Could The Simpsons be coming to an end? Or is this just a big fat negotiating ploy at work?
TV's longest-running sitcom may shut down after its 23rd season wraps in the spring because of contract talks between 20th Century Fox Television and its six voice actors.
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"23 seasons in, The Simpsons is as creatively vibrant as ever and beloved by millions around the world," the studio said in a statement Tuesday. "We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model. 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."
The studio did not specify details, but according to The Daily Beast, 20th Century Fox issued an ultimatum to the actors — Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer — to take a 45 percent pay cut or the show will end. Per the report, the offer was made Monday evening after the sextet, who each make $8 million a year, last week proposed a 30 percent pay cut in exchange for a small percentage of the show's back-end profits, which includes syndication and merchandising.
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"Fox is taking the position that unless they can cut the production costs really drastically, they'll pull the plug on new shows," a source told The Daily Beast. "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. ... Fox is basically saying, 'If you don't take this deal, we'll shut down the show,' and they'll continue to make a ton of money."
If the actors accept the offer, they would each make about $4 million.
The Simpsons, which premiered in 1989, remains the centerpiece in Fox's Sunday night animation block.