As a comedian, Jerry Seinfeld has always known how to make an audience laugh. So when he decided to play a fictionalized version of himself on the hit sitcom Seinfeld, fans could not not watch. He and his co-stars had the ability to create an appealing TV series that featured a group of people that were unlikeable, dysfunctional, and most importantly—entertaining.
The sitcom’s finale aired in 1998, but its popularity has transcended into this millennium—which is impressive for a series that’s often described as a “show about nothing.” It’s that “nothing” that earns Jerry $110 million each year. Seinfeld’s TV and Hulu reruns quite literally pay off.
The war comedy-drama M*A*S*H was unlike any TV series of its time. It first aired in 1972 and ran for 11 seasons. Its success was based largely on its ability to bring humor to a rather depressing and horrific subject—the Korean War. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce, played by Alan Alda, was the leading man and beloved Chief Surgeon.
Alda’s character evolved drastically throughout the series, becoming a kind, conscience, and respectable man. A significant amount of Hawkeye’s characterization was based off of Alda’s personal beliefs. He had the freedom to merge his own ideals and morals with Hawkeye’s. It’s this genuine portrayal that earns him an approximate $1 million a year in residuals. Reruns of M*A*S*H can be watched on TV Land, AMC, and many other channels.
If you’ve ever watched reruns of NBC’s Cheers or Frasier, you’ve contributed to Kelsey Grammer’s considerable residuals. His portrayal of psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane made him a very wealthy man. Cheers ran for more than a decade and once it ended, Grammer’s character was so loved that he became the focus of a spin-off sitcom—Frasier—which ran for another decade.
Grammer has a net worth of approximately $60 million. He made $1.6 million per episode during the filming of Cheers and Frasier, and he continues to make more than $13 million a year in syndications and reruns. There’s even talk of a possible Frasier reboot in late 2020 (which would only increase his fortune).
Ted Danson is known for his role as Sam Malone, the leading man of the ‘80s sitcom Cheers. Sam, who was a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, finds himself retiring from MLB and opening a bar in Boston. He’s a handsome man that’s known for his sexual promiscuity and affection for booze.
Although Danson was making more than $450,000 per episode during the final seasons of Cheers, he ultimately tired of his character and decided to stop portraying him. But this decision didn’t hurt him financially. He continues to make $5 million each year off of the TV show!
Auditioning and being cast as The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper has majorly paid off for actor Jim Parsons. His portrayal of the quirky physicist has enticed fans over the last decade. The show first aired on CBS in 2007 and ran for a total 12 seasons and 279 episodes. The series came to a close in May of 2019.
Sheldon and Leonard, Sheldon’s roommate, colleague, and friend, kept viewers laughing with their nerdy accolades and awkward encounters. The eccentric characters and comedic social situations continue to entertain—even after the series’ finale. Thanks to the airing of repeat episodes, Parsons earns an extra $10 million a year in residuals.
Dr. Phil is a former psychologist and a well-known talk show host. At first, it focused on topics everyone might deal with at one time or another – loss, dysfunctional families, and childhood trauma. Eventually, it devolved into sensational topics like people eating odd things.
The show was popular from the beginning, and Dr. Phil was a hit. Since the show is still going, there’s no telling how much money he could make by the end of the series. Right now, the contract says he can get up to $10 million. There’s always a chance the contract is renegotiated.
ER was the original Grey’s Anatomy, and George Clooney was the OG McDreamy. He stole the hearts of women all over the world, and since then, he’s been one of the highest-paid actors in the world. Dr. Doug Ross only lasted five seasons, but it was enough.
Since Clooney left, he’s made $13 million per year in residuals. That’s not bad considering it was a show he starred in 10 years ago. ER turned out to be the breakout role that opened the doors to millions of dollars and plenty of awards.
At 98 years of age, Betty White continues to be a badass TV icon. Her comedic abilities have spanned over 80 years, which is the longest TV career of all time. One of her most celebrated accomplishments is her portrayal of Rose Nylund, the unsophisticated, naive, and curious counterpart to the Golden Girls’ girl gang.
NBC’s The Golden Girls is a series that has yet to age. It’s content and humor still feel fresh, which is why its syndicated reruns are so successful. Betty White has majorly profited off of these reruns. She’s steadily made $8 million every year since the show’s finale in 1992!
Rachel, Chandler, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, and Ross were an enduring friend group. And they still are today. Lisa Kudrow starred in the series Friends as Phoebe Buffay, alongside co-stars Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox, and David Schwimmer.
It’s unlikely that any member of the cast could’ve predicted the success that was to follow Friends. The show brings in $1 billion in residuals each year. And because of that, all six stars receive 2% of that annual income—which is $20 million dollars. Kudrow has continued as a film and TV actress in the years since Friends, but it’s safe to say she doesn’t have to work if she doesn’t want to!
