I'm normally not a praying man, but if you're up there, please save the Simpsons, Superman. After 23 seasons, Fox is threatening to pull the plug on the longest airing animated show ever.
Network execs at Fox are telling the voice actors on The Simpsons that these could be the last days for Bart, Homer, Lisa, Marge and Maggie if the crew can’t find a way to substantially slice the amount of money it is taking to put out the show. So far The Simpsons has spawned 488 episodes since its debut in 1989.
"Fox is taking the position that unless they can cut the production costs really drastically, they'll pull the plug on new shows," a network insider revealed to The Daily Beast this week.
And those cost cutting tactics that the network is trying to tackle is not just a little penny pinching and more of the money-grubbing you might expect from the wealth C Montgomery Burns. The source suggests that Fox is asking the stars of the show to take a 45 percent pay cut to keep the show afloat. According to The Daily Beast, the lead voice actors on the program agreed to take a salary cut of nearly one-third, but the bosses at Fox said that isn’t enough.
In a statement from 20th Century Fox Television, they comment that the network "cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model." In the two-decades-plus since the show started its run on Fox, The Simpsons have spawned countless pieces of merchandise and dozens of albums and video games.Even still, the $400,000 a piece that the show’s main voice talent take home — which includes Dan Castallaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria — is taking a toll on the show’s budget.
“The show has made billions in profits over the years and will continue to do so as far as the eye can see down the road. The actors are willing to take a pay cut of roughly a third, but that's not good enough for FOX," the sources adds to The Beast.
Fox has responded, however, writing, “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.”
As production costs continue to weigh down the series, a downturn in viewership in recent years has made the show less profitable than ever before. While The Simpsons manages to draw 7.1 million viewers on average with its current season, that is around one-fifth fewer than the show’s share only five years earlier. The Los Angeles Times also reveal that as far as viewers between the ages of 18 to 49 go, The Simpsons’ audience has shrunk 17 percent in the last few years.
Even Homer would tell you, though, “Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true.”
Does this mean this tidbit isn’t up for debate then? Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp, Fox’s parent company, saw $33.3 million in total compensation for the last fiscal year, marking an increase of 45 percent.
That chunk of knowledge comes courtesy of Harry Shearer, the actor responsible for voicing Mr Burns, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner and others. He tweeted the tidbit once news surfaced with the note, “Must be a better biz model.”
Chin up, Harry. As your pal Homer puts it, “I've learned that life is one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead.”