How much money do Sheldon, Leonard and Penny deserve to make?
That’s the issue on the set of The Big Bang Theory, TV’s most-watched comedy that is set to return for an eighth season Sept. 22 on CBS.
But contract renegotiations for its five stars – Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar – have stalled production of new episodes, PEOPLE has confirmed. The comedy’s first rehearsal was postponed Wednesday because of the ongoing salary talks with Warner Bros. TV, which produces the No. 1 comedy for CBS.
Given the millions that the show generates in reruns, Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco are reportedly asking to boost their $300,000-plus-per-episode salaries by more than 100 percent. Deadline suggests the trio could be looking for the same kind of $1 million-per-episode payout given to the cast of Friends in its final season.
“Warner Bros. TV is making so much money on the show that they don’t want to give up as much, but they’re going to have to,” one executive close to the studio tells PEOPLE.
Some hand-wringing has begun over the length of the contract talks and whether it could affect the sitcom’s return. But given the speed at which multi-camera comedies work, The Big Bang Theory can begin production in late August and still make it on the air by Sept. 22, the executive said.
At the press conference for TV reporters earlier this month, CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler said she was feeling “confident” that “everything will work out” with the negotiations.