TV's top earners: What surprises you?

graham-parsonsImage Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC; Sonja Flemming/CBSCharlie Sheen, Jon Cryer, and Hugh Laurie are the small screen’s highest-paid actors, according to TV Guide‘s roundup of TV’s top earners. The magazine breaks its sampling of paychecks down by category, so Two and a Half Men‘s Sheen tops the comedy side with a reported $1.25 million an episode (followed by Cryer with $550,000), and House‘s Laurie leads the dramas with $400,000+ per episode. Peruse the list and tell us what catches your eye. For dramas: I was pleasantly surprised to find Parenthood‘s Lauren Graham making $150,000 per episode, which puts her only $25K behind The Good Wife‘s Julianna Margulies, on-par with Outlaw‘s Jimmy Smits, and $25K ahead of NCIS‘s Michael Weatherly and Blue Bloods‘ Tom Selleck. Also noteworthy: I’ve got a definite type, and it’s set at $100,000: White Collar‘s Matt Bomer, Castle‘s Nathan Fillion, Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm, Hawaii Five-0‘s Alex O’Loughlin, and Justified‘s Timothy Olyphant.

As for comedies: I love that everyone else’s salary is given at a nice round number, and The Office‘s Steve Carell’s comes in at $297,000. That puts him $53K behind 30 Rock‘s Tina Fey and Entourage‘s Jeremy Piven, and $47K ahead of Two and Half Men‘s Angus T. Jones (he’s the half). Also: Rules of Engagement‘s David Spade ($150,000) should not be making more than Modern Family‘s Ed O’Neill ($100,000) and Ty Burrell ($50,000), Glee‘s Jane Lynch ($50,000), or The Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons ($40,000). For the record, I would say Parsons needs to renegotiate: Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco — who, granted, were better known before the show — take home $60,000 an ep.

Your turn.

Comments (120 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3
  • Bebe

    Matt Bomer makes $100K an episode for a CABLE show? Does anyone even watch that show? Who’s he sleeping with?

    • EZ

      He’d be worth it even if all he did was just stand there and smile. As for who he’s sleeping with, I can almost guarantee it wouldn’t be you.

      • Bebe

        What a childish response. And NO ONE is worth $100,000 a week to stand there and smile. Grow up.

      • Kiki

        Bebe, take a second to learn about concepts like “exaggeration” and “sarcasm.” EZ was just saying Matt Bomer is awesome. Which he is.

    • Jeff

      Considering it’s one of the top shows on cable it’s justified. Bomer is going to make a lot more money after his run on this show.

      • Mark

        Cable shows can pay actors more because they will play each episode 5-10 times a season meaning more ad dollars. Whereas, network shows get 1-2 plays a season.

    • Kate Potter

      Bebe, millions of people watch “White Collar”. It is a fun, breezy show. You should try it….and Matt Bomer is definitely worth the salary!

      • Bebe

        I’m sure it’s a fun show and all, but I’m just appalled by the amount of money that people I’ve never even heard of make — especially when so many people have lost their homes and are living in poverty. Instead of praising these fools for their ability to “just stand there and smile,” we should be rioting in the streets and demanding their heads be put on pikes!

      • Stella

        And yet, as appalled as you say you are, here you sit commenting on an entertainment website. Maybe you should be out doing something to make the world a better place as opposed to judging others?

      • Bebe

        And who says I’m not doing just that, Stella? You don’t know me. YOU need to stop judging others, hon.

      • Stormy

        @Bebe During the Great Depression movie stars made big money, too. But during such times the movies were considered a welcome escape from reality. Yes, times are hard now, and TV is relieving a lot of stress on people with problems. Laughter being the best medicine is a cliche’ for a reason.

    • Jen Jen

      Bebe – I’m surprised you picked on Bomer. The question should be who is Sheen sleeping with, or more importantly, domestically beating?
      And I like your “appalled by the amount of money that people I’ve never even heard of make” comment. Good to know you are the most important person in the world. White Collar is only for awesome people. I’m glad you are missing out.

    • tvfan

      White Collar is pretty good. Don’t know who he’s dating….

    • WC fan

      Matt Bomer should be paid a lot more than $100,000/ep. He single-handedly made this show a hit.

  • Mandy

    Snooki makes more per episode than I make in a year?? The mind boggles. And I’m really depressed now.

