Fans of the award-winning CBS geek sitcom, rejoice: The Big Bang Theory is back in business.
After weeks of tense pay negotiations, the entire main cast has officially signed three-year contracts with Warner Bros. TV, all with hefty pay raises. America’s favorite ragtag team of scientists began production on their eighth season yesterday.
“Big Bang’ Rides Again
The show’s core trio – Johnny Galecki as Leonard, Kaley Cuoco as Penny, and Jim Parsons as Sheldon – have each secured a pay rate of over $1 million per episode, for three seasons of 72 total episodes. In the world of television, this is often thought of as the Friends pay level. Namely, it is the salary the cast of Friends received during the peak of the show’s legendary success.
Big Bang has certainly reached the popularity and profitability of Friends – whether it has the same quality will be left up to discussion – so many would argue that such an exuberant salary is only fair for the show’s stars. Others may contend that no human being should be making so much darn money for 22 minutes of nerd jokes and awkward romance, all over that delightful laugh track. Nevertheless – congratulations, Galecki, Cuoco, and Parsons, you are now the three richest actors on American television.
Apparently, the worse negotiation trouble rose up around Big Bang’s supporting duo: Howard’s Simon Helberg and Raj’s Kunal Nayyar. Rumor has it that they were seeking a pay range somewhere in the range of the lead cast. When neither the actors nor the producers would submit to the other’s demands, the show’s production became so desperate that they began drafting a first episode script without Raj or Howard. In the end, with their characters on the chopping block, the actors were forced to fold their hand and agree to a salary that was merely in the mid-six figures, rather than seven.
It’s difficult – and painful – to imagine Big Bang without the entire gang intact, so fans will surely be relieved by this resolution. However, one has to wonder whether the big wigs were merely playing a bluff by threatening to write out major characters. If Penny, Leonard, and Sheldon are indeed Big Bang’s main characters, they are only of a margin’s greater importance than the rest of the primary cast. It is doubtful that the show would survive for long without all five of them, and fans would surely find a recast unacceptable. All the same, no one can blame Helberg or Kunal for admitting defeat, if the alternative was that they might be out of the job.
With pay negotiations finished and contracts out of the way, fans can start gearing themselves up for Season 8. Last we heard, Penny and Leonard were (finally) engaged and Raj had (finally) gotten laid. The Big Bang Theory is still going strong, with viewing figures at staggering heights of 21.3 million weekly and 24 Emmy nominations to date. As Creator Chuck Lorre told E! News: “Everybody should be very successful and happy and rich. They earned it. It’s a great cast. It’s their time.” While the sentiment is no doubt appreciated, we can only hope that there’s no resentment lingering among the cast about the newly minted income gap.