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As it happens with most popular TV shows, The Simpsons has been at the center of several salary disputes over the years, as the talented cast has tried to secure more money from Fox and the producers. While some people like to hate on celebrities for wanting to build on their already exorbitant paychecks, Simpsons co-developer and executive producer James L. Brooks sees nothing wrong with the show paying the talent whatever they want for their work.
To hear the same voices season after season is gratifying and comforting for our audience. These actors are perfect in their parts, and it doesn’t matter to me what they make. If the show’s making money and we can afford what they’re asking for, great! It’s a capitalist system.
You’ve got to love that kind of attitude if you’re the employee. Granted, TV producers like Brooks are often far more sympathetic bosses than, say, someone in the retail field, but it’s always encouraging to hear someone say that the talent deserves as much money as the talent thinks they’re worth. Remembering my own days of being turned down for raises is enough to turn me into Angry Dad.
After 26 years of making audiences laugh, along with other emotional responses, it’s hard to argue that The Simpsons cast should have always had to settle for whatever Fox execs think they deserve. The show is a part of television history as the longest-lasting scripted series ever, and it’s a merchandizing juggernaut, earning billions upon billions of dollars through products like DVDs, clothing, toys, games and hundreds of other tie-ins, not to mention the movie. (Groening told TV Insider that his favorite is the Krusty doll, which says “Buy my merchandise,” when his string is pulled.)
The Simpsons central cast first got into it with Fox over their salaries back in 1998, after spending a decade being paid just $30,000 an episode. Though Fox initially balked and threatened to replace everyone, the network caved and raised their pay to around $125,000 an episode. In 2004, more disputes arose when they demanded to be paid $360,000 per episode, which was resolved through a compromise. In 2008, Fox agreed to give them $400,000 per episode (though they demanded $500,000), but the network later got the upper hand by forcing them all to take $300,000, or risk having the show canceled. It’s always been something of a battle between everyone involved here.
Things most notably came to a head earlier this year when cast member Harry Shearer dropped out of the show temporarily after his requests for more money were denied. It was a weird time for a little while, and it seemed as if another actor might take his place. In the end, deals were made and Shearer returned, but it was a move that seemed to make it clear this show’s ending is imminent.
But it won’t be because of James L. Brooks, that’s for sure.