I was going to head into our next OVP installment, but I figured that this story would be moldy by the time I got time for it, so I will postpone our OVP write-up to the next article. Right now everyone on the internet is abuzz with the news that the stars of The Big Bang Theory (Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, and Johnny Galecki) have signed contracts similar to those signed by the stars of Friends nearly a decade ago granting them $1 million an episode for three seasons, as well as producing and syndication deals that could mean that all of them may have just signed contracts that will be worth $100 million each. An enormous deal, which makes them amongst the best paid actors on television, and Cuoco may well be the best paid actress in Hollywood period as a result of this.
I first want to say how ingenious they were to stick with the Friends model of negotiating, where they said it was an all-or-nothing situation. It’s questionable whether or not Galecki or Cuoco (not nearly the series favorites that Parsons are) could have demanded such high amounts without their fellow costars going along with them (it’s notable that the other four stars of the show are attempting or attempted similar tactics with CBS). Though the actors seem to like each other, this would be smart even if they despised each other, and in addition to Friends, the stars of Modern Family and Desperate Housewives in the past have used similar tactics. I love this as a fan not only because it’s savvy, but also because it confirms that one star doesn’t randomly leave as a result of a contract dispute (since I enjoy the show and don't think one of the characters leaving would be very organic to it).
Whenever something like this comes up, whether it’s with an athlete or an actor or an author (remember Hillary Clinton’s $8 million advance?) the public always reacts in exactly the same way: outrage. They scream that they will never watch the show again and that it is obscene that they make so much money and how could they possibly demand so much. And to a certain extent they’re right. This is indeed an obscenely large amount of money, more than any of these actors will likely ever spend in a lifetime or their heirs’ lifetimes. They will almost certainly never have to work again if they don’t want to after this series wraps (anyone seen David Schwimmer recently?), and will be able to live their days in a gorgeous Montecito beach house if they so choose.
But I am going to come to their defense when it comes to the actual salary. First off, they do indeed work for their money. There are sacrifices that have to come with these enormous paychecks and perks, and they are not just the work that goes into making the series. The actors have to expose aspects of their personal lives they didn’t plan on (Jim Parsons, a deeply private person, probably never planned on talking about his sexuality in a major publication) and are hounded by the paparazzi (particularly Cuoco, who has had her love life wrung through the tabloids). They give up all of their anonymity, and likely receive notes about their appearance from network brass that most of us would find appalling. They do have to do things in their jobs that aren’t just on-paper, and I think that we should keep that in mind.
We also live and thrive in an economy of supply-and-demand, and the reality is that CBS could have said no to these actors. They could have risked doing what, say, Two and a Half Men went through with Charlie Sheen. They could have even thrown out the show. These actors aren’t particularly lucrative stars in other forms of entertainment, and this is not a “holding back Jennifer Aniston” sort of situation. They may have relented to a smaller salary. CBS is a major company, and one that is in it to maximize profits. They wouldn’t have spent this money unless they thought they had to do so to keep making a profit.
And that’s what this really boils down to: these actors are worth this much money because that’s what they get paid. People will continue watching the show on CBS and in reruns, and it’s very likely that CBS will reap a far greater financial reward from the series than any of these actors do. The same is true of Robert Downey Jr., Lebron James, J.K. Rowling, and any other number of entertainers that make piles of gold that we can only dream of making. You can make a legitimate argument on what sorts of taxes they should have to pay, but not with the actual salary in my opinion-any other complaints reek of sour grapes, and so I will just say well done to them all. And I will enjoy the fruits of your labor come September.