Friday, July 27, 2012

Actors on TV Hit ‘Modern Family’ Making $75,000 Per Week Reject Raise to $150,000 per Week and Sue to Make More

Maybe This is Symbolic of the Modern American Family

One of the pleasant surprises of television has been the success of the ABC show Modern Family.  Because the show is really about modern families, it should have been rejected in conservative American homes, but it has not.

"Modern Family," an ensemble comedy about three different branches of one family, is that rare breed of critical and commercial hit. Not only has it won the best comedy Emmy two years in a row, it is one of the biggest hits on television. About 13 million viewers tune in to ABC every Wednesday night to watch the show, and many more record it on their digital video recorder for later consumption.

So what’s the problem?  Well some cast members feels they are underpaid.

Most of the cast members of "Modern Family" were unknowns when it made its debut in 2009 and are paid $60,000 to $70,000 an episode. O'Neill, an established TV star, makes more than $100,000 per episode but he too was also seeking a new agreement.

Yes, you are reading that correctly.  It takes about one week to film an episode and so these fine talented folks (they really are) are getting more in one week of work than the average American family gets in a year.  And their employer apparently has offered more.

An offer that would have put the salaries of Vergara, Ferguson, Stonestreet, Bowen and Burrell in the $150,000 per-episode neighborhood for the upcoming season with sizable annual increases was rejected, a person at the studio who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said.

And of course once the show goes into syndication the stars will get residual payments, or as the rest of the world calls them, money without work.

And so the stars have resorted to that traditional modern American family method of settling disputes, they are suing 20th Century Fox to break their contracts.

Stars Sofia VergaraJesse Tyler FergusonEric Stonestreet,Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell filed suit Tuesday in California Superior Court. The move comes after unsuccessful efforts on their part to renegotiate their deals with the studio. Another star, Ed O'Neill, also is expected to join the suit.

Although the current contracts of the cast run through 2016, the cast has been trying to cut new deals with the studio that would include significant raises. Such negotiations are not unusual in the television industry, particularly on successful shows. In return for bigger paychecks, the cast usually agrees to extend their agreements beyond the usual seven years. 

As far as the merits of either side are concerned, The Dismal Political Economist doesn’t really care.  He is presenting this issue as just another snapshot of life in America in 2012.

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