TV salaries assessed -- Which actors are really worth the money?

By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated March 30, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

We canvassed industry agents and managers, and used reported salary figures, to determine which actors are pulling their weight when you compare their salaries with their shows’ ratings. The numbers aren’t all there is to an actor’s worth — creative duties, syndication potential, and screen time factor in too — but it’s a start.

Worth Every Penny
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men
$350,000 per episode

Pricey? You betcha. But a solid hit comedy these days is worth its weight in advertiser — not to mention syndication — gold.

Simon Cowell, American Idol
$263,000 per episode

The (British) voice of an American institution that dominates twosometimes three! — nights a week. A steal at $10 million a year.

Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives
$175,000 per episode

Any Housewife is a buy at this price — especially if the show’s ratings hold steady while ABC shores up weaker schedule spots.

Patrick Dempsey, Grey’s Anatomy
$175,000 per episode

Pretty hair = hordes of young women making an appointment with TV’s hottest doc during prime Thursday advertising time.

Good Investments
Kiefer Sutherland, 24
$400,000 per episode

He is the heart and soul of the hit drama (and also pulls double duty as exec producer!). Besides, are you gonna tell him he doesn’t deserve it?

Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order SVU
$300,000 per episode

With Chris Meloni, she infused the notoriously personal-life-free franchise with real character — not to mention multiple awards.

Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
$250,000 per episode

A big paycheck for cable, but she did single-handedly make TNT a real network, complete with Emmy love and broadcast-worthy ratings numbers.

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
$150,000 per episode

Priceless, really — he steals every scene that he’s in. If he could just charm a few more viewers, Baldwin would be TV’s biggest bargain.

Not Worth It
Kevin James, The King of Queens
$400,000+ per episode

The comedy is wrapping in May and has cleaned up its syndication, but nearly half a million should buy more than 8.7 million viewers.

Zach Braff, Scrubs
$350,000 per episode

We liked Garden State, too, but Scrubs is a past-its-prime comedy, and Braff’s new deal (which should start next season) is simply a case of too much, too late.

Brad Garrett, ‘Til Death
$200,000 per episode

His paycheck was wildly inflated coming off a mammoth hit sitcom, but everybody doesn’t love ‘Til Death the way they did Raymond.

Jeff Goldblum, Raines
$100,000+ per episode

His movie cachet couldn’t open Raines, which was beaten by ABC’s starless drama October Road. And a move to Friday won’t help matters.