The two lead stars of Bones have a bone to pick. The guy who played Angel (David Boreanaz) and Zooey Deschanel’s older sister (Emily), as well as some nobody that has nothing to do with anything (the producer and writer of the original material Kathleen Reichs), are asserting that Rupert’s pet Fox owes them tens of millions of greenbacks in misallocated profits.
According to their lawsuit, the Fox family (20th Century Fox Television, the Fox network and its affiliates) gave itself and its partner channels more lucrative terms and knowingly slighted actors and producers of the channel’s longest running drama in the process.
While the Bones community resolve their wee multi-million dollar kafuffle, we thought it’d be wise to revisit some of television’s most heated salary scuffles, as bartering for thousands more dollars per month is a conundrum to which we can all relate and will probably have to face at some point in the future.
The most famed example of a small-screen cast asserting their power is when loveable mope David Schwimmer harnessed the exploding profiles of he and his fellow stars while their contracts were already in place in 2002. Some say that with the help of his renowned divorce attorney mother, he and Jennifer, Courtney, Matt, Matt and Lisa banded together and proved they were worth a hefty $1 million an episode. What seemed like a greedy grab at the time, when considering the show’s ongoing globe-spanning syndication, their fee increases now seem like chump change.
Jersey Shore, or ‘The Inverted Sopranos’, was that show the straddled the turn of the decade and left spray-tan marks on all of our souls. Attune to the modern psyche as they were, the cast knew their vital place in modern culture, and went on strike prior to season three in 2010. Snooki and The Situation dominated the situation, managing to wrangle a $20,000 raise for each of their fellow bronzebots. That’s $30K, up from the $10K each they earned during season two.
How I Met Your Mother
We spent nine seasons of HIMYM waiting for one of the most impressive anti-climaxes since the day after Google Glass debuted. But until then, one of the last tolerable laugh track sitcoms managed to prove a cleverly told, lightning-paced (if occasionally grating) ode to the comedy of yore. In 2009, by season 3, the starring five-some had become genuine stars, so it was no surprise that they were able to successfully negotiate higher salaries of a little over $100K per episode, each. But much like his character of Barney, show-stealer Neil Patrick Harris went out on his own, angling for $250,000 per episode, and nailing it.
In 2012, all adult Modern Family-ers bar Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill was already raking it in) took their promotional lunchboxes and went home until networks agreed to raise their rates. This feud resulted in a lawsuit that was eventually dropped, and a considerable delay on the filming of season 4, but eventually saw the hyperactive wife, her dopey husband, the loud gay guy, the quiet gay guy, and the one who’s funny because her accent isn’t American, each snag an extra $100K per episode. That’s $175K per 21-minute episode, plus a percentage of future royalties. The kids managed to grab a few thou of extra pocket money too.
While TV stars with recognisable faces can use said faces as leverage against Networks, apparently it’s a little harder for the most skilled voice actors on the planet to get respect. The lead cast of The Simpsons is in constant battle with Fox over their relatively modest salaries, and by the time they win a small battle they’re usually faced with a new one. In 1998, the cast put forward that they deserved more than their $30,000 per episode salaries, but the network making gazillions off the show was having none of it, even going as far as to threaten to recast the roles. Matt Groening eventually stepped in and saved the day, but not long after their rates were once again cut. In the 18 years that have followed, these disputes have been commonplace in The Simpsons world.
The Simpsons (Again)
Earlier this year, several The Simpsons characters quit the show. Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Smithers, Otto, Skinner, McBain, among others, all went back and holed up at Harry Shearers house due to a dispute over merchandising. That’s right, the veteran comedian who voices half of Springfield almost left the Fox lot for good, at the esteemed age of 71. Luckily, a $13 million dollar deal coaxed Shearer back to the recording booth, and we’re all the better for it.
The West Wing
Aaron Sorkin’s whimsical, award-hogging political drama made us feel like surrogate members of a family we’d never encounter in real life. When the show was in top form, the writing and direction was masterful, but it was Leo, CJ, Toby, Josh, Charlie, Donna, and President Bartlet that kept us invested. It’s no surprise that in 2001, the tight-knit cast joined forces to barter their salaries up to the respectable $70,000 per episode; terms that were eventually met. Well, with the exception of Rob Lowe, who obviously still hadn’t realised that his Sam Seaborn hadn’t been the lead since the pilot, and quit after the studio wouldn’t agree to his (much higher) proposed increase.
The Gilmore Girls
Cult dramedy The Gilmore Girls has risen in critical acclaim since its airing, which makes the fact that itmet its end partly due to salary negotiations that much more of a, like, total, like, bummer. In 2005, after a seventh season, the mother and daughter (and potential closet speed addict) pairing played by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel said goodbye in their typical rapid-fire fashion, when they and the powers-that-be reached a stalemate. Then everyone stopped talking. It must have been strange.
The Big Bang Theory
Last year, the eighth season of one of the world’s most popular shows was delayed amidst a heated dispute between the principal cast members and CBS. Katey Cuoco, Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons were all on roughly $350,000 per episode, but considering the endless windfall already spurting from the syndication of a show that was (and is) still running, their demands weren’t exactly without basis. In the end, the prime-time trio won out, now each earning around $1 million per episode.
It’s difficult to find examples of Australians engaged in such disputes (though I did hear that Rob Sitch borrowed ten dollars from Santo during the filming of Frontline and never paid it back) as I assume our actors are merely grateful to get a paycheque, but back in 2009, many Aussies’ favourite morning man Karl Stefanovic was hot property (do not contact SBS and complain as this is not a factual error), single-handedly raising the ratings of channel Seven’s Today. So when Channel Nine attempted to poach the ever-reliable television personality, Seven realised they were looking at a grudge match. In the end, Stefanovic stayed on with Seven, but not after his salary was doubled to roughly $500,000 per year.