Jewish World Review April 1, 2004 / 11 Nissan, 5764

Lloyd Grove

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D'OH! "Simpsons" actors in dispute with Fox; Diane Sawyer and Janet Jackson won't be bosom buddies; Condi and Maxim? | NEW YORK — A festering stalemate in contract negotiations between the stars of "The Simpsons" and Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television is threatening to kill the 16th season of the wildly successful animated sitcom.

The six top actors who voice the multifarious and beloved characters of "The Simpsons" — Dan Castellaneta (Homer, Krusty the Clown and others), Julie Kavner (Marge and others), Hank Azaria (Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum and others), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa) and Harry Shearer (Montgomery Burns, Ned Flanders and others) — have joined in a united front to demand a huge raise from the network.

I hear that Fox has flatly refused their demands — which Azaria rep Stan Rosenfield Wednesday characterized as an effort simply "to be paid their fair share."

Another person familiar with the contract dispute told me: "These actors clearly feel entitled to share in the phenomenal success of the series enjoyed by millions around the world. It's a franchise that they created. But the problem is that Fox has always been a studio where saying anything other than 'Yessir!' while tugging at your forelock is regarded as rebellion."

A Fox spokesman declined to comment Wednesday.

I'm told that the "Simpsons Six" (who have been earning less than $1 million each per season) want $8 million per season to stay on the show — which has conservatively earned Fox hundreds of millions of dollars, and probably more than a billion dollars, from domestic syndication and worldwide broadcast rights.

The stars of such successful sitcoms at other networks — such as "Friends" — typically earn a million dollars each per episode.

The Simpsons Six have been working without a contract, on the show's 15th season, since November.

If they don't get their price, Fox might find itself in the embarrassing predicament at next month's network "upfronts," where the prime schedules are announced, of being unable to count on "The Simpsons" — which long has been the crown jewel of Fox's primetime schedule.

PR man Rosenfield Wednesday suggested the logjam will break and the dispute will be resolved — much like a raging controversy in Washington.

"After all, the Bush White House claimed for weeks that Condoleezza Rice would never testify under oath."

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THE BRIEFING NOT THE BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP: Diane Sawyer and Janet Jackson obviously weren't getting along Wednesday at rain-soaked Battery Park, whence "Good Morning America" broadcast a live interview while Janet fans in the crowd loudly heckled Diane. When the ABC diva asked the pop diva about her notorious breast-baring Super Bowl moment, members of the crowd — apparently plants from the Jackson camp — chanted "Get over it!" and "Leave her alone!" An observer on the scene told me: "That heckling was about as spontaneous as Janet's wardrobe malfunction." Despite the crowd noise — "a deafening roar," as Sawyer complained on the air, causing her major hearing problems during the interview — the ABC star bravely pressed on with the grilling. Finally, an extremely unhappy-looking Jackson whined: "I've moved on, and I don't want to discuss it anymore."

THEY'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!: Maxim magazine, which relentlessly chooses a "Girlfriend of the Day" for its online edition, has picked Condoleezza Rice as today's April Fool's "honoree." If President Bush's "sassy national security adviser," as Maxim describes her, can endure this, she can certainly get through her impending testimony before the 9/11 Commission.

