Fulfilling a prophecy first spoken aloud by Troy McClure, a Fox executive has confirmed to The Wrap that The Simpsons is “no longer profitable for the network”—spelling out in those magic, long-ago-foretold words what this week’s tense salary negotiations have already suggested—and that any new season of the show after the current one would likely be its last. That’s a far more pessimistic outlook than Fox was initially pushing, and it comes on the back of what would seem to be the positive update that the show’s producers have now agreed to accept drastic pay cuts in order to continue. However, that same studio executive says now that even if the voiceover cast also accepts having its salaries cut nearly in half without any taste of syndication or merchandising profits to make up for it, their agreement will still only be for one more season, as that’s all that Fox is willing to make—especially given yesterday’s report that they’d reap a huge financial reward once they’re free to sell syndicated episodes to cable.
All of the actors have until noon tomorrow to decide, and if they decline, of course, the current 23rd season will be its last. So if The Wrap’s source is to be believed, the best-case scenario here is that 2012 will mark the beginning of the end for The Simpsons (just like the Mayans predicted!), and the show will fall just short of attaining a tidy, landmark, pleasing-to-OCD-types 25 seasons. But of course, this runs counter to Fox’s earlier avowal that they hoped to reach a deal that would allow the show “to go on entertaining audiences with original episodes for many years to come,” so we’re not really sure which statement to believe—the one that sounds like PR spin, or the one that sounds like a planted scare tactic. George Burns was right: Showbiz is a horrible bitch goddess.