ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

Movies stars might be able to bring in millions for appearing in one movie, but maybe television is where the real money is?

If you can get on a long-running popular television series you can make some serious cash, every week. The real lucrative contracts in TV land are based on payments per episodes, with some salaries reaching truly mind-bogglingly high levels. Seriously, I'm talking insane amounts of money. Let's take a look at the top 10 TV star earners of all time.

10. Drew Carey - The Drew Cary Show - $750,000 per episode

Although The Drew Carey Show might not have stuck around in many people's minds - I've kind of forgotten it existed - when it first hit screens it was a massive success.

Indeed, by the time of the final season, the titular star could demand a paycheck of three-quarters of a million per episode.

9. Ashton Kutcher - Two and a Half Men - $750,000 per episode

When Ashton Kutcher was called on to replace Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men, he came with a pretty big demand - $750,000 an episode. NBC were eager to fork out this much, for reasons which will become clear later...

8. Jerry Seinfeld - Seinfeld - $1,000,000 per episode

When you star in a show named after yourself, you can apparently pull in the seriously big bucks. Although his supporting cast only received a 'measly' $600,000 per episode, co-creator, co-writer and the titular star, Jerry Seinfeld, could pull in a cool $1 million per episode.

Indeed, NBC actually wanted him to do a tenth season, in which he would have been offered an outrageous $5 million per episode. Seinfeld turned it down, presumably because the bank had already run out of room in his private vault.

7. Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco - The Big Bang Theory - $1 million

Last year, the principle cast of The Big Bang Theory sat down with CBS to renegotiate their salaries. As one of the biggest sitcoms on television, they were eager to get a serious raise from their $350,000 an episode paychecks.

Clearly, they were successful as they also managed to make their way into the much-vaunted $1 million an episode gang.

6. Cast - Friends - $1,000,000 per episode

When Friends first arrived on the scene, the individual members of the cast would receive in the region of $20,000 to $40,000 per episode. By the time the ninth and tenth seasons had some round, they were able to rack in $1 million each.

Added to this were their syndication royalties, which means they get a share of the money pie every time Friends is shown or repeated. And we all know how often that is.

5. Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt - Mad About You - $1,000,000 per episode

Mad About You might not be as well remembered as Seinfeld or Friends, but in the 1990s it was a pretty big deal.

But that's the only big deal - since stars Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt were able to negotiate $1 million per episode contracts by the end of the show.

4. Tim Allen - Home Improvement - $1.25 million per episode

Although being paid $1 million an episode almost seems obscene, that wasn't enough for Home Improvement's Tim Allen.

In fact, Home Improvement was Allen's first major character acting role and I can imagine a lot of first time actors jealously ogled his $1.25 million paycheck.

3. Kelsey Grammer - Frasier - $1.6 million per episode

Spin-offs are rarely that successful, but Frasier proved Kelsey Grammer's Cheers character could still pull in a massive audience.

It's still a matter of debate which sitcom - Frasier or Cheers - is the best, but from Grammer's perspective I'm sure the answer is clear, especially when one of those shows earned him $1.6 million an episode.

2. Ray Romano - Everybody Loves Raymond - $1.7 million per episode

Clearly, everybody does love Raymond, especially Ray Romano's accountant. By the final season of the CBS sitcom, the principle star was able to almost make over double what Ashton Kutcher brought in per episode for Two and A Half Men.

He hasn't been in much since, on television at least, but I can imagine with that much cash he hasn't been bored.

1. Charlie Sheen - Two and A Half Men - $1.8 million per episode

Yep, that's right. Not only did CBS hope to reinvigorate Two and A Half Men with the inclusion of Ashton Kutcher, but they also apparently wanted to save some serious cash.

Towards the final season of the show, despite the problems Sheen was causing for the production, he was still able to demand $1.8 million an episode. To put it in perspective, this is over three times as much as co-star Jon Cryer.

What did Charlie spend all this money on? I think we can take a guess...



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