January 10 2009

Are Actors Overpaid

himym raisesIt’s a question that comes up time and time again, and yet it never seems to get an answer: Are actors overpaid?

It’s been in the news that the cast of the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother has just received significant raises that bring their paychecks into the range of $90,000 – $120,000 per episode.  While this is twice what they had been earning, it still puts them far behind other shows such as The Office.  In addition to their raises, they also extended their contracts from seven years to eight years, guaranteeing this ensemble cast a pretty steady income.  At the low end, they are looking at $1.98 million for a 22-episode season.

This is actually a show I watch each week, and enjoy, thought I would never herald it as high-brow humor.  It relys heavily on catch phrases (It’ll be legend… wait for it… dary), sight gags and other cliches.  While I am happy for the cast on one hand, it also makes me thing, once again, about just how much actors are paid.  Did you know that Charlie Sheen receives $825,000 per episode of Two and a Half Men?  That is just over $18 million a season.

True, a show such as How I Met Your Mother brings in quite a bit of money via advertising, and with the show now moving to syndication reruns, it will bring in even more.  The cast should share in that wealth because they do put in long hours, but at the same time, is the crew getting such significant raises?  What about the writers?  While there is no news if these people also got raises, even if they did, I doubt it is in the same ballpark as what the actors on the show are receiving.

Television actors, while arguably over paid, are nothing compared to film actors.  Who remembers the days when big name actors were scoring $20 million paychecks per film?  If this is still going on, hopefully not, they are keeping it much quieter.  No actor, I don’t care who you are, is worth that much money, and in the smaller scope, I certainly don’t think someone like Charlie Sheen is worth his $18 million a season deal.

There is no denying that actors are the “face” of what ever production they are in, but this just seems like poorly timed news to see people getting paid so much more for a job such as this.  The same day this was announced, it also came out that unemployment in the United States had hit a 16-year high, reaching 7.2%, and estimates saying it could hit 10% by year’s end.

Again, I hate that this news is connected to a show I actually enjoy, and it won’t stop me from watching it, but in the back of my head the entire time I will be asking myself, “are they really worth this?”  So, what say you?  Are actors over paid for what they do?  Yes, it is part of sharing in the profits of a production, but at what point do you finally draw a line and say, “Seriously, why do you need to earn this much to act?”

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