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Where Does ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Rank In The History Of TV Salary Disputes?

By 07.31.14
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Yesterday we told you about season eight of The Big Bang Theory being delayed because certain members of the cast are holding out for some Friends-esque money (apparently Johnny Galecki still thinks he’s in the later seasons of Roseanne, after the Conners win the lottery). CBS is praying things turn out like they did for ABC with Modern Family, and not ABC with Three’s Company. Confused as to what I’m referring to? Well, read on to learn about some of the most notorious cast salary disputes in TV history.

1. Modern Family

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Modern Family is the second biggest sitcom on TV, and I don’t mean Sofia Vergara’s breasts (sorry). It also has a huge cast (and I don’t mean Sofia…), which is good news for BuzzFeed quizzes asking which character are you but bad news for ABC. They have to pay a lot of people a lot of money — specifically, after a holdout that delayed the start of season four, $150,000 per episode for Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, and Sofia Vergara (and a little bit more for Ed O’Neill), up from the $65,000/per they were earning. I won’t say how much the kids are making. You already hate Manny enough — no need to pile on.

2. Friends

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In season one, the cast of Friends were making $22,500 per episode. How quaint. The bigger the show became, the higher they wanted their salaries to be, and Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and some guy demanded more moola many times. It happened in 1996 and again in 2000, when Entertainment Weekly reported, “This season, each actor earned $125,000 per episode. For next fall, insiders report, they’re pushing for as much as $800,000 per show, plus back pay for this season’s 24 shows.” Things worked out well for the Central Perk gang: they each got $1 million/episode for the final season. So THAT’S how Monica could afford her apartment.

3. The Sopranos

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There was a lot of behind the scenes ugliness between The Sopranos cast and crew and HBO (including one anonymous It’s Not TV source calling a certain Boss a “greedy pig”), some of which you can read about here. But let’s focus on something James Gandolfini once did during a holdout, as told by Steve Schirripa, who played Bobby Baccalieri, to the New York Post.

I worked with him quite a bit, especially toward the end of the series, and we were all very good friends. He was a really generous guy. Jim had a bit of a contract dispute on Season 4, and when the season started, he called each of us into his trailer and gave 15 or 16 of us $33,333 apiece, and all he said was, “Thanks for sticking by me.” There are a lot of TV stars who made a lot more money than Jim who never did that. (Via)

That’s a lot of gabagool.

4. The Simpsons

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In 2009, Yeardley Smith told the Guardian that voicing Lisa Simpson is “the best job ever.” No kidding: she’s earned $55 million from the gig. Fox has feuded with the voice cast of The Simpsons over how much they’re worth many times, including in 2004 (when they skipped a bunch of table reads to increase their salaries from $125,000 per episode to about $360,000 — it worked), 2008 (up to $440,000), and most recently in 2011, when Fox threatened to end the show if budgets weren’t slashed. After a few tense months, things turned out okily-dokily (for Fox, at least): “The Hollywood Reporter said the cast had now taken a pay cut of about 30% and would not be getting a share of the back-end profits. However, that wages slash still means they will each receive an average of $300,000 for every episode.”

5. The X-Files

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Whenever someone asks me if they should bother watching The X-Files, I say they should, minus the last couple of seasons. Basically, once Mulder bolts, so should you. Before season seven, David Duchovny filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox, claiming, in short, that they screwed him out of a lot of money. The lawsuit was eventually resolved, with Duchovny pulling in a cool $20 million, but tensions between the actor and studio continued to heat up, and he left the show in season eight. No offense, T-1000, but you’re no Mulder.

6. Three’s Company

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Three’s Company was a huge hit, and it’s not hard to see why:

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Suzanne Somers knew she was the true star of the ensemble, and for the fifth season, she demanded a pay raise from $30,000 per episode to $150,000, plus a cut of the show’s profits. When ABC refused, she went on strike. Sort of. Somers still appeared on the show, but only for about 60 seconds during tags; she also refused to film her scenes on the same day as the rest of the cast. At season’s end, Jenilee Harrison replaced Somers, who went on to star in the infamously terrible She’s the Sheriff.

7. Dallas

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During the spring and summer of 1980, while the rest of the world was asking “Who shot J.R.?” Larry Hagman was demanding more money from CBS. He was the show’s breakout star, and he used that as a bargaining chip: “If you’ve got a chance to make it…then make it! Frankly I don’t think anyone is worth that kind of money. I think it’s ridiculous except that’s the way it is. I would be a fool not to take advantage of it.” Hagman refused to film any new episodes without a new contract, which after not appearing at work for over a week, he got to the tune of $100,000 per episode and royalties from J.R. merchandise.

8. The West Wing

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Rob Lowe LITERALLY made the worst mistake of his career (give or take a Snow White routine at the Oscars) when he left The West Wing in season four. Lowe was apparently peeved when co-star Martin Sheen “received a hefty salary boost to $300,000 per episode” and other key members of the cast “had their salaries doubled to about $70,000 per episode after they teamed up and walked off the set for several days.” Meanwhile, Lowe was still making what he did in season one, $75,000, and after a standoff with Warner Bros., he bolted, saying, “As much as it hurts to admit it, it has been increasingly clear, for quite a while, that there was no longer a place for Sam Seaborn on The West Wing.”

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At least he found time to work on his banjo skillz.

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