Wow that caption above kind of stings doesn’t it? TV Guide reports that John Stewart makes 25 million dollars a year hosting a “fake news show.” Howard Stern pulls in 15 million for judging a weekly talent contest on NBC. And, now I knew Judges could be rich but, Judge Judy pulls in 47 million dollars a year? Daaang!
Meanwhile, Ashton Kutcher may be sulking over the Steve Jobs movie tanking at the box office but he’s not hurting with $750,000 per episode from “Two and a Half Men”. (You know he should probably send a weekly “Thank You” card to Charlie Sheen for letting the “Tiger Blood” go to his head.) And then their is the TV news gang (Matt Lauer, Megyn Kelly, Rachel Maddow) all in the multi-million dollar crowd. Really? The “Today” show has lost ratings, MSNBC is in the toilet and I don’t think Megyn Kelly is the reason why people turn on FOX news.
Objectively, its hard begrudging people for making the money they do. This is America and if I were in there shoes and I had agents and expensive cars and homes I too would want as much money as I could get. Yes its greed but, we all be deceiving ourselves if we said we weren’t jealous…even a little bit. However I’m kind of scratching my head over companies paying out that much money to stars. Especially considering the quality of television (entertainment in general) has gone down hill. Yet advertising dollars are as important as ever and with quality becoming a rarity and one that does not always pay out in ratings, it is the low-class, shock value mixed with the mundane that seems to be rewarded more and more. Sports, reality TV, syndicated talk shows, cable news, were once seen as low cost television but is now paying out big money.
Network television has become as much a gold mine for Hollywood talent as big budget films and in cases of legendary or infamous “has-beens” even more so. Hit shows paying out “million dollar per episode” contracts have happened since the 90′s with “Friends”. Yet if the hit shows pay out millions of dollars to their lead actors, how much do sitcom bombs or mediocre shows pay out on average? A couple thousand an episode? Maybe, north of 10 grand an episode…probably more like 100 grand??? Heck, at the end of the week, after my bills and work expenses I’m lucky to come out with enough change for a movie or dinner out. I suppose that is my fault, though, for not heeding my grandfather’s warning about going into art. (Cue laughter now.)
So who is to blame? Television, like it or not is part of the culture. We could blame ourselves for allowing this because we keep on tuning in. However truth be known I don’t watch as much network or cable television as I use to and with alternative forms of entertainment (NetFlix, Games, YouTube) not fading from popularity I think that is true of a lot of the old viewing audience. I’m also turned off by a lot of the repetitive cop dramas, and adolescent-adult humor that replaced traditional family and workplace sitcoms. Yet I have one or two shows that I tend to follow closer than I would have in the past, because finding something I actually like is harder to come by.
Maybe its a statement on society. Collectively, we have become so disillusioned in the American dream, reality or something else, that we just have stopped caring; we’ve settled. Maybe its easier to sit and pay gobs of money to watch the fools at court play then actually converse with life around us, to build communities, to care outside of the home. Let’s be honest we’re settling here for a life less than extraordinary and allowing others who aren’t doing a whole lot (outside of looking pretty for the cameras) live extravagantly for us. Not that money buys anyone happiness…but a lot of it can buy a yacht, Lamborghini, trophy wife…etc. Despite the salaries jumping to all times high this phenomenon is nothing new. In fact maybe…just maybe… that is the reason why television was once called the “vast wasteland;” the “boob-tube.”