TV stars team up to get what they want

The cast of Modern Family, winner for best television series - comedy or musical, poses with...

The cast of Modern Family, winner for best television series - comedy or musical, poses with producer Steven Levitan (3rd from L) backstage at the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, in this January 15, 2012, file photo. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files)

Michael Rechtshaffen, Special to QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 1:28 PM ET

HOLLYWOOD—Many a joke has been made at the expense of actors and their larger-than-life egos, but lately it seems as if TV stars have been pushing aside the inflated self-worth, learning that there’s strength in numbers.

Take the recent brouhaha surrounding the cast of Modern Family, for example.

In their efforts to get a respectable bump in their salaries from the estimated $65,000 per episode they had been receiving for season 3, Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and Ty Burrell had filed a lawsuit against series producer 20thCentury Fox Television in the midst of heated contract renegotiations.

Fellow cast member Ed O’Neill subsequently came on board as well, although he had been earning a reported $105,000 an episode.

The potentially risky gambit paid off, with the cast reportedly receiving salaries inthe $170,000 to $175,000 ballpark for season 4, which will kick off, as scheduled, on Sept. 26.

That remarkable solidarity where actors, their agents and managers are concerned, recalled the all-for-one-and-one-for-all stance taken by the cast of Friends back in 1996, who had made the then relatively unheard of move to negotiate their contracts as a group ahead of the hit show’s third season.

The united front resulted in Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer and fellow friends getting a then eye-brow raising $100,000 per episode—small potatoes compared to the cool million per episode they were collecting by the last season.

Some 15 years later, the voice cast of The Simpsons threatened to shut down Springfield ahead of the venerable series’ 24th season, when FOX wanted them to take a substantial 45% cut in salary.

Rather than respond with a collective “d’oh,” the actors, who had been taking home a reported $8 million a season, eventually agreed to a reported 30% pay cut after group negotiations.

At the time, series regular Harry Shearer had said he would have been willing to accept a 70% pay cut in exchange for a tiny piece of the hefty profits the show had reaped from marketing and syndication over the past two-and-a-half decades.

Of course, that didn’t happen, but things did turn out more happily for several Happy Days cast-mates.

Last month surviving cast members Marion Ross, Anson Williams, Don Most (don’t call him Donnie!) and Erin Moran, along with Tom Bosley’s widow, settled a lawsuit against CBS and Paramount Pictures just before it was scheduled to go to trial.

Mrs. C and company (Ron Howard and Henry Winkler, while supportive, were not part of the suit) were originally asking for $10 million, claiming breach of contract after not receiving a guaranteed cut in royalties from licensing and merchandising that featured their images.

In the four decades since Happy Days first aired, those likenesses have been featured on everything from lunch boxes to salt and pepper shakers to, more recently, casino slot machines.

Although terms of the settlement weren’t officially revealed, each of the five is expected to collect about $65,000 plus a piece of any future royalties.

Not exactly a windfall, but, as Ralph Malph would have said, “I’ve still got it!”

 

 


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