Who are the 10 highest-paid TV actors of all time?

The Editors
Photo credit: CBS

From Digital Spy

Have you ever wondered how much your favourite TV stars earn for doing their day job? Of course you have, you nosy bunch – and it's slightly more than the rest of us get for doing ours.


But who tops the pile as the highest-paid TV actor of all time, and where do the others rank?

We've done some digging, sifting through various reports and graphs, to bring you the top ten biggest earners and lord, they've really done very well for themselves. We've even adjusted for inflation, so it's a level playing field.

Like we said, these are all reported figures, so there's probably a little bit of give and take here and there, but what we do know is that this lot are one very flush bunch.

10. Ashton Kutcher

Photo credit: Getty Images

Fee per episode: $811,074.28

It was Ashton Kutcher who went on to replace Charlie Sheen in the Two and a Half Men reboot following the star's acrimonious exit – the hit comedy was the most-watched TV comedy in the US during its heyday, with 15 million regular viewers, so there was no chance the network was letting that one go.

But we expect Sheen would have been extremely pleased to find out that Kutcher was paid significantly less than he was.

9. Michael C Hall

Photo credit: SHOWTIME RANDY TEPPER

Fee per episode: $1,141,737

Fans of Dexter were left massively disappointed by the show's finale, which saw the serial killer move to a forest and become a lumberjack. Snore.

Even 47-year-old Michael Hall, the star of the show, confessed he wasn't keen during a Reddit AMA.

When asked how he felt about the way in which the show, which ran for eight seasons, concluded when he first read the script, he said: ''Probably sadness."

But we're almost certain he managed to get over his disappointment after taking home as much as he did.

8. The cast of The Big Bang Theory

Photo credit: Monty Brinton - CBS

Fee per episode: $1,187,139

It was previously reported that the original five stars of the CBS show – Kaley Cuoco (Penny), Johnny Galecki (Leonard), Simon Helberg (Howard), Kunal Nayyar (Rajesh) and Jim Parsons (Sheldon) – were all paid more than $1 million per episode (remember, we've adjusted for inflation).

Yeah, you heard right.

But according to Variety, multiple sources said that the OG gang all took a pay cut so that co-stars Mayim Bialik (Amy) and Melissa Rauch (Bernadette), who were earning $200,000, could get a pay rise.

Not a bad life, is it?

7. The cast of Friends

Photo credit: NBC / Getty Images

Fee per episode: $1,890,978

Back in 2002, the cast of Friends were seriously in the money when they managed to negotiate a $1 million deal, according to Business Insider. And apparently, the super six all negotiated together, demanding to be paid the same or threatening to walk away en masse.

The cast were enjoying the show's highest ratings in five years, averaging 24.7 million viewers a week, which definitely helped proceedings.

Obviously, inflation means that $1 million back in the day equates to a *trifle* more money now, which we've taken into account.

6. Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt

Photo credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Fee per episode: $1,967,462

Psyching yourself up to ask for a raise is one thing, but asking for an extra $750,000 is something else. That's exactly what Mad About You's Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt did, and that's exactly what they got, according to Variety.

That's the price you pay when you've got an Oscar winning star on board, Hunt scooping the accolade for her role as Carol Connelly in As Good as it Gets, NBC and Columbia TriStar TV agreeing to the raise just hours before she swiped the trophy.

There has been talk of a potential Mad About You reboot, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

5. Jerry Seinfeld

Photo credit: Crackle

Fee per episode: $2,364,862

We can't really imagine what payday must feel like when you're Jerry Seinfeld. The NBC show of the same name saw the stand-up comedian earn a whopping fee for each episode.

And his co-stars were earning $600,000, according to Variety – not bad, not bad.

But it could have been so much more. Seinfeld was offered over $100 million – $5 million per episode – to produce one more season of the show after it ended in 1998, but he turned it down because he wanted to enjoy life away from the cameras – a decision which he told the New York Times that he didn't regret: "It was the perfect moment [to walk away], and the proof that it was the right moment is the number of questions you're still asking me about it.

