Hot on the heels of their Emmy nominations last week, the adult members of Modern Family cast have decided to sue 20th Century Fox Television in order to void their contracts. Apparently, this is a common technique for actors wanting higher pay during contract negotiations, as extreme as it seems at first glance. Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet have, like the cast of Friends before them, decided to take a united stance against the studio; Ed O’Neill already is paid more but has apparently decided to join the lawsuit in order to help the others. A table read scheduled for today has even been canceled over this.
Since this is the first year the entire adult cast has been nominated, it seems they have a pretty strong place to negotiate from. However, even though the Emmys love this show, critics have been increasingly down on it from what I have read online. In my opinion, it’s gone from exciting TV in the first season to pleasantly watchable, with the younger cast members increasingly becoming the strongest part of the series.
The numbers tell a different story, though. The ratings for Season 3 had the show finishing at #15 among all shows, and an impressive #4 among the coveted Adults 18-49 demo — its highest ratings to date. Also, the advertising revenue generated by the show in 2011 was its highest to date. Since Modern Family is one of the most-watched shows on TV, and since viewership and awards recognition seems to be on an upswing, the studio probably will have to come to some kind of compromise with them. But the differences between the numbers reported to be on the table on each side is pretty sizable.
One can’t help but think of Friends in this scenario, but that was in a pre-DVR age, and every season of Friends had higher ratings than any season of Modern Family. Thus, while Modern Family is definitely one of the more popular shows right now, it doesn’t dominate the television landscape in the way the earlier show did. Does anything, anymore? The main similarity seems to be that both shows have six-person ensemble casts. Of course, the cast of Friends was asking for a lot more money.
So does the cast deserve more money? Well, they probably deserve more than they are getting, if not as much as they are asking for. They seem to be as valuable as any cast on TV currently, and as ABC’s highest-rated scripted show, they and the studio will probably have to give way before the actors do if they continue to hold out. Also, I think the actors are enormously talented, even if the writing for them has faltered somewhat, with Cam, for instance, becoming a caricature of his first season persona. That is not Stonestreet’s fault, though, and his performance is still enjoyable. As far as I am concerned, though, the cast MVP is Nolan Gould, so I hope someone thinks to start paying him some more.
Readers, what do you think of this lawsuit? Does the Modern Family cast deserve as much money as they are asking for, or is their lawsuit taking things too far?
I think they have no business asking for higher pay if they are not asking for higher pay for everyone involved in the show. Until the show is them recording themselves ad-libbing on their own phone, everyone else should get a higher pay if the show is really cashing in so much money–after all they are doing exactly the same amount of hours and work they were doing on the first season and nobody complained then.
That is what I was getting at by mentioning Nolan Gould! Why do they think they are the only ones who deserve more pay? The show’s success is a team effort!
Maybe they should pay the writers more money.
It’s their thoughts on the page that make these people funny.
Actors are ridiculously overpaid to begin with.
Don’t get me started.
Wait. Better yet? Why don’t we stop laying off police and firefighters and pay them a decent living wage?
I wonder if, in a Recession era, this will make many viewers similarly angry. On the other hand, we are Americans, and they are probably just asking for what they think the market will bear, but going the lawsuit route seems tackier and tackier the more I think about it.
Honestly, I love this cast and I love this show. But I think getting paid more than $65,000 A YEAR is a fair living wage for any American, let alone getting paid $65,000 per EPISODE to do something that you love. I think that amount, along with public accolade, is more than enough compensation, for anyone.
$65,000 a year is probably not a living wage in LA, but I take your point. As I said above, it’s probably a tacky move, but the market value for their work puts them in a different playing field than most Americans. Still, since most Americans make a lot less, this probably won’t endear them to the country right now.
I have been debating which show to stop watching since Supernatural is moving to Wednesday. It was between Criminal Minds and Modern Family. After this, I know which one I am going to stop watching. This reminds me of when the cast of Friends all held out for more money.
Im on disability and I make $465 a month plus $170 in food stamps and thats what I live on. So for them to imply they cant live off $65K a week when I live off $635 a month is BS. I do love the show and most of the people on it but this stand off does leave me with a sour taste in my mouth. In this economy they should be ashamed of themselves for being so greedy when so many people are jobless, struggling to pay their bills and feed their kids.
Entertainers live in a gilded bubble. They are welcome to sue for more money, but it may come off a tad ironic when they head to the local Occupy sit-in afterwards.