The Simpsons, the longest-running primetime comedy in TV history, may be ending as rumors fly about a final season.
That's right; Homer may utter his final d'oh, as the show's lead voice actors threaten to walk out over a contract dispute.
The show's producer said Tuesday that The Simpsons can't continue under its current financial model.
The producers and the voice actors are currently at an impasse in negotiations for a new deal that will allow for more episodes of the animated Fox comedy beyond the current season.
20th Century Fox Television, the studio that produces The Simpsons, has asked the voice actors (including Hank Azaria, Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith, and Nancy Cartwright) to take a 45 percent pay cut to renew their contracts. That would bring their roughly $8 million-per-season salaries down to just over $4 million for roughly 22 weeks of work each season, according to The Daily Beast.
Twenty-three seasons in, 'The Simpsons' is as creatively vibrant as ever and beloved by millions around the world. We believe this brilliant series can and should continue, but we cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model, 20th Century Fox Television said in a statement. 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 pay-cut ultimatum came out Monday evening as Fox rejected the actors' proposal (offered last week) to take a roughly 30 percent pay cut in exchange for a small percentage of the show's huge back-end profits from syndication around the globe, merchandising, and other paraphernalia.
The actors have argued over the years that they deserve a small chunk of the syndication and merchandising profits for contributing creatively to the success of The Simpsons. James L. Brooks and Matt Groening, the show's creators, do reap the benefits of the show's back-end revenue and will continue to get richer off of second round syndication once new episodes are no longer aired.
With nearly 500 episodes, the show is destined to live a long afterlife in syndication, and as it stands, the show's voice actors will receive little more than their union-mandated residuals once production ends.
Fox and the voice actors have had tense negotiations before. In the late '90s, the studio warned that it would replace the actors with sound-alikes before a deal was ultimately reached.
Several vocal stars of the animated series took to Twitter with rather obscure comments on the latest news.
... Well, help save the show!! It's smart and funny and on NBC Wednesdays at 8:30!! Free Agents, that is... Hank Azaria (the voice of Moe, Chief Wiggum, Apu and others) joked on Tuesday, referring to his other comedy series.
When a fan tweeted, Simpsons facing cancellation? Say it ain't so, Harry! Harry Shearer (the voice of Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, and others) responded Don't tell me, tell Fox.
The show, which follows the satiric adventures of a working class family in the misfit city of Springfield, remains the anchor of Fox's Sunday block of animation. Since its inception in 1989, ratings have fallen, however slightly. Yet, the show remains a multibillion-dollar cash cow for 20th Century Fox Television.
What do you think about The Simpsons ending? Share your thoughts in the comments below.