"The most important word in art is "proportion". How much? How long is this joke going to be? How many words? How many minutes?

"And getting that right is what makes it art or what makes it mediocre."

4. Tim Allen

Photo credit: ABC

Fee per episode: $2,550,859

Being the star of the show is always going to pay handsomely, but Colorado-born comic Tim Allen took it to another level during his time on ABC sitcom Home Improvement.

The actor took home over $2 million per episode, according to The Richest, making him number four on our list.

Allen has been starring in Last Man Standing since 2011 as Mike Baxter, a senior employee of a sporting goods store, and is apparently earning $235,000 per episode.

It's not quite as good as his Home Improvement paycheque, but we certainly wouldn't say no.

3. Charlie Sheen

Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Fee per episode: $2,706,087

Yeah. Sorry.

The 53-year-old hasn't been without his problems, but that didn't stop the former Two and a Half Men star from raking in more than $2 million per episode on the hit CBS comedy, according to Vulture.

Warner Bros Television terminated Sheen's contract after "careful consideration" back in 2011, despite the fact that it was supposed to run until the end of the 2012 TV season.

It probably had something to do with the fact that Sheen complained he was being paid too little. He also regularly took to social media to highlight the many disagreements he had with the show's producers.

It was never going to end well.

2. Ray Romano

Fee per episode: $3,034,316

It's a widely held belief that Marie Barone (Doris Roberts) is the best thing about Everybody Loves Raymond by a country mile, but it was the show's eponymous character, Ray, who was rolling in the big bucks.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Romano signed a deal back in 2003 that secured the actor a serious upgrade on the $800,000 he was already receiving.

Who knew Ray was such a master negotiator?

1. Kelsey Grammer

Fee per episode: $3,099,171.62

During his time as Seattle psychologist Frasier Crane, the 63-year-old was the highest-paid man on TV. And remains so, with hindsight.

Variety reported that NBC had agreed to pay the actor more than $3m per episode for the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Some might argue that such sums are far too extravagant, but the cast won an impressive 37 Emmys, which was a scripted series record at the time, as well as bagging the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series five years on the trot.

Value for money, we'd argue.

Bubbling under:

Current big-earners include Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. After the mammoth success of HBO series Big Little Lies, pay rises were to be expected, and it's Witherspoon (Madeline) and Kidman (Celeste) who are reportedly benefitting the most.

The pair allegedly made anywhere between $250,000 and $350,000 per episode during the first season. But according to the Hollywood Reporter, the pair will receive $1million for every season two, and it's all because of Apple.

Photo credit: HBO

The tech giant is reportedly pumping around $1 billion into creating original content this year, with Jennifer Aniston and Witherspoon being paid $1.25 million per episode for an upcoming TV drama about a TV morning show, which is currently untitled.

There were rumours that the cast of Game of Thrones – Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington and Lena Headey – were going to be earning a whopping £2million per episode during the HBO show's last two seasons.

Photo credit: HELEN SLOAN / HBO

But Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos, rubbished those claims. Speaking to the Sunday Independent, he said: "You think Game of Thrones works like a pensionable job in the civil service? Where the last men standing get the most money? It doesn't!"

He added: "Every time I see a new figure thrown around, €1m per episode, €2m per episode, I burst me ribs laughing. My bank manager is having a good laugh at it, too."

"It is not filmed in the States; if you had an American deal, there would be a lot more 'residuals' so you can't compare shows that are filmed here to shows that are filmed over there.

"And if what they are saying is true – that the top 10 stars are getting €2m per episode – then that means it's costing €20m an episode before you even buy one costume or write one word of script. That's more than Star Wars!"

According to Variety, Clarke, Coster-Waldau, Dinklage, Harington and Headey are all paid $500,000 per episode, which is much less ridiculous. But still ridiculous.

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