Seemingly around since time immemorial, the very notion that the comedy-to-money transforming machine that is The Simpsons could ever stop producing new episodes sounds downright farcical. Laughable, even. You can't see it via my typing, but I'm laughing heartily at the very notion.
That said, rumblings from The Daily Beast today present such a nonsensical scenario as frighteningly believable. According to the report, FOX has reached a rather treacherous impasse in negotiations with the principal voice cast. All of the actors--Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith, Nancy Cartwright, Hank Azaria, and Harry Shearer--have been asked to take a "draconian" (their words, not mine) 45% salary cut from their existing salary of around $8 million per-year.
The sextet of actors are, in fact, willing to take a salary cut of 30%, but also want the smallest, teensiest piece of that absurdly lucrative pie that is the back-end syndication profits. Show creators James L. Brooks and Matt Groening have significant portions of those profits, and have been essentially getting fat off them ever since--though, to be fair, they were rather portly fellows to begin with. The actors assert that they've contributed far more creatively than either of those two have in quite some time--indeed, the twosome really don't have a great deal of creative input over the series these days--and simply want a small piece of the action.
FOX, in grand, corporate asshole fashion, has balked at giving the actors even the most minuscule sliver of these profits, and has more or less threatened to shut down the entire production when the current season run ends this spring. In the past, FOX has attempted to strong arm the cast by threatening to replace them with sound-alikes, but likely did so purely as a negotiating tactic. However, with The Simpsons now in its 23rd season, and FOX already perhaps planning on dedicating an entire network to reruns of the show, it's distinctly possible that the network could just shut down the whole thing and move on to the next Seth MacFarlane animated series. You know he's got like 36 of them just lying around somewhere.
It would be a rather undignified end to one of television's longest running series, though some might argue that whatever dignity The Simpsons had ended about ten seasons ago, when episode writing became largely governed by what celebrities had been booked for a given week. Still, the altogether likelihood of FOX just sending off its most recognizable show with such lackluster fan fare seems unlikely. More likely, FOX and the actors, much like every sports league on the planet, will continue cantankerous talks until the 11th hour, when FOX suddenly realizes it has a few hundred million dollars to throw around after eventually cancelling Terra Nova, and just throws it at them to make the whole thing go away. Or maybe Terra Nova will stick around, and as a result, the Simpsons bubble will finally burst.
And in case you're wondering why I'm blaming all this on Terra Nova, it's because last night's episode kind of sucked. Could those Pteranodons have looked any shittier? This is what you're spending $20 million an episode on? Please...