Uh-Oh: Even 'Real' TV Performers Want More Money
Reality TV performers going out on strike? Something is wrong with that sentence. Couldn't the producers find some other "real" people? Is there a shortage I don't know about?
TV is all about casting these days, whether performers are dramatizing characters with neatly written scripts or whether performers are "acting" by doing a version of themselves on reality TV shows.
It seems the hot MTV show, "Jersey Shore" has a bunch of actors with great agents -- all of whom have figured out that MTV is short-changing their salaries at just $10,000 an episode. The cast believes they can make more money doing "appearances" over the next several months, than actually appearing in the show.
It wasn't that many years ago a couple of B-level cast members of "CSI" demanded a raise from CBS. CBS said they could take a hike -- if they liked. Those performers quickly backed down.
In the mid-1990s, the TV show "Friends" was turning out to be a big deal -- which was causing problems for NBC. Suddenly the rebellious new actors were feeling their oats, saying they all deserved big increases.
TV producer Dick Wolf had what he thought was a good solution. He told Warren Littlefield, then the president of entertainment for NBC, the network should fire cast members -- one at a time. He said perhaps NBC would need to fire two of the six before the remaining actors would -- in theory -- back down.
When you look at how Wolf operates his shows, this tactic makes sense. His "Law & Order" franchise has Wolf employing a repertory-business sense in hiring actors -- shuffling performers in and out, making sure the "L&O" brand continues to be the chief reason for viewers to tune in.
Now in 2010, reality shows are a staple in the broadcast world - and even more so among cable TV networks. Still, casting changes continue to be tough. Viewers closely identify with the characters on reality TV shows.
While TV production budgets for broadcast reality show have climbed substantially, cable TV budgets for reality shows remain where they started -- as an inexpensive way to create original programming.
Here's a not-so-subtle hint to the cast of "Jersey Shore": "Shore" TV producers have already said they are all expendable. Someone is obviously now listening to Wolf.
The cast of "Friends"? They went from getting $40,000 an episode in their initial seasons to $1 million an episode in later ones. TV advertisers help paid those bills back then. Today, not so much.
Welcome to the new financial world of scripted and reality TV shows.