For the third year in a row, Ashton Kutcher, star of the hit CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, is the highest paid actor on television. Kutcher has played Walden Schmidt since September of 2011, ever since Charlie Sheen’s controversial departure from the show.
Kutcher made an estimated $26 million between June 2013 and June 2014. That number is truly astonishing considering how far the competition lags behind him. Two actors, Kutcher’s co-star, John Cryer and the star of NCIS, Mark Harmon, each made $19 million last year, tying for second place.
That is the price of experience, though. Unlike Cryer or Harmon, Kutcher also has a lucrative career in Hollywood films, offering him plenty of leverage during negotiations. CBS certainly understands the value in retaining their star actor.
Third place belongs to Neil Patrick Harris, who comes just a million dollars shy of Cryer and Harmon. He earned $18 million salary for portraying Barney Stinson in the final season of another CBS sitcom, How I Met Your Mother. CBS initially planned a spin-off of the series, titled How I Met Your Dad, but passed on the rights earlier this year.
There is another tie on the list for the fourth-place spot, with both House of Cards star, Kevin Spacey, and “McDreamy” himself, Patrick Dempsey, each earning $16 million. The placement of Spacey near the top of this list helps to further illustrate the dominant force Netflix is becoming on the television landscape. House of Cards has solidified Netflix’s reputation as a viable source of original content and they appear keen to keep the star of their flagship series around for the foreseeable future. Dempsey, on the other hand, remains the primary attraction for viewers of the ABC medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy, which is currently entering its eleventh season.
Next year’s list is likely to see a sizable shake-up when the stars of The Big Bang Theory cash their $1 million per episode checks. Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco recently signed new contracts with CBS after a protracted negotiation process with the network. With an eighth season of 24 episodes premiering on September 22, it’s likely that Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco will be, at least, the second-place finishers on this list in 2015.
That will still leave the former That ’70s Show star at the top of the list. With his engagement to Mila Kunis, and a baby on the way, life couldn’t look better for television’s highest-paid actor.