As much as we love them, most people have come to the realization that actors and actresses are paid ridiculous amounts of money for what they do. They deserve to be compensated for their popularity and contributions to the works so many people pay to see, but hardworking blue collar people everywhere look at the average TV or movie star’s salary and see a number they could never imagine actually being paid themselves, no matter how hard they were working. And yet, plenty of TV stars have looked at their own contracts, seen those same high numbers, and felt like it wasn’t nearly enough.
Successful TV shows make millions of dollars, so it makes sense the biggest stars of those shows would want a nice percentage of that money. Whether it’s fair to the working class outsider or not, when money is being generated, it should be fairly divided amongst the people who generated it. Not all of the items on this list are flat-out cases of greed demanding a higher paycheck, but when we look at how much money these celebrities were making in the first place, it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t enough. And that doesn’t even begin to describe a few of them, who were paid exorbitant amounts from the beginning to do virtually nothing, and there’s no shame in shaking your head at those examples. Keep reading and learn about 15 TV stars who demanded more money to continue making their show.
15. The Cast Of Gilmore Girls
Gilmore Girls was one of the most popular shows on The WB during the final years of that network, and seemed poised to continue as such on The CW even after 7 seasons. However, only one season removed from the WB-UPN merger that formed The CW, Gilmore Girls was canceled despite ratings only slightly dipping and fan interest remaining high. As is usually the case, there was more than one simple reason for the decision to end the show, but according to most sources the biggest was the fact the cast was asking for too much money. Many of the stories on the list will prove sometimes a cast gets what they want, but greed can often kill a show on the spot if the stars overestimate their value.
14. Suzanne Somers – Three’s Company
Three’s Company was one of the most popular sitcoms of the late 1970s, and although Jack Tripper (John Ritter) was the star, enough laughs were earned from the ensemble cast that it was hardly a one-man show. Suzanne Somers played Jack’s roommate Chrissy Snow, and her ditzy and sexy character made her a huge hit with audiences, as well. Feeling like she was an equal co-star and not simply a supporting character, Somers asked the producers for equal pay to John Ritter. It would have meant a six figure raise, but it’s hard to argue the discrepancy between Ritter and the other stars shouldn’t have been so wide, especially not if gender was the main consideration. ABC executives at the time highly disagreed, and instead gradually reduced Somers role until her contract was satisfied, at which point they fired her from the show. Luckily, things would eventually get better for women, even if there are still strides to be made…
13. Robin Wright – House Of Cards
While the main point of this list is celebrity greed, in certain instances we have to admit a star demanding money can be completely reasonable. That was definitely the case when Robin Wright demanded more pay for her work on House of Cards on the grounds her male co-stars were making more money than she was for doing the same amount of work. Most of Hollywood if not simply the world at large is still fighting a decades old belief that men for some reason deserve more money than women for doing the same jobs, and when Wright learned she was making significantly less than her onscreen husband, she decided to make a statement. Wright threatened to make the inequity a public issue if it weren’t dealt with immediately, but an $80,000 per episode raise evened things out and left her with nothing to complain about.
12. Michael C. Hall – Dexter
Dexter was an unexpected hit for Showtime focusing on a forensics expert turned serial killer played by Michael C. Hall. Dexter was obviously the star of Dexter, and controlled his show on a stronger level than most individual actors on our list, so it makes sense he wanted more money as the show grew in popularity. The show lasted 8 seasons, but it almost got cut short after season 6 when Hall’s contract ran out and he demanded more money to return to the show and allow it to continue. Showtime execs offered Hall $800,000 per episode, which was enough to make him one of the highest paid actors on television, let alone a cable pay channel. Hall wanted a deal that would earn him closer to $1 million for each episode, and the fact the show continued for two more seasons proves he got what he wanted.
11. The Casts Of All My Children And One Life To Live
We may not watch saccharine soap operas like All My Children or One Life To Live, but we understand they’ve been around for decades and were once highly popular with the audience that does watch them. ABC decided to end both long-running series in late 2011, but various web streaming sites including Hulu decided to keep the show alive. The switch to the Internet meant the budget was going to get cut to pieces, and for the majority of the stars that meant serious changes in their pay. While the other actors on this list demanded raises, the soap stars just didn’t want demotions, and it’s hard to blame them. Some of the bigger stars left the shows when their demands couldn’t be met, while others felt any pay beat no pay and stuck around for the one online season each show ended up having.
10. Charlie Sheen – Two And A Half Men
The rapid self-destruction of Charlie Sheen in 2011 was so total it’s hard to look back to right before then, when he was extremely popular, and the highest paid actor on television. Two and a Half Men was a huge hit its entire run, and Sheen’s womanizing alcoholic lead was a huge part of the success. Sheen was making approximately $2 million per episode, but somehow felt that wasn’t nearly enough, demanding that his pay be increased to at least $3 million to continue. CBS executives thought that was ridiculous and Sheen was spiraling out of control, so they fired him instead of meeting his demand. The show continued another three seasons as one of the highest rated programs on television.
9. The Cast Of Jersey Shore
Jersey Shore was a reality show that aired on MTV focused on the worst people imaginable getting drunk and doing nothing of note together. A sterling reflection of large parts of society, it instantly became a huge hit, despite the pointed lack of effort involved by any of the people the show was documenting. Whether or not they were actually doing anything other than drinking and being unpleasant, millions of people were watching, so we don’t actually blame the cast of the show for asking for increasingly large amounts of money in between every season. However, once you actually start looking at the numbers, it gets a little ridiculous. From season 1 to 2, the cast negotiated themselves a $10,000 per episode raise, and the number shot to six figures by the time season 4 came around. They were nearing $150,000 per episode by the time of their sixth season, despite the fact they still just drank and did nothing.