    • tvfan

      Who the “F” is she? I don’t know who she is but she sounds like a moron.

    • CMK

      That fact sickens me as well.

    • Jenn

      Yeah, that’s kind of depressing. Who knew all I needed to do was misrepresent myself as Italian and play into ridiculous stereotypes, all the while pretending to be WAY hotter than I actually am? And to think, I wasted all that time and money going to college and getting and education… *headdesk*

  • JC

    I saw the entire list and I didn’t see Michael C. Hall or any Showtime actors so probably this is not everyone

    • M&M

      The list included David Duchovny who made 200,000 per episode, and Edie Falco who makes about 175,000 per episode. I guess Micheal C. Hall and Mary Louise Parker make about the same.

    • Jen

      I saw the entire list as well. What dropped my jaw was Oprah making 345 MILLION a year from syndication alone…WOW! She should just buy her own country and adopt me while she’s at

  • Adam

    ALL the Big Bang theorists need to renegotiate! CBS banks on that show and yet still pays actors from its so-so Rules of Engagement more.

    With that being said, they’re all making more money in one week than I hope to make in a year so… I don’t feel too sorry for them.

    • tvfan

      Such a shame Jim Parsons makes so little for such a great show.
      He’s too funny!

  • Ceballos

    I really like “Parenthood”, and Lauren Graham is great and all, but that number seems a little high for a member of an ensemble that is in no way a smash ratings hit on a struggling network. Either way, good for her.

    Another high five for Cole Hauser’s agent, who managed to convince someone that he was worth $100,000 per episode!
    The Steve Carell number just cracks me up.
    And even though I already knew the number, I still shake my head when I see that Ryan Seacrest makes $15 million per year.

  • britt

    I’m surprised Joel McHale is making $2 million for The Soup. The show, while hilarious, looks like it’s produced for $15 in someone’s garage.
    It’s interesting that Ian Somerhaulder is the only CW actor listed. I wonder what the other show’s casts make.

    • britt

      that should read, “I wonder what the network’s other shows’ casts make”

    • mscisluv

      Odd that he would be a top earner above someone like Blake Lively; she’s on a reasonably popular show and also has a film career.

      • Sam

        Blake is a terrible actress, so i am not surprised

    • kelly

      I remember reading the most Sarah Michelle Gellar made per episode on Buffy was $75,000 and that was in the final seasons.

      Actors on WB/UPN shows didn’t make as much as the Big 4. It seems that the CW is continuing that, even for its ‘name’ actors, like Somerhalder.

  • Mary

    Jim Parsons should at least match Galecki and Cuoco’s salaries now.

    • orville

      Especially with 2 Emmy nods under his belt.

      • meliot

        I love BBT BECASUSE of Jim Parsons. Without him I’m sure the show would have been cancelled last year.

      • Rachel

        Exactly! In one of the other articles here someone criticised him for submitting himself as Lead Actor for the Emmys. So, as the most entertaining actor in TBBT, apparently he shouldn’t consider himself the main actor or make as much as his co-stars, who, although I have nothing against them, are not as indespensable as Jim. Where’s the justice?! And don’t even get me started on Two and a Half Men…

    • kelly

      The BBT leads are all renegotiating their contracts. I read somewhere that all three want $100,000 an episode, which is about right BBT’s ratings.

      • googliezoo

        I dunno. TBBT is getting very, very close to matching Two and a Half Men ratings wise. Shouldn’t TBBT’s stars make at least half?

    • tvfan

      I agree!

  • melissa

    It is disgusting how much money charlie sheen makes for one episode of a terrible show.

    • jk

      Unbelievable. Especially considering how his personal troubles have hurt the show’s production schedule. Regardless of the injustice when you consider how much more he makes than those on better sitcoms, how in the hell is it reasonable that he makes more than double what Jon Cryer makes??

      • Jax

        What Sheen makes is rediculous…for what is basically a 15 min show too no less! Take 15 mins for commercials and advertising and a 30 min sitcom becomes a 15 min sitcom. It is atrocious! I know he is an exec producer on the show so he is double dipping! It shouldn’t be allowed and he should be in jail! There are so many other upstanding, law abiding actors and actresses losing their jobs who make much less and they are rewarding him for being a wife beater and drunk! Nice job CBS, really!

