It looks like four former cast members from Happy Days won't have to tell CBS to sit on it.
A lawsuit over merchandising payments filed by Marion Ross, Don Most, Anson Williams and Erin Moran -- who starred in the classic 1970s sitcom -- was settled on Friday. (A trial had been scheduled for July 17 in Los Angeles.) The actors will receive an undisclosed amount of money, according to CNN.
The actors had claimed that CBS owed them back pay from DVD sales and other worldwide merchandise. Happy Days, which ran on CBS from 1974 to 1984, was one of the most popular shows of the late 1970s and spawned T-shirts, games, trading cards, dolls and various other merchandise. Much of that merchandise centered on popular character Fonzie, but some of it also included the faces of Ross, Most, Williams and Moran, who played Marion Cunningham, Ralph Malph, Potsie Weber, and Joanie, respectively.
One Fonzie wallet that was a point of contention in the suit also contained images of the plaintiffs, who claimed they were paid a mere $25.75 each for the use of their likenesses. (Henry Winkler, who played Fonzie, was not involved in the lawsuit.) CBS denied that claim and said that the Screen Actors Guild allows the network to exploit the television series without making additional payments to the plaintiffs.
The Eye network filed a motion to dismiss the suit, but that motion was denied last month by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White.
The Happy Days case was one of a series of recent legal spats involving former television stars who have sued for merchandising pay. Last year, David Cassidy sued Sony over additional revenue from The Partridge Family, citing the use of his image on various merchandise, including the number-one-selling lunchbox of all time.
Another case last year involved James Best, who played Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard. Best is claiming that Warner Bros. swindled him out of revenue from the series, both when it was at its peak and in the three decades since.
Lawsuits involving well-known actors from a bygone era highlight what many see as a raw deal for former TV stars. While today's TV actors have become savvier about securing juicy merchandising rights while their shows are still on the air, actors of the '70s and '80s did not necessarily envision their programs generating revenue into the 21st century.
Networks and studios, meanwhile, claim they also could not have projected such enduring popularity. CBS, for instance, had defended itself against the Happy Days cast by stating that the actors' complaints -- some of which involve revenue from DVD box sets -- were based upon contract clauses written before DVDs were invented. Either way, both sides would have likely invoked the law of unforeseen profitability had the case gone to trial.