8. The Cast Of Love & Hip Hop: New York
Love & Hip Hop is a series of VH1 reality shows focused on woman in the hip-hop industry. Many of the women on the show are entrepreneurs with difficult and demanding jobs, but the reality show aspect of their lives doesn’t exactly add to that hard work, it just means cameras are running while they live their lives. Nonetheless, the stars of the New York version of the show protested a photo shoot in anticipation of their fourth season due to the fact they felt they weren’t being paid enough. Cast members also weren’t happy with the way they were being edited to appear on television, but the main complaint was that they wanted their pay more than doubled. Believe it or not, VH1 readily complied, and the show continues to this day.
7. Everyone On Seinfeld Except Jerry
While his titular sitcom was on the air, Jerry Seinfeld was the highest paid man on television. Seinfeld was the star and his standup obviously inspired the show, but anyone who watched even a single episode knows Elaine, George, and Kramer were as much a part of the show as he was. The actors portraying those characters knew it too, and although they didn’t ask for quite as much as Jerry, they did demand the whole cast was the highest paid on television, and not just the star. In season 8, the supporting stars were making $150,000 per episode, nowhere near Jerry’s $1 million price tag. They renegotiated to even the gap a bit and ended up with $600,000 each for the final season. At the time it was considered a landmark for actors demanding higher pay, and the trend of the highest rated sitcoms on TV having the highest paid actors in history would only balloon from there.
6. The Cast Of Friends
The cast of Seinfeld heavily inspired the cast of Friends, but without a huge star like Jerry Seinfeld as the clear lead, the cast teamed together to shatter the previous show’s record and make themselves the highest paid in TV history. The Friends cast made steadily more money each season as their show grew in popularity, and when it came time for their final two seasons they negotiated themselves up to $1 million per episode. Former stars Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc are still justifying their salaries in interviews to this day, and the co-creator of the show is still calling them ridiculous. The way we see it, they both kind of have a point, but the fact remained that Seinfeld was hardly an outlier, and sitcom stars were starting to get paid whatever insane amount they demanded.
5. The Cast Of The Big Bang Theory
Several years removed from Friends and Seinfeld, the most popular sitcom on TV is now The Big Bang Theory. When the cast’s contracts ended after the show’s 7th season, obviously executives wanted to keep making money off the most popular actors and actresses on television. The cast initially rejected whatever they were offered and demanded higher pay, but by this point, show producers and industry experts knew it was only a matter of time before the network execs would cave and the actors got what they wanted. That ended up proving correct when Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, and Johnny Galecki were offered $1 million per episode for the next three seasons, ending any hesitation they had about signing new deals.
4. The Cast Of Modern Family
Modern Family is the second most popular sitcom on television after The Big Bang Theory, and as such the cast of that show demanded pay raises as that popularity became evident, as well. By the third season of the show, it was already proving to be a phenomenon, but the actors were earning less than $100,000 per episode. That still seems like a lot of money, but compared to the other numbers on this list, it’s really not that much for one of the top shows around. As a result, the adult members of the cast banded together and demanded a pay raise bringing them to $200,000 an episode. Those negotiations were four years ago, and another round of renegotiations could easily end up on this list all over again.
3. Neil Patrick Harris – How I Met Your Mother
The last couple of stories were cases of casts working together to get everyone a fair deal on a successful enterprise, but sometimes actors get seriously greedy and throw their co-stars under the bus to get themselves the best deal. Neil Patrick Harris is almost universally beloved, and his work as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother had a lot to do with that reputation. What fans might not realize is that between the fourth and fifth seasons, the HIMYM cast wanted to do what those other shows did and work together to get a group raise. Harris disagreed with that strategy, for some reason feeling he deserved more money than his co-stars. He was proven correct when he negotiated on his own to earn $250,000 an episode, making him the highest paid actor on the show.
2. Chad Michael Murray – One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill lasted nine seasons across The WB and The CW, and was one of the more popular series on either network while it lasted. Despite a popular ensemble cast, for the first six seasons, it was generally accepted that the stars of the show were Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton. The two abruptly decided not to return to the show for the seventh season, and although reports are kind of conflicting and confusing about exactly what it was that happened, money seems to have been a motivating factor for at least one of the two. Burton seemed to be looking for creative control over the direction of the show, but Murray was filmed saying the decision was based on the network’s “trying to save money.” The only way to interpret that is to assume he wanted more than they would pay, but executives got the last laugh as the show continued for three more successful seasons without the so-called stars.
1. The Cast Of The Simpsons
With all of that greed out of the way, we’ve put this one at number one to subvert the idea, as there’s not really anything greedy about this one, but Fox executives tried to pretend there was. The Simpsons is the longest running sitcom on television today, and six people voice the hundreds of characters who make the show the cultural landmark that it is. Even with current seasons continuing the show’s reputation of not quite being what it used to be, as some of the longest tenured employees in a major television franchise, the stars of the show deserve a piece of the pie. Or as Homer would say, “Mmmm…pie.” For the first 8 amazing seasons of the show, the main cast was only making $30,000 per episode, barely 10% of what the stars of comparably popular live action shows made. It was bumped to six figures in 1998, but that apparently wasn’t enough, as the cast threatened to go on strike twice in 2004 and again in 2008 until they were paid closer to the $400,000 range. Despite their complaints, they ultimately accepted a slight pay cut when ratings went down. D’oh!