Published: Friday August 10, 2012 MYT 5:19:00 PM
Ashton Kutcher graduates to best paid actor on US television
Ashton Kutcher, the new star of the hit comedy series Two and Half Men, replaced Charlie Sheen -- who left the same show in 2011 -- as the best paid actor on American television.
His $700,000 per episode deal pales in comparison to his predecessor's million-dollar contract, but it's enough to nudge him to the top.
The actor with the second-best deal, Jon Cryer, appears in the same CBS series and earns $600,000 per episode. Mark Harmon, from NCIS, the most popular show on US television, racks in $500,000 per episode, which makes him the third biggest earner.
The void left by Hugh Laurie ( House ) and the cast of Desperate Housewives propelled Mariska Hargitay ( Law and Order ) towards the head of the pack with $385,000 per show. 30 Rock 's Tina Fey and the stars of Grey's Anatomy Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey and Sandra Oh come next with their $350,000 deals.
Simon Baker ( The Mentalist ) and Kaley Cuoco ( The Big Bang Theory ) follow with $300,000 deals, which puts them ahead of Michael C. Hall ( Dexter), Jon Hamm ( Mad Men ) and Ted Danson ( CSI ) with earnings per episode going from $295,000 to $225,000. Neil Patrick Harris ( How I Met Your Mother ) gets $210,000.
[strong]TV actors also hit by recession[/strong] US publication TV Guide, which drew up this list based on the data provided by the actors' agents and the heads of networks and TV studios, noticed a dramatic drop in wages over the past few years.
According to TV Guide, incoming actors for new TV shows can expect average earnings of $30,000 per episode. That's roughly what Stephen Amell will be paid for the upcoming CW series Arrow .
Only the most bankable stars, such as Hollywood transplants, can hope to fetch higher figures. Kevin Bacon will pocket $175,000 for each episode of The Following, which will start airing on Fox early in 2013, and CBS will shell out $125,000 per episode to Lucy Liu for her role in Elementary .
Last season, Jeff Daniels successfully negotiated a $150,000 deal for HBO's The Newsroom, Claire Danes earned $110,000 for Homeland and Zooey Deschanel was paid $95,000 per episode for The New Girl . To put these figures in perspective, Lea Michele gets $75,000 per episode for the hit TV series Glee, with a fourth season about to start.
"Two and a Half Men" actors Ashton Kutcher (left) and Jon Cryer have signed two of the most lucrative deals on US television. - Reuters