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TV salaries: Jeffrey Donovan should buy Jon Hamm a beer

August 12, 2010 |  7:00 am


Attention aspiring television celebrities: Syndication pays, and it's good to be Oprah Winfrey.

If the numbers on TV Guide's annual list of the small screen's top earners are accurate, it's more lucrative to be funny than to be dramatic -- and news anchors and chat-show hosts stand to get much richer than anyone wasting time memorizing words off a script.

Then there's Oprah, who at an estimated $315 million a year should just go get a list of her own, and stop hurting all the other TV kids' feelings.

Unlike Forbes, which fully explains the methodology used to compile its various power and salary lists, TV Guide has chosen a "just trust us" approach as it delivers this ranking, making us wonder if a few salary numbers might have been gleaned from, say, actors' Internet dating profiles. (Perhaps that's the out for the producers of "The Big Bang Theory" when Jim Parsons demands to know why he's reportedly making a third less per episode than costars Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki?)

So, taking the numbers at face value, we have a few observations: For example, if Jon Hamm and Jeffrey Donovan were to go out to dinner, we think the "Burn Notice" star should grab the check, as he apparently earns double the "Mad Men" star's $100,000 per episode.

Charlie Sheen, at $1.25 million per show, still makes more than double what costar Jon Cryer does. About which we will say no more.

Punching in at $45 million a year, Judge Judy makes triple what Katie Couric does. Heck, that's triple Ryan Seacrest's paycheck as well. Plus she gets to yell at people on her show, which is worth a lot.

Bill O'Reilly probably doesn't care too much when he's Keith Olbermann's worst person in the world ...

... because the Fox News host is reportedly banking $10 million a year compared to the MSNBC anchor's $7 million.

Kyra Sedgwick appears to be $100,000 per episode better off in 2010 compared to TV Guide's report in 2007, when she earned a mere quarter-mil for each installment of "The Closer." If her character becomes the chief of police, does she go up another pay grade?

While Jeremy Piven's "Entourage" character, Ari, is taking a percentage of every dollar Adrian Grenier's Vince earns, the real actors are taking home $350,000 and $200,000 per episode, respectively. Still, Vinnie does get the chicks.

And at $30,000 an episode for "Wizards of Waverly Place," Selena Gomez makes about as much per season as former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo was taking home per year -- before benefits.

(See the whole 2010 list here, at TV Guide.)

-- Christie D'Zurilla 

Photos: Jeffrey Donovan, left, as Michael Westen on "Burn Notice," and Jon Hamm, right, as Don Draper on "Mad Men." It's always the guy making the big bucks who shows up in jeans and no tie, isn't it? Credits: Justin Stephens / USA Network, left; AMC, right

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