D'oh! The Simpsons to stay around for two more seasons

Fox Television said on Friday it had renewed animated TV series The Simpsons for another two seasons after settling a pay stand-off that had threatened to end the satirical parody of working-class American life.

“Fox has renewed The Simpsons, the longest-running comedy in television history, for an incredible 24th and 25th season,” the network said in a statement.

Fox Television, a unit of News Corp, said earlier this week that it could no longer afford to keep producing the show without the main voice actors taking a hefty cut in their $8-million annual salary.

The actors said Fox wanted a 45% reduction. They offered 30% cut in return for a share of billions of dollars generated by the show in worldwide licensing, syndication and merchandising.

Fox declined to give details of the new contract but a spokesperson said the network was “thrilled” to have reached a deal. “We are all very happy with the result,” the spokesperson said.

Hollywood industry website The Wrap, citing a person close to the negotiations, said the final deal for the actors “was immeasurably improved from what Fox’s initial offer was”.

The tale of doughnut-loving Homer Simpson and his dysfunctional, yellow-faced family was launched on Fox in 1989, and helped establish the fledgling network as a major player in the TV industry.

It is now broadcast in more than 100 countries and 50 languages.
But US audiences have dropped off steadily in recent years. The show is currently watched by about 7.1-million Americans, down from an average 12.4-million 10 years ago, according to ratings data.

It has won 27 Emmy Awards and boasted a guest star list that is a Who’s Who of pop culture, ranging from actress Elizabeth Taylor to astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, rock star Mick Jagger, and even News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch.

The family from the fictional city of Springfield has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and Homer’s catch-phrase “D’oh” entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2001.

But Andrew Wallenstein, television editor for Hollywood trade paper Variety, said the comedy was no longer as fresh and exciting as it once was.

“I don’t think it has anywhere near the influence that it used to,” Wallenstein told Reuters.

“The very fact that the show has been around for so long sort of works against it to some degree. After 23 years, you’re bound to fade into the woodwork, no matter how hilarious or clever you are,” said Wallenstein.

News Corp executives have said recently they are looking at ways of making more money from the show in future from syndication rights and other ventures.

“Whether it’s channel, digital, ourselves, third parties, it’s a series unique in television, with a volume to it that is unprecedented,” News Corp chief operating officer Case Carey told an investors conference in September. - Reuters

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