Well, the ‘net has certainly been abuzz this week with stories, rumors, quotes, and anonymous sources all speculating about the imminent demise of THE SIMPSONS. While the loyal fans of the show are taking this news quite hard, I’ve been trying to digest what this means for my family’s and my futures.
Over the years, I’ve always told anyone who asked, “How long do you think the show will run?” that I believed FOX would never cancel the show. By “cancel” I mean the traditional, your-ratings-are-too-low kind of cancellation that has already befallen THE PLAYBOY CLUB and (sorry, Hank) FREE AGENTS this season. I’m not a studio executive, nor do I have any inside info or insight into that world, but my gut and common sense told me that THE SIMPSONS was just too profitable for the network to ever cancel. I always believed the end would come when either a contract negotiation between studio and cast could not be resolved or when the writers finally decided that they had run out of stories to tell. If the news we are reading this week is to be believed, it took 23 years for it to happen, but I was wrong – FOX claims that the show is too expensive to continue to produce and that it is worth more to them dead than alive.
Of course the show will never truly be dead. It will live on in syndication around the world for generations to come. It will join the ranks of I LOVE LUCY, GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, LAW & ORDER and other shows that have never been off the air since the day they started. But, according to the reports I’m reading, FOX’s current syndication deal, struck at a time many years ago when cable TV wasn’t the growing, dominant force it is today, is limited to only local FOX affiliates around the country. This deal will remain in place until the show is canceled. At that time, FOX can make new deals with any stations, broadcast or cable, that want to bid for the show. Estimates are that the new syndication package could be worth north of $750 million. If producing new shows is losing FOX money, and canceling is worth $750 million, it’s not hard to understand why certain higher-ups at FOX would want to cancel.
According to published reports, the actors have offered to take a pay cut, the producers have offered to take a pay cut. I haven’t been asked to take one … yet … we’ll see.
Certainly I have no complaints about my time on THE SIMPSONS. I’ve loved working alongside Alf Clausen, Matt Groening, Al Jean and the other show-runners over the 23 years. I’ve gotten to meet and direct so many amazing guest stars like The Smothers Brothers, The Dixie Chicks, U2, Kelsey Grammer, Weird Al, and many, many more. I’ve had the blessing of being able to laugh and listen to fantastic music every day I go to work. The only tiny gray cloud in my otherwise brilliant blue sky is that I haven’t been able to branch out and really expand my music editing experience as much as if, say, the show had run 5-7 years, then I did another show with a different composer and different producers, then another, then possibly more feature film work, etc. Of course I have been able to do a lot of extra projects, but THE SIMPSONS always came first (rightfully so) and thus was a tad limiting in some ways. Now, in 2011, music editing in TV is a less valuable service than it was in 1989. So many composers work at home on Pro Tools and other hybrid composing/editing programs that when the music is finished, it’s ready to go to the dubbing stage. Probably the biggest contribution a TV music editor makes these days is on the dubbing stage where he/she can still represent the composer, and edit alternate cues as needed. But this means only one or two days of work instead of one or two weeks. Feature films, however, still have a need for music editing in the traditional style.
From all that I’m gathering this week as I read, it seems that THE SIMPSONS will wrap up sometime between spring of 2012 and spring of 2014. I’m so lucky to have been a part of television history, to have laughed so much, and to have been paid in a manner that allowed me to support my family and send my two daughters and my wife to college. I’m forever grateful to all who had a hand in shaping the path that got me where I am today.
Now, all I can do is sit back and wait to see what everyone else wants to do next.