Here's Why TV Writers Get Residuals Paid In Cheques Rather Than Bank Transfers, And Wow, It's Not Why I Thought

A TV writer speaks on the topic.
Douglas Sacha via Getty Images

If you’ve watched as much telly as I have, you’ve probably heard a reference or two to the green-enveloped residual cheques some TV writers get from already-aired episodes.

Though writers say “residuals” are becoming smaller, they’re still a Hollywood staple in which writers get paid for reruns and DVD sales of shows and movies they worked on as long as decades ago.

This makes sense, as the episodes add value to the distributor each time they’re watched or bought, regardless of when they were made.

But you know what doesn’t make sense? Every time I see the phenomenon referenced, it’s about physical cheques that get sent in the post.

Why not just do a bank transfer?

TikToker and TV writer for shows like King Of The Hill and Beavis And Butthead, Michael Jamin, joked “The day you describe getting money in the mail as annoying is the day that you have too much money.”

Then he shared that “I could have the money direct deposited, but I don’t ― for two reasons.”

Firstly, he says, some of the residual cheques come from work he started decades ago. “Back then, I don’t think you could have direct deposit.”

“You’re just so excited when you see it,” he said of the green envelopes residual cheques come in. “It’s filled with anticipation ― are you gonna get $10,000, or 10 cents?”

The second reason is that he shares his residual cheques on social media, and “there’s just no fun in sharing a bank statement,” he said.

“Where’s the anticipation? Having the green envelope builds up the anticipation,” he claims. “It’s the same reason why on Christmas, your presents are wrapped underneath the tree.”

“You need the wrapping to tell a good story ― it’s essential. And I’m a storyteller.“

So if you didn’t want the suspense, you could just get a transfer?

Yeah, you could.

But it explains why, in TV shows about TV shows ― like Bojack Horseman ― residual cheques tend to be talked about in real paper terms. It’s simply a better story.

Some actors who wanted to show what they claim are rapidly diminishing residual fees posted screenshots of their bank accounts to TikTok and other social media platforms, however.

At the end of the day, it’s a matter of preference ― but as someone who gets hyped up for packages in the mail, I think I know what I’d choose.


Replying to @mrwafflesneighborhood #Inverted @MichaelJaminWriter why don’t TV writers have their residual checks direct deposited #residualchecklottery #residuals #apaperorchestra

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