Royalties battle puts Simpson’s future in doubt

Posted on October 9, 2011


AFTER settling a contractual dispute with voice artists, Fox’s most profitable ever show is set to return to the screens for a further two series, with the cast taking a 30% pay cut in return for a share of merchandising and syndication profits.

I love the Simpsons

Earlier this month Fox claimed that it couldn’t sustain the show with the current cast salaries. Harry Shearer who voices Principal Skinner, Kent Brockman, Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Dr. Hibbert, Lenny Leonard, Otto Mann, Rainier Wolfcastle, Dr. Marvin Monroe and many others earns around £5.2m per series, his co-stars earn similar amounts. Nonetheless, massive salary or not, the cast only receive a small slither of the Simpson’s profits.

The Simpsons has reached a momentous 23rd series and is the longest-running comedy on US television as it was first aired on the as a cartoon short on the Tracy Ulman show until it received its own 30 minute slot on Fox in 1989.

However has this dog had its day… or can you teach an old dog new tricks?

When the Simpsons began, no one could have guessed how successful it was going to become. What’s ironic is that Groening created all the characters minutes before a meeting with Fox in which he would have to present his show idea, he wanted to keep the rights to his comic-strip “Life in Hell” so he decided to make up a whole new show concept in second. The Simpsons are roughly named after Matt’s own family although Bart is a anagram of brat. Groenings small act of half-arsed rebellion changed TV forever.

In the past Groening has admitted similarities between his show and the Flintstones, although his creation could boast a dysfunctional family and alcoholic family. So just as he took a basic template of a previous format, many competitors have arisen from the void for a piece of the Simpson’s cake.

Matt Groening, the man who copy-pasted the Flintstones onto prime-time TV

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park. Seth Macfarlane’s Family Guy, American Dad and the Cleveland Show. And even Groening’s very own Futurama have all split the Simpsons’ audience one way or another, Springfield’s favourite family are no longer the only highly entertaining animated series on the television. South Park’s foul language, Family Guy’s absurdity and American Dad’s critical outlook of American life, all make for compulsive viewing, even making the Simpsons look politically correct and tame in comparison. However in the past, even the Simpsons were controversial. Former president, George Bush Sr said in 1992:

We’re going to keep trying to strengthen the American family; to make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons“.

Ratings for the current series of the Simpsons in the US are down 14% from last year. If ratings keep dropping, we may finally see the back of the Simpsons in a few years time, for good… or perhaps Fox will continue to milk their cash cow. Don’t forget, we still see TV channels battling for the rights to 15-year-old episodes of the show Friends that we have seen multiple times. If the Simpsons continue it may be the case the that the series becomes stale, old and irrelevant.

And we don’t want that, we love the Simpsons, I grew up watching them after the Fresh Prince of Bel Air on, correct me if I am wrong, BBC2 at 6pm. I used to try and visit relatives who had Sky TV just so I could watch my favourite family. I now catch the odd episode on channel 4 and its good. It’s just that I prefer the Simpson imitators to the Simpsons themselves.

The recent salary disputes sound very much like hyenas fighting over a rotten corpse, rats leaving a sinking ship, like a cast trying to secure merchandising rights in anticipation of their show finally getting cancelled.

What do you think?