The Internet has been abuzz with stories about the demise of “The Simpsons.” As reported pretty much everywhere, unless the voice actors agree to a pretty substantial pay cut (which the show’s producers have already accepted), FOX will end the show after this season’s run of new episodes. Also, there have been reports that even if the actors agree to the pay cut, FOX doesn’t want to extend the show beyond one more season because it is “no longer profitable.” From The Wrap:
If no deal can be reached between the actors and 20th Century Fox TV, then the current, twenty-third season will be the show’s last. But the executive said Fox, the network “The Simpsons” helped establish, wants only one additional season even if the actors and studio can come to terms. […]
The studio declined to comment Wednesday. But the executive told TheWrap that the show is no longer profitable for the network, and that Fox wants to pay 25 to 30 percent less for new episodes. The executive said many on the show have been asked to accept salary cuts, and that producers have already agreed to them, as they try to reduce the licensing fee that Fox pays to air the show.
“The cuts proposed to actors are in line with cuts proposed to others involved in the show. The object here is not for the actors to pay personally for the reduction,” the executive said. “The cost is that the cast is a component of the show, all of which is being downsized to do a final season.”
The Internet, as a collective, picked up this story with the type of reasoned reaction and analysis it is known for, saying things like “OMGZOMG SIMPSONS CANCELED QUESTION MARK,” or “NEXT SEASON OF THE SIMPSONS WILL BE ITS LAST EXCLAMATION POINT.” But if you read to the bottom of that very link I just posted, you’ll see this quote a FOX executive made on Monday:
23 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. 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.
So, to recap: On Monday, everyone hoped to make a deal that would keep the show on the air for many years, but by Thursday morning — about 24 hours before today’s supposed noon deadline for the actors to make a decision — the show had become a completely unprofitable money pit. One that the executives are bending over backwards for to do everything they can to keep it on the air for one more year, if only those dastardly voice actors weren’t so greedy and terrible.
This is the crap that drives me up a wall, people. The two sides are in the middle of a nasty labor dispute, yet major media organizations take this information from an “anonymous FOX executive” and report it as gospel, and then millions of people read only the sensationalistic headline and jump off a cliff. The FOX executives have a dog in this fight — to make it seem like any decision they make on the subject will be done with their hands tied. That way the people responsible are the money-grubbing actors who are making the ungodly sum of $8 million a year, and not the FOX overlords who have had to scrape by on the paltry billions of dollars the show has made the company over the years.
[UPDATE: cast member Harry Shearer has released a statement defending the actors.]
Look, I’m not saying there’s no way this season will end up being the show’s last. If there’s one thing rich people love doing, it’s making petty and childish stands about money. Hell, the decision could be announced in ten minutes for all I know, making this a gigantic waste of time for both me and all of you. But the bigger point I’m trying to make is that when you read reports like this, take a step back and run it through your BS detector. When only one side of a negotiation is quoted in a story, and says something that conflicts with a quote they released earlier in the week, that should put up a red flag or two. Especially given how much money and publicity there is to gain by extending the show two more years to bring it to 25 seasons.
I guess the point I’m trying to make, as much as it pains me to do it, is this: be less like Lionel Hutz, and more like the Blue Haired Lawyer. Thank you and good day.