Headline-making salary feuds
James Garner, Maverick
Garner feels woefully undervalued on his hit ABC Western, making only $1,250 a week, though Maverick often beats Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen in the ratings. When Warner Bros. suspends him during a 1960 writers’ strike, he sues to be set free from his contract and wins. Taking over the reins: future Bond replacement Roger Moore.
CARROLL O’CONNOR, ALL IN THE FAMILY
Archie Bunker is absent at the first taping of the No. 1-rated comedy’s fifth season — the plot has Edith worrying after Archie goes missing on his way to a convention in Buffalo. The real story: After many creative disagreements with creator Norman Lear, O’Connor left the show in July and was suing Lear’s production company for $64,000 in back pay and other contract demands. Lear reportedly gets a court order to stop the actor from taking any other roles until the issue is settled, and tells the press that if O’Connor is gone for more than three episodes, he’ll write Archie out of the show. Two episodes later, Archie walks on for one line, and the character lives on through 1983.
LARRY HAGMAN, DALLAS
The uproar over season 3’s ”Who Shot J.R.?” cliff-hanger makes Hagman realize just how important he is. So while a nation wrings its hands over the mystery, Hagman tries to wring more cash out of producers during his summer hiatus. They resist, reportedly threatening to recast under the guise that J.R. was disfigured from the shooting. Hagman’s contract still isn’t resolved when the new season starts filming, but 10 days later producers give in to J.R.’s hardball, handing the actor $75,000 per episode and a stake in the show.
SUZANNE SOMERS, THREE’S COMPANY
After jiggling her way through four hit seasons as Chrissy Snow, Somers wants $150,000 a week (up from $30,000) and 2 percent of Company‘s profits. Producers reportedly offer $35,000 and accuse her of missing rehearsals. Somers claims her costars refuse to speak to her, and Chrissy appears only briefly in every other episode, on the phone. In April of ’81, producers decline to renew the actress’ contract.
THE DUKES OF HAZZARD
John ”Bo” Schneider and Tom ”Luke” Wopat walk out, filing a $25 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. Television over merchandising royalties; the studio countersues for $90 million and replaces them with unknowns playing Bo and Luke’s cousins, Coy and Vance. The game of chicken ends with the original Dukes back in the General Lee after 18 episodes.
Valerie Harper, Valerie
A second-season salary renegotiation leads to Harper being fired from her own self-titled show and replaced with Sandy Duncan as her sister-in-law. (The show is renamed Valerie’s Family and then The Hogan Family.) Producers claim Harper was difficult, which she angrily denies: Ultimately the court agrees with her, awarding her $1.4 million and a share of the comedy’s syndication sales, potentially worth $15 million.
THE HOME IMPROVEMENT KIDS
Tim Allen’s TV offspring — Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Zachery Ty Bryan, and Taran Smith — call in sick on the first week of production, demanding 213 percent raises to $25,000 an episode. Producers put out a casting call for new kids, and then the original trio comes running back Home for season 3.
DAVID CARUSO, NYPD BLUE
Red-hot after the cop show’s first season, Caruso asks for $100,000 an episode and the freedom to do movies, too. ABC holds firm at $80,000, and Det. John Kelly is written out after four episodes in season 2. Caruso goes on to film the bomb Jade, and then waits seven years for his next TV hit, CSI: Miami.
THE NEW YORK UNDERCOVER COPS
Michael DeLorenzo and Malik Yoba learn the hard way not to cross exec producer Dick Wolf. When the Fox stars don’t show up for work for season 3 — they have multiple demands, including a gym for Yoba — Wolf and Universal TV immediately announce a casting call to replace them. The cops report back for duty.
THE FRIENDS CAST
The six Friends are as inseparable at the negotiating table as they are at Central Perk. Their team approach after season 2 nets them each $100,000 an episode (up from $40,000), which is considered the Big Bang of TV salaries. (Seinfeld‘s supporting cast’s $600,000- and Tim Allen’s $1.25 million-an-episode paydays soon follow.) The hit-comedy sextet is even better at the full-team push in 2000, when they score $750,000 a week, and in 2002 they perfect their pitch and earn an even $1 million.
