Flagship CBS comedy series The Big Bang Theory is slated to go into production on its upcoming eighth season on July 30. But with only two weeks to go, the entire original cast of the hit comedy is still without contracts. I hear the two sides are still far apart and there has been little dialogue.
The situation resembles the 2010 salary renegotiations when Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar too faced the start of production in the midst of talks with producing studio Warner Bros. TV. The difference is that back then, they had existing contracts and were obligated to show up for work, which they did while their teams were negotiating big pay bumps behind the scenes. This time around, none of the five have deals in place as their contracts on the show expired at the end of last season. Big Bang‘s newest cast members, Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik, who renegotiated their contracts last fall with substantial salary increases, are the only actors currently under contracts.
That means that, if new deals with the Original Five are not reached in the next two weeks, production on Season 8 may be pushed. I hear that even if Big Bang doesn’t start start production until after Labor Day, it still is expected to be able to deliver an hourlong season premiere for September 22 but insiders do not think things would go that far. (Big Bang‘s 2010 salary renegotiations didn’t wrap until September.) Warner Bros. TV is known for going down to the wire but being able to close big cast deals on time, including multiple negotiations on Two And A Half Men.
When CBS and Warner Bros. TV inked a three-year pickup for the hit comedy in March for a license fee north of $4 million per episode, the renewal was cast-contingent as it was done without securing the main cast. No meaningful conversations with the cast’s reps followed. There was a small push to get the deals done in the days leading to CBS’ upfront presentation. Some progress was made but not enough to reach agreements in time for the presentation. It’s been a slow going since then. But there are encouraging signs — I hear the two sides are finally engaging, with real back-and-forth likely to begin within the next week or so.
There are small changess in the actors’ negotiating teams from 2010. Parsons was with Innovative Artists then, now he is with CAA; Galecki was with CAA, now he is with WME. Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco no longer are represented by the same law firm, Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, which again reps Galecki and Cuoco, while Parsons is with Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown. Still, talks seem to be following a similar pattern — the trio negotiating separately with Parsons leading the way and the stars expected to get “favored nations”-type deals that call for parity in their pay. While in 2010 Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco finished their renegotiations before Helberg and Nayyar started theirs, this time all five are without contracts and therefore negotiating simultaneously, with Helberg and Nayyar again in a different group than the other three stars.
Under their previous contract, Galecki, Parsons and Cuoco earned around $350,000 an episode in Season 7, with each owning 0.25 point of the series’ lucrative backend. Given the enormous success on Big Bang, a blockbuster network and off-network hit which some estimate could generate up to $3 billion for Warner Bros TV, Galecki, Parsons and Cuoco could go into Friends territory with new salaries in the neighborhood of $1 million per episode, plus a bigger piece of the backend.