Happy Day for Former Sitcom Cast

TV turnaround

Queue the jukebox: the ol’ gang just got an increase in allowance.

Happy Days actors Anson Williams, Don Most, Marion Ross, Erin Moran, and the estate of the late Tom Bosley have settled with CBS and Paramount over a contract dispute from April, 2011.  Potsie and co. believed they had not received proper royalties for the sales of Happy Days merchandising that used their images, including comic books, T-shirts, and trading cards.  (Yes, nearly three decades after Happy Days aired its last episode, they still make comic books and trading cards with the characters.)  The actors’ contracts included clauses that gave 5% of proceeds from any merchandise holding their image and 2.5% if they’re shown as a group, but they claim that CBS and Paramount never included merchandise figures in revenue statements provided to the actors.  CBS and Paramount’s counterclaim was that, under a separate agreement with the Screen Actors Guild, the companies were allowed to use images from the show to promote sales of DVDs without paying the actors any extra royalties.

The catalyst for this lawsuit was, of all things, a set of slot machines produced for some casinos featuring characters from the show.  The actors’ were not even aware that slot machines were built using their images, as they had not seen it on any reports of their residuals.  They started looking into what else CBS had been trying to slip by unnoticed, and discovered a boatload of merchandise with their faces on it that they weren’t told about.  Though the cast sought $10 million at the time the lawsuit was filed, the terms of the settlement are confidential and the monies exchanged remain undisclosed.  The judge threw out a claim of fraud, making it purely a contract dispute and meaning the actors can’t receive any punitive damages.  In other words, any money they might get is limited to what CBS neglected to pay them over the years, if anything.  CBS sent each actor a check for $10,000 sometime since the outset of this case, checks which the actors’ lawyer was holding till the settlement was approved.  It’s a safe bet that the settlement amount is a bit higher than that, but not nearly as high as $10 million.

Richie Cunningham and The Fonz were not involved in the lawsuit. They were probably too busy kickin’ it with Weezer.