Do Television Stars Make Too Much Money?
Brian 2010/10/14 11:00:00
While much of the country is still struggling to find jobs to support them, A-list television stars are raking in more dough than ever before, and Forbes' list of the top-earning names in prime time television revealed just how big those checks have gotten.
Of course, we've heard it all before with arguments over athletes' salaries and pop musicians, but when Angus T. Jones, the 17-year-old star of "Two and a Half Men," renewed his contract for an astounding $300,000 per episode, it starts to feel a little bit ridiculous.
And Jones' salary pales in comparison to co-star Charlie Sheen, whose latest contract could net him almost $100 million dollars next season. That's more than 2000 times the real median salary of a working American male.
It's easy to try and excuse their extravagant paychecks because, when you think about it, individual names like Simon Cowell (who made $80 million this year) and Steve Carell ($34 million) both directly and indirectly generate a huge percent of revenue for entire networks. Without Cowell, Fox was left to rope in multiple big-name replacements for "Idol" just to attempt to keep up with the millions of viewers he brought them every season. Without Carell, NBC has no choice but to cut its massively successful version of "The Office" down to one final season.
Not only that, but they generate traffic for information-based businesses and corporations that they aren't even a part of. TMZ would be nothing without the public's interest in the high-payed celebrities they stalk.
But it's hard for me to fathom that the success Sheen is bringing CBS merits him such a disproportionate salary. It's unlikely that the show's Emmy-winning cinematographers and editors are making more than a small fraction of Sheen's salary, and that's to say nothing of writers and directors, who have nothing to offer in terms of public status, but still serve an enormously important role in the show's success.
Is it that fantastic actors are the rarest of breeds? Don't get me wrong, Sheen is a great actor. But is he so indispensable that his $52 million salary from last year had to be doubled in order to keep him on board?
I don't claim to understand the inner workings of network television, and I'm not saying Sheen doesn't deserve to be highly paid, but from where I'm sitting, $100 million is absurd. There wouldn't be so much heated discussion of the ethics behind government redistribution if big salaries were proportionate to begin with.
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