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Sitcom Stars' Salaries

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," September 28, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Now for our big entertainment story: paychecks of the rich and famous get even bigger. After some negotiation, actor Charlie Sheen is set to become the highest paid sitcom star right now for his show "Two and a Half Men." But he is still not getting as much as our favorite "Friends" raked in during their long run and they didn't come close to what comedian Ray Romano was paid per episode for "Everybody Loves Raymond."

So who is getting what in Hollywood? With me now, entertainment correspondent Lisa Bernard, and U.S. Weekly style editor Katrina Szish. Us Weekly. Sorry, Katrina. Us Weekly style editor Katrina Szish.

So Lisa, what is this? Charlie Sheen is up there? What's he getting?

LISA BERNARD, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: $350,000 per episode. Now he's smart because what was happening was that "Two and a Half Men" is going to go into syndication in something like 2010 or 2012, once it hits a certain number of episodes. This show is now in its fourth season. So that's ka-ching for Warner Brothers. These actors are not paid by the networks, they are paid by the studios that produce the show. Warner Brothers produces "Two and a Half Men." They are going to get huge revenue when they put this thing into syndication so he says I want my cut, I want to renegotiate now. So he is now the highest paid sitcom star at that price.

GIBSON: But sitcoms aren't everything. Katrina, I'm looking here, I see Kiefer Sutherland, big star, hit show, more than Charlie Sheen.

KATRINA SZISH, US WEEKLY: Emmy winner, $400,000 per episode. And again, that is a drama and not a sitcom but if you look at some of the sitcom stars, Ray Romano was making $1.8 million for "Everybody Loves Raymond" at the end of the run of his show. And that tops them all.

GIBSON: And William Petersen of "CSI," we all know, he is up to half-a-million dollars an episode. Lisa, what is the difference between dramas, sitcoms, long-running comedies? How does this all...

BERNARD: Sure, well, first of all, dramas are much harder to make. When you think about making an hour drama, you are logging a lot more hours a week, you are going on location. Sitcom actors — you know TV actors talk about the easiest job in the world is to walk onto a soundstage and crank out a half hour show. It's much easier and then if you do go into syndication then you get these really high salaries like a Ray Romano or like a "Friends," which by the end of their run, when they were making $1 million an episode because that show was so successful. Right now "Two and a Half Men" is the highest rated comedy which is why Charlie Sheen is getting this salary. But it's still not anywhere near, of course, what "Everybody Loves Raymond" or "Friends" was doing in numbers.

SZISH: It sounds low comparatively.

GIBSON: Katrina, what is Charlie Sheen going to have to do to get to Ray Romano's levels?

SZISH: He's going to have to really make everybody want to watch that show for, I don't know, the next 10 years at least. He's going to have to get the show named after him.

BERNARD: Everybody Loves Charlie.

SZISH: Exactly.

GIBSON: I'm looking at this list and the really big kahuna on this list is Kelsey Grammar. "Frasier" apparently got Kelsey Grammar, what, $1.6 million?

SZISH: 1.6 million by the end, yes.

BERNARD: When you’re the show the way that Ray was the show and Kelsey Grammar was "Frasier," everything is on your shoulders. Everything is riding on you. And, of course, somebody like James Gandolfini, that's kind of a different beast because it is on pay cable and he is not relying on advertisers but he is relying on a network that needs to bring in subscribers and get cachet and get Emmy awards, which is what they're making their programs for. And so he just negotiated and he is getting about $1 million.

GIBSON: And so lastly, Katrina, last, is Charlie Sheen getting ripped off or is this a good deal for him?

SZISH: I think this is a pretty good deal for Charlie Sheen right now. I think he should be happy for what he has and aspire to more someday but right now he is in good shape.

GIBSON: Katrina Szish and Lisa Bernard, thanks very much to both of you.

BERNARD: Thanks, John.

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