Those people (and TV critics) wondering why Will Arnett would take a role on a CBS multi-cam sitcom with a running fart gag in the pilot, for crying out loud, even if it is exec produced by Greg Garcia, need look no further than Forbes’ just-out list of the highest-paid TV actors. It’s topped entirely by CBS comedy stars. (Note the somewhat apologetic tone of Arnett’s recent multi-cam explanation to Digital Spy: “I’ve spent the last 10 years doing single-camera shows, from Arrested Development to 30 Rock to Running Wilde to Up All Night and, it sounds lame, but I just thought it would be really fun.”) Ashton Kutcher is ranked No. 1, paid $24 million between June of ’12 and ’13, because he’s the guy who enabled Warner Bros TV to retain a big franchise and CBS to hang on to an important piece of its campaign to take over comedy on Thursday nights while maintaining a four-comedy slate on Mondays — a good thing too, given the early demise of We Are Men. Kutcher’s co-star Jon Cryer, who last fall won an best-actor Emmy for having survived the Charlie Sheen years, is No. 2 on the list. Heck, even the show’s Angus “Don’t Watch This Filth” Jones made the list, which presumably eases the pain of being phased off the show this season, after which he will have to make do with his earnings from the show’s syndication. Former CBS star Ray Romano is No. 3 on the list, owing, Forbes says, in large measure to the money he’s still making off of Everybody Loves Raymond repeats. And, at No. 4: Neil Patrick Harris, star of CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother, tied the network’s Mark Harmon, who is star of the country’s most-watched scripted series NCIS.
Way back in the Murphy Brown era, the knock on CBS comedies may have been that they were tough to syndicate, but with Raymond, Two And A Half Men, and The Big Bang Theory, CBS became known as the best place to get a hit comedy into syndication — because cable networks and broadcast stations are still looking for that big broad hit. Actors don’t need Forbes’ list – they already know what Charlie Sheen used to make and his replacement currently makes on Two And A Half Men. They also know what piece of the syndication pie Romano got on Raymond. A big piece of talent signs with CBS — the expectation is they will be well paid, particularly in ratings success.