CBS Boss "Guardedly Optimistic" About New 'Big Bang Theory' Contracts

New deals for the stars of TV's No. 1 comedy have yet to be worked out beyond the Chuck Lorre series' current 10th season.
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'The Big Bang Theory'

CBS' The Big Bang Theory is boldly going where it hasn't before: TV's No. 1 scripted comedy is inching closer toward the end of its current season without a renewal.

The cast of the series, which ranks as television's top dog among the key adults 18-49 demographic, is under contract through season 10 and negotiations have been under way for months to bring the stars back. The Warner Bros. Television comedy, from Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady and Steve Molaro, is midway through season 10 without new deals for stars Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.

Five months after CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller said he was "confident" in new deals for the cast, the executive told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour that a new deal has still not been secured. 

"[Contract talks] are continuing. It is tough but kind of normal negotiations," he said. "We are guardedly optimistic about it. It's normal negotiations."

Sources say the castmembers are all seeking pay raises from their historic contracts reached two years ago when the show was picked up for a three-season renewal.

Emmy-winner Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco negotiated together in 2014 and were seeking big salary increases. Sources at the time told THR that the trio secured about $1 million per half-hour with an increased cut of the show's backend from 0.25 percent to 1.25 percent. The deals were said to bring the three into the Friends region, with that cast negotiating together and locking in $1 million per episode with studio WBTV. (The Big Bang Theory is a massive hit in syndication, with TBS' repeats regularly topping the weekly syndication ratings.) The pacts also included overall deals and more. Co-stars Bialik and Rauch previously inked new deals with WBTV, with both earning big raises two years ago when the cast's contract talks began but before Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco's rich deals.

The last round of negotiations briefly delayed production on the series as the cast refused to return to work without new pacts. Season 10 resumed original episodes last week. Showrunner Molaro has noted on multiple occasions that the producers have thought about an end-game but are focused on the current season and have repeatedly stressed that they are not approaching season 10 as its final bow.

"The more the better," Molaro told THR at the start of the season about how much time he'd need if season 10 were to be the show's last. "If I had a couple of episodes of advance warning, I'm confident we could do something meaningful, but hopefully it won't come to that."

Molaro, Lorre and Prady, meanwhile, are currently prepping a script for Big Bang Theory prequel Sheldon, with Geller declining comment about the status of that project as the network has yet to confirm that it is indeed in the works. Sources tell THR that the script has yet to come in, though casting is currently underway as the show about a young Sheldon Cooper — also produced by star Parsons — hinges on finding the right young actor.  

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