I don't know whether to blame Tax Day, the start of the Major League Baseball season (and the nine-figure contracts that come with it), or that $640 million Mega Millions jackpot. But for some reason, April is a popular time to gripe about other people's money. Lately I feel like I've been seeing the same done-to-death "Most Overpaid Athletes" and "Most Overpaid Musicians" columns that seem to regularly pop up online this time of year.
Television stars don't escape the scrutiny, either. At risk of falling in with the whiny masses, here are some TV celebs whose salaries have made the news recently:
And you thought the name of the show only hit the mark in describing the not-so-nuclear structure of ABC's funniest family. But what is more modern than holding out for more cash? According to the Hollywood Reporter, five of the hit sitcom's stars -- Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara -- will be seeking raises that would bank each of them $200,000 per episode for Season 4, up from the $65,000 per show they make currently. Ed O'Neill apparently isn't part of that group, but since he already makes a reported $105,000 per episode, naturally he'd be due for a raise if the others get what they want. And what about the kids? They bring just as much to the comedy table as their pretend parents, so they shouldn't be left out.
The show is racking up awards (and advertisers) left and right for ABC, and Vergara is EVERYWHERE you look these days, so it's perfectly understandable that the cast wants to see some of that good fortune. But hopefully this doesn't end like The Practice, another great ABC show that suffered and eventually died when frustrated network execs slashed the budget. Modern Family is producing much better ratings than The Practice ever did, but if it becomes too costly to pay the cast, who knows what the suits will do.
The Modern Family story has drawn attention to the cast of CBS' sitcom The Big Bang Theory, which is being used as a negotiating model. When Emmy winner Jim Parsons and his band of geeks were up for contract extensions at the end of their show's third season in 2010, it resulted in a pay bump that earned Parsons, Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki a reported $200,000 per episode.
Leave it up to Sheldon (Parsons) to rock the boat, though: At the time, a few media outlets reported that he tried to push the producers for an even larger salary since he has that Emmy in his trophy case, but was told to take the 200K or find another show that could use his talents. Does NUMB3RS still come on the air?
The revamped Two and a Half Men looked like it might be a creative disaster at the beginning of Season 4 -- its first with Ashton Kutcher replacing Charlie Sheen -- but found its rhythm in time to stay on the CBS lineup through at least another season. That is, of course, assuming Kutcher and co-star Jon Cryer will be there.
The Hollywood Reporter said Kutcher made $700,000 per episode this season, but that was for a one-season contract. (Sheen made $1 million per episode before he blew it for himself.) Kutcher and Cryer are up for new contracts going into Season 10, and it's been reported that while the two have been offered two-year deals, those deals don't come with pay raises. Kutcher has a movie career to fall back on if negotiations get tough, but I'm not so sure about Cryer. He has become his Alan Harper character so much that I don't know if he can have the same success in other ventures without being typecast.
If actors were paid on a tears-per-episode basis, the cast of Grey's Anatomy would be the richest people on TV. Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey and Sandra Oh are among the show's stars who reportedly pull down $200,000 or so per episode, and going into Season 8 some of them are going to be up for new contracts.
However, those on Grey's who want to come back could be hurt by the precedent set by ER. As an audience, we're used to TV doctors and nurses coming and going, and a good medical drama can keep the stories compelling even with a rotating cast. That gives the producers some leverage if Pompeo and her castmates want a boatload of cash.
Season 5 of the ridiculous reality show will happen without one of the show's original cast members, as Sheree Whitfield announced this week that she's leaving because she's "tired of the fighting and the cattiness." OK, that would make sense if Sheree wasn't the main one starting the fighting and cattiness, but whatever. Also, reports surfaced a couple of weeks before Sheree's announcement that the show actually dropped her, not the other way around.
The TV split begged the question, how much is Sheree walking away (or being forced to walk away) from? Bossip (a gossip site) reports that Whitfield was making $550,000 per season, with and extra $150,000 for doing the season-ending reunion shows. She wasn't the highest-paid real housewife in the ATL, though: NeNe Leakes reportedly makes $750,000 per season, with an additional $250,000 for the reunions.
The holy grail for reality-show salaries, however, is still Jersey Shore. Last year the crew headlined by Snooki and The Situation made mainstream news headlines nationwide when they landed contracts with MTV that would pay them $100,000 per episode during the show's fourth season -- adding up to approximately $1.3 million for the season.
Season 5 just wrapped last month, and even though Snooki's pregnancy and engagement seemed to put things in limbo, MTV has confirmed that the full-time party animals will be back for a sixth season. Mark down another seven figures for each cast member. And enjoy your 9-to-5 today.