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03/31/04: Hair-raising day on Wall Street; Foxy lady loses 50 Cent; How do you say "party animal" in Hebrew?; Rev. Al and Janet Jackson; more
03/26/04: Bye, bye Banfield; from porn to politics?; more
03/24/04: The perils of film criticism; Dole-ing out compliments; but what about a cure for career lag?; more
03/19/04: Trump trumps everything; Mario vs. Joe; Trudeau pays up; more
03/17/04: Remembering Hillary %*&$#! Clinton; PUT AWAY THAT KRYPTONITE!; more
03/12/04: OOPS!, did Jayson Blair do it again?; skewing Young; more
03/10/04: The laugh that dare not speaks its name; Mistaken identity? NAH!; Is this a great country or what?
03/05/04: Bush vs. Kerry: a Skull session; Kramer vs. The Times, scorch session; enthusiasm curbed; (Tina) Brown-nosing?
03/03/04: Oscars memorialize Hitler's fave filmmaker; baubles, bangles and Kelly Osbourne; moonwalking through cyberspace; more
02/27/04: Regan rebellion; Ed Limato strikes again!; tears for Tom; more
02/26/04: McCain predicts a nasty campaign; the misdirected missive; Janet Jackson, the interview; more
02/20/04: Introducing the Kerry sisters; cyberflap!; Snoop Dogg v. O'Reilly?; more
02/18/04: John Kerry's Friendster?; On the mend?; food for fraughtm; more
02/13/04: John & Carolyn, redux; Zell Miller shows the flag; kill Quentin?; more
02/11/04: HE FEELS BAD!; Dick Cheney, still not dead; more
02/06/04: Glittering Grammys; a laurel for Janet; Haryl's heart
02/04/04: Shriver quits NBC; "Marshmallow" Mike Tyson?; Super Bowl propriety?; MTV's next production?; more
01/30/04: The political forehead front; Alies meets Franken; the art of the hype; arrested career development?
01/28/04: Eyebrow-raising politics; call him indescribable; Woods vs. Williams; more
01/23/04: Eyebrow-raising mystery; who's punk'd anyway?; don't curb your enthusiasm; more
01/21/04: Ridiculous lives of the self-important stars; long arm of the law; all's fair in love and literature
01/16/04: Global warming at a glacial pace; targeting pop culture; Is 'the price of loyalty' too high?
01/14/04: Busting on the "cult buster"; Sarsgaard thinks globally; one angry woman; more
01/08/04: Sitcom star won't be excused from Blake murder trial; fierstein on fire; Drudge & Blumenthal, together again
01/07/04: Bono hits a brick wall; Britney, before the nuttiness; the Arianna primary; more
01/02/04: Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio!?; "Bachelor" bruises; Returning to the scene of the crime?
12/31/03: Disaster for the defense; no-war Omar; the shoe must go on; more
12/19/03: Bob Shapiro's free commercial?; Are sophisticated and hip New Yawkers easily duped?; Positive Saddam fallout?; Ratty insult?
12/17/03: Magic Mystery Tour?; Russell Simmons battles ink by the barrel; Would it have killed her to say 'get well soon'?; no Gest room
12/12/03: Karenna defends her dad; now she tells us!; say it ain't so, Mo!; more
12/10/03: Man & wife, interruptus; pepperoni has feelings, too; more
12/05/03: The knives are out; Who's sorry now?; JWR in the news
12/04/03: The war of the gest-minnellis; something borrowed, something cashmere; fashion trendsetter, nailed!
12/03/03: Colombian grace under pressure; Lord of the Screwups; more
12/02/03: Curb your anti-Semitism?; fame fatigue?; bowing to pressure?; more
12/01/03: Dennis the Menace strikes again; first literary feud of the holiday season; Norma Jean & Hef in heaven?; the fog of McNamara; more
11/26/03: Catherine Crier raps Jacko's TV defender, refuses on-air hint of racism; At 50, Tina's in full cry; STAY OUT OF HER WAY!; more
11/25/03: The mogul strikes back?; go ahead, make Harvey's day; more
11/24/03: Georgette's pilfered baubles; prosecutor of pop?; absent but not missed?; Norman Mailer's prescription for education reform; more
11/20/03: Is a movie career in store for Maria Bartiromo?; People for the Unethical Treatment of Humans?; more
11/19/03: Scientologists on Razor's edge?; picking a winner?; source on a hot tin roof?; more
11/18/03: Clay Aiken neuters PETA?; THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS!; a mural for Joe
11/17/03: When networks attack!; leaky Fawcett; forget the Paris Hilton video!; more
11/13/03: Publicity hounds; Prophetic priest; Dumb and Dumber
11/12/03: Not so Rosie; do you believe in miracles?; catalogue of sins; My Heart Belongs to Koppel
11/10/03: Gen. clark on the Subway diet; life of the party; MTV's Dumb and Dumber?; the hug issue; but does the $6,000 shower curtain convey?; red faces at Buckingham palace?
11/06/03: Let them eat pita?; verbal jousting; pretenders to the throne?
11/05/03: Will Harvey Weinstein and Gregg Easterbrook now be pals?; crazed Quentin; more
11/04/03: Herding off the hipsters; more
11/03/03: Dean's tell-all on himself?; Lisaraye vs. Mya?; the odd couple; no need to panic; just don't call him "Scooter"!; Rosie scenarios
10/30/03: Autumn of the editor?; Cynthia Nixon's split may be costly; 'Burning' questions
10/29/03: Ah-nold, unauthorized!; a dilemma for Melissa Gilbert? not even Frank Gifford can help him now!; nobody wanted Elizabeth Hurley
10/28/03: It's Cher calling!; Brown Alert
10/27/03: Paparazzi uncensored!; where's Aaron Brown?; postcards from the middle; invasion of the party snatchers?; House flooded when not afire?; suspenders of disbelief?
10/23/03: Ace up Howard Dean's sleeve; Woody's ordeal; Paul Simon's kid makes good; the non-beginning of a beautiful friendship?
10/22/03: Showing the flag; Joe Frazier, smokin'!; see Carville bruised-up — sort of
10/21/03: Morris & Jaci's charm offensive; Hell hath no fury; Wintertime for Hitler
10/20/03: Isn't it rich?; men (and the occasional woman) behaving badly; peacenik John Lennon supporting the U.S. military?; courageous Connie
10/16/03: George Clooney and intolerable Drudgery; Cameron goes native; and you thought the war in Iraq was nasty?; now it can be revealed; star wars?
10/15/03: Kerik into the breach?; holiday pander?; "the Dink" corrects the record; more
10/14/03: Madge gets mad, lips are sealed; the candidates who listen; he who hesitates is Beatty
10/13/03: Clothes, but no cigar; New Yorkers put a Sox in it; mad at Matalin?; more
10/09/03: Gray Davis goes to the movies; Ali Wentworth, working blue; Law & Order?; pot of gold at the end of the rainbow room?
10/08/03: Art-time for Hitler; the actress who hates movies; lying "Liam"
10/07/03: Pond scum of the rich and famous
07/24/03: Ali and George, living it up; Mel Gibson's Washington power play
07/21/03: White House smear?
07/17/03: Yet another intern scandal; it's her party and she can pay if she wants to
07/14/03: On the auction block: JFK'S boxer shorts; love bytes the maestro
07/10/03: A hairy situation at Homeland Security; Van Susteren v. Orth
06/30/03: Rep. Patrick Kennedy: I've never worked a (bleeping) day in my life; Drudge's dressing down; Ken Lay's Kerry connection
06/26/03: Rapping the beat
06/23/03: Another Watergate scandal?; AL GORE TV!
06/19/03: Tony Snow, rocker?; that won't be crow on Mr. Carlson's plate
06/16/03: Missing dog, ransom demand, Hollywood ending
06/12/03: Giving both parties the needle
06/05/03: Incoming from Barbara Bush?
06/02/03: Bob Dole's plan for fighting unemployment
05/29/03: Newt's new novel
05/27/03: Hitchens & Blumenthal, together again; He still believes in a man called Hope
05/09/03: Close, but no cigar; Romeo & Juliet with a happy ending?; Geraldo to help Heebs?
05/05/03: So Bill Gates and Tom Brokaw walk into a coffee bar . . .; hotel hell; more

© 2003, Creators Syndicate