This was one of those things that I never thought would go this far but sometimes people forget what it goes into making a show work. Regardless of what your personal opinions are of the show (which is hilarious when some people are quick to fire the cast when they believe a show is overrated) but the cast has been trying to re-negotiate their contracts since the end of season three.
It has made no headway, much like the politicos in Washington, and negotiations amped up, especially when a table read for the season opener was to happen yesterday morning. They fell apart and the table read was cancelled at the last minute. It gets even better. Now, the cast is suing to get out of their contract stating that it violates California’s “7 Year Rule,” which prohibits personal service contracts for longer than seven years, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
While the initial dispute and legal action was brought on by five of the six adult cast members, Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara, Ed O’Neil has decided to join the lawsuit as a show of solidarity with his fellow actors. O’Neil had negotiated his contract separately, as he was getting paid more than anyone else after he slipped into the role when Craig T. Nelson withdrew.
This is a common tactic used by many ensemble cast shows, especially when they hit it big, and has been used to push for a deal quickly. The Big Bang Theory was the last to use it, but the cast of Friends and Everyone Loves Raymond were known to do this. However, many shows tend to avert a work stoppage; the last show to stop production was when the supporting cast of The West Wing walked off after being turned down for an equal pay raise, Rob Lowe and Martin Sheen were paid considerably higher.
According to THR, the cast was being offered “salary increases as follows: $150,000 per episode plus a $50,000 per episode bonus for season 4; $200,000 per episode for season 5; $225,000 for season 6; and up to $325,000 for an anticipated season 9. The cast is asking for much more, including more than double the offered salary if the show goes 8 or 9 seasons, as expected.”
I am sure in this tough economic climate; many people would love to have that type of salary for working only nine months out of the year and possible do a film during your break. However, studios like 20th TV need to understand that the writing may be important but having a cast that works magic on screen is important too. Much like the cast of Friends, they don’t always have a big money gig waiting for them afterwards, so they need to make the money while they can.