After a 23 season run, it looks like the current season of The Simpsons could be the show’s last. News broke today that Fox is threatening to cancel the show if the cast does not agree to a 45% pay cut (if my editor is reading this, don’t get any ideas). With ratings down and production costs the highest they’ve ever been, Fox alleges that it cannot continue to air the series without garnishing wages and would rather cancel the show than share a percentage of the back-end.
They’re playing hardball. But are they bluffing? Yes. Here are a few reasons why I think so.
This isn’t the first time that the network has been at odds with the cast’s paycheck. They threatened to fire cast members and replace them with sound-alikes when their contracts were up in 2008. Those negotiations ended in an outcome where the cast saw significant pay bumps to $500,000 per episode. Sounds pricey but this actually put their pay in line with that of stars of live-action sitcoms. And it only took 19 years to get there.
The Simpsons is an institution. The celebrated program has shaped an entire generation. In fact, there are adults alive who don’t know the barren television wasteland we all foraged through before The Simpsons existed. Even though it’s not as great as it once was, the first ten seasons still rank as the best television series of all time. I don’t think television viewers are ready to say goodbye. At least, not in an abrupt way.