      • googliezoo

        It’s more like 8 minutes for commercials, but it’s a ridiculous wage either way.

  • g

    Anna Paquin only pulls in $75,000 per episode? As popular as True Blood is, that’s all she gets?! LL Cool J makes more than her?!

    • Autumn

      True Blood is HBO-popular. It still only has something like a fifth of the viewers that LL’s show has.

      • M&M

        Yeah but look at how much Jeremy Piven makes.

    • Rob

      I was surprised that Anna Paquin gets so little compared to the Entourage cast like Piven (a whopping 350k per episode), Adrian Grenier (200k per episode) and Kevin Dillon (200k per episode…what?!?)…despite the fact True Blood is HBO’s top show, brings in much higher ratings and overall viewers and is a top earner in terms of profit from DVD sales. Not to mention Paquien is an Oscar winner. If that’s all Paquin makes per episode, I can only imagine how little the rest of the True Blood cast is getting. Come on HBO, the cast of True Blood which is your top show deserve much much more…at least a on par with Entourage.

      • Gretchen

        It’s been on longer – let True Blood’s cast contracts expire and then see what they make

    • kelly

      Entourage is a longer running show. I also think that Piven may have a producer credit as well.

      She’ll probably be making more after this season, as will most of the main cast.

  • Matty

    I don’t really get the list. So if Patrick Dempsey makes $250,000, how much makes Ellen Pompeo? I don’t think she makes under $30,000. So…could anyone explain?

    And that Snooki thing is just seriously

    • Bee

      ellen makes $375,000 an episode. i wonder what the complete list is like.

  • Semaphore

    Hard to believe Hamm abd Olyphant get 100k. I’d have thought Hamm gets 250 and Olyphant 50.

    • g

      totally agree. More importantly, Denis Leary makes wayyyyy too much.

      • sam

        I wouldn’t pay Hamm or Leary anything. Give all their money to Olyphant. He is worth a lot more than $100,000.

      • Linda

        Olyphant makes Justified fantastic and earns every dime of what he is paid…he should get double or triple that. The man is just so darn good as an actor and deserves to be compensated.

  • rachel

    Some of these shows have tons of supporting cast members and the individual actors may make less because of that.

    • TJ

      Yep. Lots of mouths to feed on some of these shows. Some have huge casts.

  • Jerry

    Miranda Cosgrove makes $180k for a kids’ show, compared to $50k for Ty Burrell and Jane Lynch and $30k for Matthew Morrison.

    • JC

      The cast of Glee admit that they were stuck in a contract until 2012, thats why they get paid so low

    • GS

      She IS Nickelodeon now. Her show is so freaking great! And I’m the mom watching it with my kid! She’s a good role model and totally hilarious! Good for her! Bout time someone who is good for our kids to watch makes some money instead of it all going to Miley Cyrus.

      • JC

        Miley makes 15,000 per episode

    • Jen

      They get high ratings and always hit their demographic target. The ratings for her show in their target audience is is like the ratings for AI.

  • Bobby F

    Sheesh. This is PER episode??? I barely make any of those saleries for most likely more demanding and less satisfying job. I hope they recognize how ridiculous that much money is that they make.

    • Lynne

      They probably do. There is a low % of actors that actually make a living (something like 10%). Plus, this is peanuts to what the network executives (and shareholders) make.

    • V

      On the other hand, a show gets cancelled and bye-bye paycheck, sometimes for a LONG time. If they’re smart, they can save up this money for the dry spells, but often they don’t bother with that…

  • Becky

    I read somewhere else that Patrick Dempsey makes 450k and episode and Ellen Pompeo makes around 200-250k per episode.

    • Bee

      i don’t think patrick would make higher than ellen. ellen is the leader of the show.

      • orville

        But he was more well known going into the show.

    • Dan g

      Ellen pompeo makes $375 Patrick dempsey makes $300 an epi this is from abc

      • Kate

        You got it all wrong!
        PD makes $250, EP $275.

Page: 1 2 3
Add your comment
The rules: Keep it clean, and stay on the subject - or we may delete your comment. If you see inappropriate language, e-mail us. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field.

When you click on the "Post Comment" button above to submit your comments, you are indicating your acceptance of and are agreeing to the Terms of Service. You can also read our Privacy Policy.

Latest Videos


From Our Partners

TV Recaps

Powered by VIP