TV Guide reveals: Charlie Sheen makes $825,000 per episode
That's because Two and a Half Men’s Charlie Sheen -- who I like well enough as a performer, all due respect to the man -- is the highest-paid comedy star in TV's prime-time these days, earning $825,000 per episode (includes earnings from Sheen’s ownership stake in the series). That means Sheen likely earns about $20.6-million annually for walking around like a guy in a stupor and cracking jokes about sleeping around.
CSI star William Petersen, who feels so limited by his role on the forensic drama he is leaving the show after this season, takes off as the highest-paid actor in a prime-time drama, earning $600,000 per episode. You'd think Petersen would take a lesson from guys who previously held the highest-paid title -- ER stars Anthony Edwards and Noah Wyle -- who both saw their actings careers fall off a cliff after leaving their once-popular show.
Among women, Mariska Hargitay, star of Law & Order: SVU, is the highest-paid actress in a prime-time drama, earning $400,000 per episode. Kyra Sedgwick, star of TNT’s The Closer, is the highest-paid actress in a cable network drama, earning $275,000 per episode. Since network series typically film about twice the number of episodes as in cable, Harguitay is probably making a lot more than Sedgwick.
According to TV Guide, Seth MacFarlane, the creator and lead-voice talent of the animated hit Family Guy, is highest-paid prime-time writer/producer, thanks to a new $100-million deal with 20th Century Fox Television through 2012. And the voice talent of The Simpsons -- Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, and Hank Azaria -- each earn $400,000 per episode on Fox's animated series.
Among the expected names: Oprah Winfrey HARPO Productions earned $385 million last year, Simon Cowell earns $50 million per year for American Idol, Late Show host David Letterman earns $32 million per year, and anchor Katie Couric (CBS News) earns $15 million per year.
What I always wonder: How does the magazine get these figures? And is it fair to compare the revenue of a major media company like HARPO -- which does more than just produce the Oprah Winfrey Show -- with the in-pocket salary of someone like Couric or Sheen?
You can ponder those questions while waiting for TV Guide's next issue, which hits stores Thursday.