Modern Family is ABC‘s Friends—a breakout hit the network has been able to leverage its entire roster around. And now the show’s stars—like Aniston, Cox, et al, before them—are banding together to get themselves a better deal.

Except this time, the actors are asking a judge to declare their contracts illegal under California law.

Out actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson joined Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell and Ed O’Neill in petitioning the court to void their contracts with 20th Century Fox Television, which they say violate a statute prohibiting personal-service contracts from lasting for more than seven years.

The lawsuit states the contracts bind the actors to the multi-Emmy-winning series exclusively from February 2009 to June 30, 2016. “Modern Family has been a breakout critical and financial success,” reads the complaint. “That success, however, has been built upon a collection of illegal contracts.”

Ferguson and the gang are signed up through Season 7, but ABC and 20th Century Fox want to get them locked in for Seasons 8 and 9.

The cast reportedly shot down a deal for $150,000 an episode, with a $50,000 bonus per episode for Season 4. Also at issue are the actors’ raises:. Vergara maxes out at a 5% salary increase for each new season, while the others hit the ceiling at 4%.

Wow, really?

According to Deadline, a planned Season 4 table read was canceled yesterday because of the contract dispute. Modern Family is certainly one of the better scripted shows on network TV today, and one of the few regular (if not wholly realistic) depictions of gay families on the small screen. Let’s hope this all gets resolved before things get too ugly.


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