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Oprah and Charlie Sheen Top List of TV’s Best Paid

Eva Longoria earns a healthy pay check for her work on Desperate Housewives Eva Longoria earns a healthy pay check for her work on Desperate Housewives

TV Guide’s recently published list of the highest paid stars on television doesn’t contain much in the way of surprises. The biggest name stars who appear in the most popular shows on the boob tube command that largest salaries. Seems pretty obvious. Charlie Sheen gets a hefty payday for his role on Two and Half Men, while Oprah Winfrey rakes it in for doing her long-running daytime show. Other top earners include Judge Judy, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Ryan Seacrest, and House’s Hugh Laurie.

Laurie is the best-paid actor in a television drama series, making over $400,000 per episode. Last season, there were 22 episodes of his medical drama, netting Laurie in excess of $8.8 million.

Eight other actors on drama series are reported to earn $350,000 or more per episode, including Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: SVU, David Caruso of CSI: Miami, 
Marg Helgenberger and 
Laurence Fishburne of CSI,  Mark Harmon of NCIS, 
Kyra Sedgwick of The Closer, and stand-up comedian-cum-dramatist, Denis Leary of Rescue Me.

Talk shows are also worth beaucoup bucks. Oprah Winfrey is on absolutely another level, taking in $315 million in a year. By contrast the next highest earner for a talk show is David Letterman at $28 million per year.

Letterman’s late night rival, Jay Leno, gets $25 million per year, and there’s another drop off from there. Conan O’Brien gets $10 million, Ellen DeGeneres $8 million, and Jimmy Kimmel $6 million.

Surprisingly, the highest paid TV personality after Oprah is Judge Judy Sheindlin, whose brain-numbingly tedious mining of the dregs of society on her reality/court tv show, Judge Judy, earns her $45 million a year.

Ryan Seacrest’s sweet gig doing next to nothing as host of American Idol also lands him a fat payday to the tune of $15 million every year.

Stars of comedy series make out all right, too. Charlie Sheen cashes his $1.25 million per episode check 22 times or so per season. His Two and a Half Men co-star, Jon Cryer, is the next highest-paid sitcom actor at $550,000 per episode.

Teri Hatcher, 
Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria Parker, and Marcia Cross of Desperate Housewives, along with Dan Castellaneta and 
Julie Kavner of The Simpsons all collect $400,000 per episode. 
Tina Fey of 30 Rock and 
Jeremy Piven of Entourage earn $350,000.

Finally, television news programs are still big business despite the fact that anyone with an internet connection can read virtually any newspaper in the world online at any hour of the day for free. Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, 
Brian Williams, and 
Diane Sawyer all make $12 million or more. Go figure.

TV’s highest paid actors and personalities are still collecting eye-popping sums, but reports are that salaries are going down. PVRs and file sharing are part of the reason for that, as they change the way viewers see advertising. But for the moment, neither Oprah, Charlie Sheen, David Letterman, Hugh Laurie, or Judge Judy will be crying poor.


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Last modified on Tuesday, 26 October 2010 20:24

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