THE SIMPSONS VOICES
After season 9, voice actors Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Harry Shearer (Smithers), and Hank Azaria (Moe) band together to ask for major d’oh: $150,000 an episode, up from $15-25K. The group points out that Fox has made $500 million from the show’s syndication and merchandising, and that the Seinfeld leads make more in three weeks than they had in nine years. Scoffing at that kind of pay for what usually amounts to two days of sound-booth work per episode, Fox threatens to hold auditions for new voices. A deal is finally struck for $50,000 an episode and a cut of future syndication money, and in the 10th season, every voice in Springfield rings true.
THE WEST WING FOUR
After long negotiations prior to season 3, John Spencer, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, and Allison Janney nab raises that are on par with Rob Lowe’s $70,000-per-episode take. The next year, however, Lowe is rebuffed when he asks for more money — so he ends his term early, midway through season 4.
BECKER: EVERYBODY BUT DANSON
When five members of Ted Danson’s supporting sitcom cast are out sick for the first table read of season 4, the show’s studio, Paramount, sends doctors to their houses to check pulses. Four weeks later, the actors file suit to demand a negotiation (Paramount wants to wait until a syndication sale) and walk out. Two days later, a settlement is announced, though it seems to just include a small advance and a promise of future negotiations.
THE MA FROM MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE
The Fox comedy’s third season is cut two episodes short because of Jane Kaczmarek’s mid-season three-week absence due to migraine headaches. Her reps claim the situation has nothing to do with her salary negotiations, and she returns to finish up the season. Over the summer, Kaczmarek is rewarded with a bump to $100,000 per episode, with a promise of $150,000 for season 5.
JAMES GANDOLFINI, THE SOPRANOS
It’s all handled through legal channels, but Gandolfini’s battle with HBO is no less tense than one of the show’s street-justice standoffs. With the fifth season about to start shooting, the actor’s negotiations for a raise (he wants $1 million per episode, up from $400,000) drag on until he files a breach-of-contract lawsuit, and HBO counters with its own $100 million suit. Production on the Mob drama has to be postponed almost two weeks, until the show’s executive producer (and future Paramount head) Brad Grey steps in and defuses the tension. The suits are dropped and Gandolfini gets a hefty raise — doubling his salary — in exchange for two more seasons of mayhem…the scripted kind.
BRAD GARRETT, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND
It’s hard for a 6’8” actor to hide, but Garrett is nowhere to be found in the first episode of Raymond‘s eighth season. He boycotts the CBS sitcom’s taping, maintaining he deserves more than $150,000 per episode (less than one-tenth of Ray Romano’s $1.8 million episodic salary) for TV’s No. 2 comedy. Garrett returns for the second show with a bump to a reported $250,000 (though some sources put it closer to $450,000), as well as a half-percent interest in the comedy.
CSI JUNIOR DETECTIVES
Weary of bruising salary battles, CBS head Les Moonves decides to make an example of the CSI supporting cast when they let it be known they want more money. After George Eads is late for his first day back for season 5, and Jorja Fox doesn’t sign a letter promising she’ll show up to work, Moonves fires them both. Ultimately, the two are welcomed back, but at their original salaries of $100,000 per episode.
KATHERINE HEIGL, GREY’S ANATOMY
During third-season negotiations for the hit medical drama, Heigl — who makes in the $30,000-per-episode range — and ABC air their differences in the press: First, it is leaked that the actress is pulling out of talks as she feels she’s being undervalued compared to the rest of the cast. The network parries that it’s treating her fairly, and scolds her for going public. Finally, the actress chastises the network for its going public. Physician show, heal thyself, already.
*ALL SALARY INFORMATION BASED ON PUBLISHED FIGURES AND EW REPORTING