Jewish World Review April 1, 2004 / 11 Nissan, 5764
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."
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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© 2003, Creators Syndicate