The Simpsons
The Simpsons will celebrate their 500th episode Reuters

Even Springfield and The Simpsons are not immune from the current economic climate, and unless the Fox Network and the show's cast can agree on an austerity package of sorts, the show may be cancelled.

The Simpsons has been on the air for 23 seasons, and by the end of next year creator Matt Groening and co. will have made about 500 episodes. But, the way things are going, America's longest running sitcom might not live to see 24.

Fox, citing declining ratings, is reportedly asking the show's six voice actors to take a 45 percent pay cut. They have until Friday to decide if they want to make a deal.

Simpsons actors make $440,000 per episode -- about $8 million per year -- but Fox would like to pay them $250,000. The actors agreed to a salary of $300,000 per episode, in exchange for back-end payments such as a percentage of merchandising revenue, according to the Vancouver Sun.

The network has passed on the proposal.

“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, Fox said in a statement.

Fox has made about $1 billion in revenue from The Simpsons over the past 23 years, and projections indicate that they could triple that if the show were to die more naturally.

Much of that profit comes from merchandising sales, which, over two decades, the cast has not been contracted to receive. According to The Daily Beast, Fox makes untold billions on international syndication, DVD sales, The Simpsons Movie, videogames and merchandising such as clothing and stamps.

If the show were to end, the cast -- comprised of Dan Castellaneta (Homer, Grampa Simpson, Krusty the Clown, and others), Julie Kavner (Marge and others), Nancy Cartwright (Bart and others), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon), and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders, and others) -- will still make money each time an episode of The Simpsons is aired, thanks to their Screen Actors Guild memberships.

But, thanks to Fox's crafty negotiating over the years, it will be only a tiny fraction of what the network makes off of their likenesses.

The Simpsons was created by Groening as part of The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987. It became its own series for Fox in 1989 and grew to be one of the most popular shows in the history of television, with hundreds of regular characters and countless guest stars, including Willem Dafoe, Joe Namath, U2 and Gore Vidal.