Carol Burnett is one of the funniest women who ever lived, which is why she got her own show, The Carol Burnett Show. Because of her skill and accomplishments, she had a Golden Globe award named after her.
It’s been 40 years, but people still watch the series because it had people rolling on the floor laughing for over 10 years. Unfortunately, that didn’t result in riches for Burnett. She makes roughly $0.01 per DVD sold.
It’s been more than 40 years since The Brady Bunch was aired on ABC. The catchy jingle—“Here’s the story…”—creates feelings of nostalgia. The sitcom ran for five seasons, focusing on the hilarious trials and tribulations of a blended family. Three daughters, three sons, two parents, and two pets all living under one roof was comedic.
Although the sitcom wasn’t critically acclaimed at the time, it’s become one of the most popular TV series in syndication. And because of that, you’d think that each actor would make a fortune in residuals—but that’s not the case. Eve Plumb, who played Jan Brady, once revealed in an interview that they receive no financial compensation for repeats, which is why The Brady Bunch reruns and marathons are often aired on TV.
David Hyde Pierce
David Hyde Pierce has appeared in tons of hit TV shows and movies over the years, from The Good Wife to A Bugs Life. As much money as those shows and films made, it’s hard to beat the residuals he gets from Frasier.
Niles Crane was Frasier’s younger brother, and David Hyde Pierce was chosen from a mere headshot. They loved how much he looked like Kelsey Grammar when he was young. Playing this snobby character has earned Pierce $40 million from reruns since 2004.
Home Improvement was one of the highest-rated sitcoms for almost an entire decade. The network wanted to keep the series going, so they offered Allen $50 million while his co-star, Richardson, was offered $25 million.
Both actors refused. They had earned plenty of money while the show was filming. Plus, they both had residuals to look forward to. Thanks to the reruns, Tim Allen has earned $18 million over 21 years. That’s nearly a million a year!
There’s no doubt about Ray Romano’s exceptional comedic abilities. He’s a natural in front of the camera—which is why the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond was a hit! It aired in 1996 and ran until 2005. During that time, it received rave reviews and top ratings.
15 years later and the TV classic continues to garner the attention of many. It’s remembered as a comedy that embraced a live audience, a lively cast, and an iconic premise. Although many TV series have tried to mimic the success of Everybody Loves Raymond, they’ve failed. Instead, fans watch reruns of this sitcom. Ray Romano earns $18 million a year off of the unforgettable TV show!
Roseanne may have been the titular character, but just as many people tuned in to see John Goodman. His father character was funny, entertaining, and sweet. The original show lasted for nearly a decade, and it certainly made a lot of money.
Since the show’s conclusion, a reboot was created, but it didn’t have nearly the success. That’s alright, though. John Goodman still gets one million per year in residuals from the original Roseanne series. That makes the failure of the reboot less of a hit.
Actor David Hasselhoff holds the distinction of being the most-watched man on television—a title not to be taken lightly! He’s known for many roles, but is especially remembered for his portrayal of hunky lifeguard Mitch Buchannon on Baywatch.
The drama series ran for 11 seasons. Hasselhoff was the leading man of Baywatch, a soap opera filled with sun, sand, and serious drama. During its run, the series was watched by almost one billion viewers. And it’s still being watched by the masses. Because of its continued popularity, Hasselhoff makes $4 million a year off of the ‘90s series.
For many people, Titanic was the first movie they saw Leonardo DiCaprio, although he’s been acting since 1991. The movie instantly shot him to superstardom, and he’s become one of the best (and highest-paid) actors in the United States.
Since Titanic was a movie, DiCaprio makes more than many people on this list, but how much more? Turns out, he has received $300 million in residuals from reruns. That’s about $12 million a year plus whatever he made originally.
Actress Jennifer Aniston is known for her portrayal of Friends’ character Rachel Green—a spoiled, yet hilariously lovable twenty-something living in West Village, NYC during the late ‘90s and early 2000s. At the time, Aniston knew how to cultivate a character that was genuine, yet comedic. What she didn’t know though was how iconic that character would become.
Friends debuted in 1994 and ended in 2004. In those 10 years, the show typically had 25 to 30 million viewers a week. It’s now been more than 15 years since the finale aired and it’s still one of the most watched sitcoms of all time. And because of this, Aniston continues to make $20 million a year in royalties!
Full House was known for its slew of comedic characters—Danny Tanner being one of them. The widowed patriarch of the rather dysfunctional Tanner family was played by actor Bob Saget. Although the show received unfavorable reviews throughout the first several seasons, it eventually became a sensation.
Despite the late success of the ‘90s sitcom, Full House actors receive very little in residuals each year. Bob Saget only makes $2,000 a year off of reruns—even though he was one of the most prominent characters. He went on to reveal that this was still more money than any of his fellow actors make. Have mercy!
Stage and screen actor Bob Gunton has had quite the career. While he’s portrayed many different characters over the years, he’s best known for playing characters of authority—including the infamous Warden Samuel Norton in the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption.
