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December 23, 2003
Life Imitates Art

It looks like the Seinfeld DVD project has hit some snags -- three of them, in fact:

Three of the four leading cast members of the hit television comedy "Seinfeld" are declining to participate in the making of a DVD series of the show because they are unhappy with the related financial deals they have had over the years, people close to the actors and the show said on Monday.

These people said that the three actors — Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who played Elaine; Michael Richards, who played Kramer; and Jason Alexander, who played George — made the joint decision not to give on-camera interviews for the DVD or otherwise participate in it.

First, let me make it clear that I am a believer in free-market capitalism. However, it seems to me that the show made everyone a lot of money, not just the owners, although they have raked in the biggest bucks of all. To wit:

The three boycotting actors earn residual payments from the show's reruns, a fee determined by the Screen Actors Guild. A representative for one of the actors estimated the fee at $100,000 a year. ... They famously sought $1 million an episode for the last year of the show, 1998, in part because they said they thought they had been underpaid for many seasons. They ended up with about $600,000 a show, then a whopping sum for television.

Most shows shoot 22 episodes per season, more or less. At $600K per show, each of the three supporting actors grossed $13.2 million in the last season. Plus, they continue to get $100,000 per year just from the residuals. I'm no genius, but it certainly seems to me to be somewhat above yada yada yada cash we're talking here. This contretemps casts an illuminating light on the meaning of the infamous last episode, where the quartet's notorious selfishness lands them a year in a New England jail. Instead of making arrangements to put a classy touch on a classic sitcom, this tempest just proves that life imitates art after all. Shame on all of them. (via Amygdalagf)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 23, 2003 4:22 PM

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