20 Century Fox executives recently delivered an ultimatum to cast members of "The Simpsons," asking them to take an unheard of 45% pay cut in order to keep original episodes of the series on the air.
The cast, of course, is not happy with this idea, and is looking to gain some meager share of the back-end profits for the show, which will be in the billions. Fox is having none of it, since they start making more money as soon as the show shuts down.
Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, and Harry Shearer, the voice talent on the show, all make about $8 million a year currently, and under the new deal would only make $4 million.
While that'll still buy more than a few sixers of Duff beer, you can't entirely blame the cast for feeling like Newscorp is pulling some pretty shady business when they might think about being grateful for the success of the show in its closing days.
Up until now, the cast has let their agents do the talking, but now Harry Shearer, who voices Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Kent Brockman, Principal Skinner, Reverend Lovejoy and more, has written a letter explaining the cast members' view of the ongoing negotiations.
Long story short, Shearer believes that, as Ned Flanders might say, "Son of a gun didaly-on, this just isn't right."
Read Shearer's letter below:
"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. There were, the Fox people said, simply no circumstances under which the network would consider allowing me or any of the actors to share in the show’s success.
As a member of the 'Simpsons' cast for 23 years, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve had a great run and no one should feel sorry for any of us. But given how much joy the show has given so many people over the years – and given how many billions of dollars in profits News Corp. has earned and will earn from it – I find it hard to believe that this is Fox’s final word on the subject. At least I certainly hope it isn’t, because the alternative is to cancel the show or fire me for having the gall to try to save the show by helping Fox with its new business model. Neither would be a fair result – either to those of us who have committed so many years to the show or to its loyal fans who make our effort worthwhile."