Big Bang Theory; Modern Family; Two and a Half Men: TV Stars’ Salary

James Ryan Jonas

It’s good to be on TV. You become popular internationally, you get freebies and priorities most of the time, and, yes, you earn huge salaries.

In the case of actors and actresses in three of America’s most-watched comedy shows, some of them receive huge paychecks per episode, reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars every week — translating to millions of dollars per season. It’s good to be on TV, indeed.

Here are some of the salaries received by the cast of popular TV comedies in the U.S.

Salaries of Actors and Actresses in U.S. Comedy Shows

  • Big Bang Theory

Recently dubbed as “TV’s No. 1 Comedy show” for being the most watched comedy show on U.S. TV, The Big Bang Theory proved to be a gold mine for erstwhile not-so-popular cast that includes Johnny Galecki (who plays Leonard Hofstadter); Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper); and Kaley Cuoco (Penny). For the first three seasons, the three main stars of the show received at most US$ 60,000 per episode. With an average 24 episodes per season, the three got gross salaries of $1.44 million per season.

Starting the fourth season, the three each got a salary bump to $200,000 per episode. Their new contracts state that, from the fifth until the seventh, each of the three will receive annual increases of $50,000 every season, culminating in $350,000 per episode in the seventh season.

Other minor actors of the show are also receiving big, albeit lower salaries. Simon Helberg, who plays Howard Wolowitz, is reportedly getting $125,000 per episode while Kunal Nayyar, who plays Raj Koothrappali, receieves $100,000 per episode.

The Big Bang Theory, a show about a group of science geeks and their interaction with their neighbor Penny, a waitress, has been renewed until the seventh season. The first episode of the 7th season will air in September 2013.

  • Two and a Half Men

Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cryer are now two of the highest paid actors on TV. Ashton Kutcher, playing Walden Schmidt who moved in with Jon Cryer’s character following a bad divorce, is the highest paid TV actor earning $700,000 per episode. This translates to more than $16.8 million per season.

In 2011, Ashton Kutcher joined the cast of Two and a Half Men, replacing Charlie Sheen whose character was killed off after the actor had a spat with the show’s producers. Before he left, Charlie Sheen was said to have been earning $1.2 million per episode of the show, making him the highest paid TV actor then.

In May 2013, it was announced that Jon Cryer (Alan) got a salary bump from $600,000 to $620,000 an episode.

Angus T. Jones, the actor playing Jake, Alan’s son in the show, is said to be receiving $300,000 per episode. The 19-year-old actor’s character has been relegated to recurring character starting the show’s 11th Season which will kick off in September 2013.

  • Modern Family

In 2012, salary disputes marred the start of Season 4 of Modern Family, but before the first episode of the season aired, the cast and producers agreed on a settlement that would increase the salaries of the adult and child cast members.

The five adult cast members successfully renegotiated their contracts, each receiving a huge salary increase from $65,000 to $175,000 per episode. These five cast members are Julie Bowen (Claire Dunphy), Ty Burrell (Phil Dunphy), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell Pritchett), Eric Stonestreet  (Cam Tucker) and Sofia Vergara (Gloria Pritchett).

Ed O’Neill, the actor playing Jay Pritchett, the family patriarch, lowered his salary from $200,000 to $125,000 per episode to achieve parity with his co-stars, but he will be getting a larger cut of the back-end profits.

The five child actors of the show also received salary bumps. From an initial paycheck of $25,000, each of the five will be getting $75,000 per episode with an additional raises of $10,000 per episode until Season 8. The five child stars include Sarah Hyland (Haley Dunphy), Ariel Winter (Alex Dunphy), Nolan Gould (Luke Dunphy), Rico Rodriguez (Manny Delgado), and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (Lily Tucker-Pritchett).

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James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.