Entertainment Television

Monday 20 January 2020

Top six TV salary stand-offs

The cast of Three's Company - Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, Suzanne Somers
The cast of Three's Company - Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, Suzanne Somers
The Big Bang Theory cast
DALLAS: Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal, Barbara Bel Geddes, Larry Hagman, Charlene Titlon, Jim Davis and Linda Gray
The cast of Friends.
The cast of Modern Family
Janel Moloney, Bradley Whitford and Rob Lowe in The West Wing.
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting may have just bagged a whopping $1m per episode for The Big Bang Theory, but not all TV stars come up trumps in tetchy salary negotiations with major networks.

The Big Bang Theory

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The Big Bang Theory cast

Whilst Cuoco-Sweeting and co-stars Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki have signed three-year deals for a rumoured $1 million per episode, actors Kunal Nayar and Simon Helberg are both still negotiating to raise their pay per episode beyond their current $100,000.

Season 8 of The Big Bang Theory was scheduled to begin production at the end of last month but the contract dispute forced Warner Bros TV to delay.  A table read has finally been scheduled for Aug 6th which may indicate negotiations are near completion.

Show creator Chuck Lorre recently said that he expected the negotiations would be swift: "There are people at WBTV and people representing the actors who have done this before.

"This will work itself out. I think it's great; I want them all to be crazy wealthy because nobody deserves it more than this cast. It'll work out."

The show was renewed for series 8, 9, and 10 but Deadline has reported that the deals have made allowances for a potential 11th season too.

The stars were paid $60,000 per episode for the first three seasons and a hefty €1m pay out puts them ahead of Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cryer of Two and a Half Men fame, and matches the record-breaking salaries paid to the Friends cast for their last season.  Fair enough, given The Big Band Theory averages a healthy 20 million viewers a week.



The cast of Friends.

For the first season, the then unknown cast of Friends - Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, and Lisa Kudrow - were earning a lowly $22,500 each per episode. 

However, as the show increased in popularity and they each became household names, salary demands rightly increased in tandem, resulting in two big pay rises in 1996 and 2000. 

In 1996 they demanded increases to $100,000 each per episode, plus a percentage of the series' profits in syndication, and threatened not to show up for filming in August that year were those demands not met.  It worked.

Countless awards and consistent ratings eventually led to the cast securing the record-breaking $1m per episode for the final season which aired in 2003.


Modern Family

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Modern family stars Ed O'Neill, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Sofa Vergara , Jesse Tyler Ferguson , Eric Stonestreet, Sarah Hyland, Nolan Gould, Ariel Winter and Rico Rodriguez .

Few TV contract negotiations have been as bitter as the Modern Family saga. 

It's the second most popular sitcom on TV (after The Big Bang Theory) and the cast delayed filming for season 4 by demanding increased packages. 

Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, and Sofia Vergara had been earning a relatively meagre €55,000-$65,000 given the show's popularity and ratings, but held out for a reported $150,000 - €170,000 each. 

They also filed a lawsuit claiming their previous contracts were a violation of a California law that prohibits personal service contracts from exceeding seven years - which they subsequently dropped.

They are all tied in to eight seasons of the show with the sixth due to broadcast from next month.



Larry Hagman as JR Ewing in 1982

Without Larry Hagman Dallas was nothing, or so he thought.  At the end of he second season, the 'Who shot J.R.?' frenzy was in full swing and Hagman spied an opportunity to wrangle a better wage from CBS. 

Hagman refused to film any new episodes without a new contract and failed to show up on set for a week, after which he secured $100,000 per episode and royalties from J.R. merchandise. 

However, he may have secured an even bigger salary had CBS not threatened to replace him with Robert Culp - the change would be explained when J.R.'s post-shooting bandages were removed to reveal he had extensive plastic surgery to hide his scars.

“If you’ve got a chance to make it…then make it!" he said at the time.  "Frankly I don’t think anyone is worth that kind of money. I think it’s ridiculous except that’s the way it is. I would be a fool not to take advantage of it.”


The West Wing

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Janel Moloney, Bradley Whitford and Rob Lowe in The West Wing.

Rob Lowe effectively cut off his nose to spite his face in negotiations with producers of The West Wing. 

The actor left the show after season four when co-star Martin Sheen received a salary increase to a tidy €300,000 per episode whilst other members had their salaries doubled to €70,000 after they teamed up and walked off set for several days. 

Lowe had been making €75,000 from season one and left the show after negotiations with Warner Bros. broke down.  He said, “As much as it hurts to admit it, it has been increasingly clear, for quite a while, that there was no longer a place for Sam Seaborn on The West Wing.”


Three's Company

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The cast of Three's Company - Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, Suzanne Somers

In 1977 Suzanne Somers landed the role of ditzy blonde Chrissy Snow on ABC’s Three’s Company and by the fourth season finale it was clear she was the real star of the trio of leads. 

She demanded a pay increase from €30,000 per episode to a whopping €150,000 per episode for the fifth season, plus a cut of the show’s profits. 

The move backfired, however, when she went on strike and literally phoned in her few lines for the rest of the season, only to be unceremoniously replaced by Jenilee Harrison by the series’ end.

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