Gunton starred alongside Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in the prison drama. Although it wasn’t an immediate success, it slowly rose in popularity after receiving multiple award nominations and a re-release. Gunton admitted in an interview that he still makes money off of the critically acclaimed film—more specifically, nearly six-figures in residuals! Imagine the earnings of Robbins and Freeman!
There’s no denying that the 1997 film Titanic was an epic success. It combined both historical and fictionalized storylines to create a film full of emotion. The forbidden love between a low-class boy and a high-class girl, the tragedy of a shipwreck, and the loss of so many loved ones created an unforgettable film.
While many elements of the film were unforgettable, one could easily look past the five-year-old child who IMDB labeled the “Little Irish Boy.” This child actor had only three scenes and one line of dialogue in the film. Despite his small role, he revealed to Business Insider in 2018 that he still receives royalties from Titanic. He can expect anywhere between $100 and $300 a year in residuals!
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! Everyone who loved The Brady Bunch can recognize Maureen McCormick’s face. Before she even appeared on the family series, McCormick was already a commercial success. She began appearing in TV shows at the age of six but quickly landed on The Brady Bunch.
After that, the show and its many spin-offs took up all her time. Now, it’s one of the most popular series of all time, so how much does McCormick make from it? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Her agents have tried to renegotiate her contract, but it’s been a no-go situation.
If an actor is lucky enough to star in a Christmas or holiday film, they must hold their breath and quietly hope for its success. I say this because beloved Christmas movies quite frequently air on TV during the holiday season. For example, it’s a tradition for A Christmas Story to air on TBS for 24 hours straight on Christmas day. Think of the residuals!
Zack Ward, the actor who played neighborhood bully Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story, still receives earnings from the famous film. He revealed that he makes approximately $1,800 every two years in residuals. Not too bad for a childhood acting gig!
David Caruso was a staple on CSI Miami. For 10 seasons, we watched him take his sunglasses, assess the crime scene, and make a pun. All the while, we wished we could be as smooth as him. Even though he’s retired from acting, he’s still getting residuals from the show.
CSI generated $6 million in revenue, but Caruso doesn’t get that big of a chunk. He gets up to $100,000 per year, but he has other shows he can rely on. The actor has been active since ’75 and appeared on tons of things (although CSI Miami is his most popular).
Oh, Al! Nowadays, Ed O’Neill is most recognized for his role as Jay in Modern Family, but the rest of us remember him as a much different character. Ed O’Neill was the slobby husband Al from Married…With Children. He was sassy, he was funny, and he made Peggy’s life miserable.
O’Neill is a lot luckier than many actors because he gets a massive $10 million per year for reruns of Married…With Children. That seems like a lot, but his role in Modern Family will likely bring him even more than that!
NCIS is one of the longest-running TV shows ever (and it’s still going). A huge part of its success is Mark Harmon. Special Agent Jethro Gibbs was an incredibly loyal father-figure who led his team. Audiences loved him, and it was hard not to.
When a new episode airs, Mark Harmon gets $125,000 per episode. That doesn’t even touch what he makes from residuals. Since it’s still going, we can’t state how much he makes each year. However, his contract says he can make up to $60 million for reruns.
The Good Place was one of the most popular shows on NBC, to the point where Netflix and Hulu fought to put it on their streaming network. It’s a series about what happens when we die – do we go to the good place or the bad place?
The show completed in 2019, so what are the actors and actresses making? Nothing. Because NBC owns the rights (and it’s being aired on a streaming network without the rights being purchased), the stars make nothing, including the famous Kristen Bell.
Two and a Half Men has had turbulence during its airing. At first, the series starred Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen as the two men. Then, Sheen ran into legal trouble and was nixed in favor of Ashton Kutcher. When it aired, Cryer made varying amounts per episode, with the highest being $620,000.
The series concluded after 12 seasons, and each of the stars got dividends for each rerun shown. Cryer is entitled to up to $20 million, depending on how long networks decide to show the episodes. Charlie Sheen is entitled to a little bit of that money, too.
The original Law & Order may not be the most popular in the franchise, but it is easily one of the most-watched shows on television. Sam Waterston made a lot of that possible. His performance was so fantastic that it actually earned him a Golden Globe award.
Now, Waterston stars on Grace & Frankie, which is bring in bank, but that’s on top of what he earns from his time on Law & Order. The actor gets up to $5,000 per year, and he’ll get up to $50,000 per year for his appearances in Law & Order: SVU.
Family Guy is coming after Simpsons for being one of the longest-running animated series out there. It also makes a ton of money. Even though they’re just voice actors, the people who lend their talent make plenty of money.
Alex Borstein, the voice of Lois, makes one of the most. For new episodes, Borstein makes $225,000 per episode, but that’s only after salary renegotiations. Her contract also will give her up to $10 million for reruns.