TV Salaries: How Much Is Your Favorite Star Worth?

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Even though you’re never supposed to discuss religion, politics, or money at the dinner table, as far as I know nobody forbids a conversation to do with outer space. Which is how we’re going to get around this sticking point, because it’s that time of year again when we need to bring up TV stars’ salaries. Which are once again of such an otherworldly, extraterrestrial, positively meta-planetary nature that it seems okay to discuss because it’s not really earth money, after all. And also because TV Guide did – in a really good feature story that breaks it all down. (I’m just going to give you some big names and dollar signs, but I think you’ll be interested in/appalled by some of these digits). Now before we get to the actual numbers, let’s remind ourselves that starring on a network television show is hard work. It may not require the physical wherewithal of say, hard manual labor. It may not require the intellect of a tenured university professor or a nuclear energy specialist investigating cold fusion in a lab. It may not be as strenuous and 24/7-ish as raising a family – but it certainly isn’t easy. This much we know. Plus, it’s a lot of pressure: you probably can’t eat too much or do anything stupid like go to jail and you have lots of people on your payroll and you’re wildly suspicious of everyone. The second thing we need to remember is that for every insane, ridiculously inflated dollar these guys earn per episode, there are people behind the scenes who are earning much, much more. I’m talking about the networks and the producers. Why? Because it’s all kept afloat by advertisers, and if an advertiser is happy he or she will pay handsomely to keep his or her product out there in front of our viewing faces. That said, let’s look at the bottom line. Among the drama fellas, the big earner is of course Hugh Laurie. Dr. House brings in $400,000 per episode. Any ideas on what you’d do if your work week ended with one of those checks in your mailbox? Mark Harmon brings in $375,000 per episode, Laurence Fishburne’s haul is  $350,000. Denis Leary? Reportedly this firefighter brings in $350,000 as well, while Chris Meloni’s paycheck is $395K. Now to the comedies, where Charlie Sheen himself puts everybody else to financial shame with his $1.25 million bucks an episode for Two and a Half Men. (His partner in crime Jon Cryer brings in $550,000). Jeremy Piven?  How about $350,000 a week for Entourage (you really can take an Emmy to the bank). Once he closes that Office door, Steve Carell kisses $297,000 a week goodbye. Although Steve may have even bigger dollars in store for him later, and we haven’t even mentioned the news anchors or talk show hosts. Now, not all TV stars make a fortune by Charlie Sheen standards. Selena  Gomez only makes $30 grand per show. Kaley Cuoco brings in $60,000 for Big Bang Theory (her costar Johnny Galecki earns the same, and both of them trump Jim Parsons by twenty grand. Go figure). On the other hand, Miranda Cosgrove, another young’un, brings in $180,000 for iCarly. And fortunately – so as not to provoke the biggest catfight of all – each Desperate Housewife pockets $400K a show. Whew!

Now, lets take a peek at some of the ladies who shine on the little screen; voice your choice in today’s featured poll and and tell us who is most deserving of their paycheck:

Mariska Hargitay  ( $395K/per episode)

Kyra Sedgwick ($350K/per episode)

Julianna Margulies ($175K/per episode)

Tina Fey  ($350K/per episode)

The top earners, by category:

Drama (per episode)

Hugh Laurie (House) $400,000+
Christopher Meloni & Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU) $395,000 (each)
David Caruso (CSI: Miami) $375,000
Marg Helgenberger (CSI) $375,000
Mark Harmon (NCIS) $375,000
Laurence Fishburne (CSI) $350,000
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) $350,000
Denis Leary (Rescue Me) $350,000
Gary Sinise (CSI: NY ) $275,000
Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy) $250,000
David Boreanaz (Bones) $200,000
Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) $200,000
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife ) $175,000
Dana Delany (Body of Proof ) $150,000
Lauren Graham (Parenthood) $150,000
Jada Pinkett Smith (HawthoRNe) $150,000
Jimmy Smits (Outlaw) $150,000
LL Cool J (NCIS: Los Angeles) $125,000
Chris O’Donnell (NCIS: Los Angeles) $125,000
Mark Feuerstein (Royal Pains) $125,000
Jason Lee (Memphis Beat) $125,000
Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds) $125,000
Tom Selleck (Blue Bloods) $125,000
Michael Weatherly (NCIS) $125,000
Matt Bomer (White Collar) $100,000
Nathan Fillion (Castle) $100,000
Thomas Gibson (Criminal Minds) $100,000
Jon Hamm (Mad Men) $100,000
Cole Hauser (Chase) $100,000
Alex O’Loughlin (Hawaii Five-0) $100,000
Timothy Olyphant (Justified ) $100,000
Scott Caan (Hawaii Five-0) $80,000
Angie Harmon (Rizzoli & Isles) $75,000
Anna Paquin (True Blood) $75,000
Blair Underwood (The Event) $75,000
Zachary Levi (Chuck) $60,000
Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries) $40,000
Shailene Woodley (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) $40,000
Ashley Tisdale (Hellcats) $30,000

Late Night/Talk Syndication (per year)

Oprah Winfrey $315 million
Judge Judy Sheindlin $45 million
David Letterman (The Late Show) $28 million
Jay Leno (The Tonight Show) $25 million
Conan O’Brien (The Conan O’Brien Show) $10 million
Ellen DeGeneres (The Ellen DeGeneres Show) $8 million
Jimmy Kimmel (Jimmy Kimmel Live) $6 million
Chelsea Handler (Chelsea Lately) $3.5 million
George Lopez (Lopez Tonight) $3.5 million

Reality (per year)

Ryan Seacrest
(American Idol) $15 million
Joel McHale (The Soup) $2 million
Piers Morgan (America’s Got Talent) $2 million
Kate Gosselin (Kate Plus 8) $250,000 per episode
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi (Jersey Shore) $30,000 per episode

Comedy (per episode)

Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men) $1.25 million
Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men) $550,000
Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives) $400,000
Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives) $400,000
Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives) $400,000
Eva Longoria Parker (Desperate Housewives) $400,000
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons) $400,000
Julie Kavner (The Simpsons) $400,000
Tina Fey (30 Rock) $350,000
Jeremy Piven (Entourage) $350,000
Steve Carell (The Office) $297,000
Angus T. Jones (Two and a Half Men) $250,000
David Duchovny (Californication) $200,000
Kevin Dillon (Entourage) $200,000
Adrian Grenier (Entourage) $200,000
Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly) $180,000
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) $175,000
William Shatner ($#*! My Dad Says) $150,000
David Spade (Rules of Engagement) $150,000
Ed O’Neill (Modern Family) $100,000
Patrick Warburton (Rules of Engagement) $85,000
Betty White (Hot in Cleveland) $75,000
Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory) $60,000
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) $60,000
Ty Burrell (Modern Family) $50,000
Jane Lynch (Glee) $50,000
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) $40,000
Matthew Morrison (Glee) $30,000
Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) $30,000
Dylan and Cole Sprouse (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody) $20,000 (each)
Rico Rodriguez (Modern Family) $15,000

News (per year)

Matt Lauer (Today) $16 million +
Katie Couric (CBS) $15 million
Brian Williams (NBC) $12.5 million
Diane Sawyer (ABC) $12 million
Meredith Vieira (Today) $11 million
Bill O’Reilly (Fox News) $10 million
George Stephanopoulos (ABC) $8 million
Keith Olbermann (MSNBC) $7 million
Shepard Smith (Fox News) $7 million
Wolf Blitzer (CNN) $3 million
Christiane Amanpour (ABC) $2 million
Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC) $2 million
Eliot Spitzer (CNN) $500,000

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