With 23 seasons and a major motion picture to its name, The Simpsons is probably the most successful and well-known animated American television show of all time – and yet, some would say it hasn’t been good since the late '90s.
Which might have something to do with why Fox is considering canceling the animated American staple before season 24 can be green-lit. Well, that and Fox wants to downgrade the cast members' paychecks from $8 million a piece to $4 million a piece, and the cast members might not go for it.
Says a Simpsons insider to The Daily Beast:
"Fox is taking the position that unless they can cut the production costs really drastically, they’ll pull the plug on new shows. 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 [if they’re given a percentage of the back-end profits], but that’s not good enough for Fox."
This isn’t the first time that the cast of The Simpsons has done battle with the studio with regard to payment and contracts. However, previously, it seemed as though they had the weight at the negotiation table - especially when Fox threatened to replace them with soundalikes. Not so, this time.
According to The Daily Beast, Fox wants the actors’ pay to be cut by 45%, though it’s unclear whether or not they’re okay with the cast receiving a small percentage of the show’s profits, per their request - which would, in this writer’s opinion, be entirely fair.
The insider continues:
"Now 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. They’re free to sell it to cable and a second round of syndication, and they figure that the cast has very little leverage."
As someone who believes the original incarnation of The Simpsons was classic, hilarious, and largely responsible for influencing both good and bad American TV/film/videogame comedy over the past fifteen years (Family Guy, Arrested Development, Hot Fuzz, American Dad, 30 Rock, Futurama, Community, Modern Family, Tim Schafer videogames, and on, and on, and on), the possibility of cancellation is music to my ears.
Somewhere between season eight and season one million – as there are literally (sarcasm) one million seasons of The Simpsons currently – this classic TV show became a pale, paltry shell of its former glorious self. The show lost is cleverness, its subtlety, its vitality, its edge, its particular brand of humor, and it became a "How crazy can we get?" variety hour, a la Family Guy.
Indeed for myself and many others, The Simpsons has long been in need of being put out of its misery. Even the film released in 2007, while somewhat entertaining, was not as great as the "classic Simpsons" seasons of the show. "Randomness" ≠ "comedy," regardless of what certain shows, movies, and SNL skits would have you believe - and regardless of how many times said random joke is made.
Truthfully, The Simpsons has been declining in quality for over half of its lifespan; congratulations should go to Fox, Matt Groening, James L. Brooks and Co. for producing the longest-running American primetime cartoon, sitcom, and scripted show, but now it’s time to pack it in and just live off the residuals. Please! Double please!
I don’t even think it would be a bad idea to continue making Simpsons movies. At least then the creators could focus all their energy on making quality, as opposed to dividing comedic and creative energy (what little is left) between episodes and movies. My only request is that they replace the Arnold Schwarzenegger president character with Rainier Wolfcastle, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the Simpsons universe, as it should’ve been in the first place.
Alas, all these contract negotiations and threats of cancellation could very well just be another round of political games as a means to either lowball the actors or highball the studio, which would inevitably end in one side succumbing to the other and another few seasons of ho-hum Simpsons episodes. Hopefully – at least in my opinion – that’s not the case, and this overstayed welcome can finally end once and for all. Until then, I’ll have my Simpsons Seasons 2-8 DVDs to comfort me.
What do you guys think? Does the news that The Simpsons might be canceled sadden you or fill you with glee?
Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.
The Simpsons airs Sundays on Fox @8pm. For now.
Source: The Daily Beast