Over the past several days I have continually run across a newswire story regarding the television series “Modern Family.’  In what has to be a public relations nightmare for both actor and studio, the cast of the award-winning TV show sued the comedy’s production company for violating their work contracts. According to sources I’ve read, this is a bid for higher pay.

In truth, five key stars actually sued to have their contracts voided. “‘Modern Family’ has been a breakout critical and financial success. That success, however, has been built upon a collection of illegal contracts,” the lawsuit said.

According to USA Today, With the exception of O’Neill, the actors were paid in the $65,000-an-episode range for the show’s 22-episode third season, according to sources. O’Neill is believed to have made in the $105,000 range.

So, in all transparency, I must admit, I have never seen the show. Nada! Not Once. I do not even have a clue what the show’s about, it’s cast, story-line or ratings.

But what intrigued me was this one little item: salary … of $65,000 per 30-minute episode … for 22 episodes.  So do math here.

Oh OK, I will … $1,430,000.00 per year … well not even a year’s worth of work, probably a little over half a year. So how many families would love to make 6.9% of that per year? (6.9% is about $100,000.00.) How many would love to make 3%.  I know many who would. When you put pad to paper, ‘Modern Family’ reminds me of my own pain.

I seriously do not begrudge someone getting paid their worth.  In fact the Apostle Paul addresses the concept of wages in Romans 4:4 when teaching about God’s grace, “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.” But in the Anguttaranikaya (A.II. (69-70) the Buddha mentions four kinds of happiness derived from wealth. They are:

  1. Atthisukha – The happiness of ownership.
  2. Anavajjasukha – The happiness derived from wealth which is earned by means of right livelihood, i.e. not dealing in the sale of harmful weapons, not dealing in the slaughter of animals and sale of flesh, not dealing in the sale of liquor, not dealing in the sale of human beings (e.g. slavery and prostitution) and not dealing in the sale of poisons.
  3. Ananasukha – the happiness derived from not being in debt.
  4. Bhogasukha – the happiness of sharing one’s wealth. This kind of happiness is an extremely important concept in Buddhism.

I don’t know about you, but I for one, can be extremely happy living on $1.4 million.

Still I have one question for actor and studio alike, “With the number of people unemployed or underemployed, is this the only honorable and reasonable way to negotiate?” Isn’t claiming illegal contracts and under value a little extreme?

If an actor or studio wants to really learn hard times, try feeding a family of four on $40,000 a year. Personally, if I’m watching this show, I don’t want to be reminded of how bad you have it.  I want to forget how bad I have it.

Earn your livelihood in joy and love, not anger, frustration and hatred.