One Controversial TV Star Made $1.8 Million an Episode Pre-Firing

How much a specific actor is paid per episode in a TV show can sometimes be perplexing when the star in question has a questionable lifestyle. While there aren’t too many scenarios like that, the knowledge Charlie Sheen was making a fortune when on Two and a Half Men might seem painful in hindsight.

Considering Sheen’s life went into a tailspin after his firing from the show, it’s easy to say now he basically self-destructed after being a TV favorite. However, it’s worth going back in time a decade to reanalyze how he ended up being one of the highest-paid actors on TV.

Some might argue he wasn’t worth this much back then. Yet, when ratings become the proof in the pudding, it can start to pay off in exorbitant ways.

Charlie Sheen is still one of the highest-paid actors in TV history

Charlie Sheen attends a charity softball game.
Charlie Sheen | Rich Polk/Getty Images for California Strong

Based on a Top Ten list compiled by E! News a couple of years ago, Sheen was the #1 highest-paid TV star up to the time. About a year before he was fired due to his bizarre behavior, he was making $1.8 million per episode, something still rare on television.

Most people still gasp at the cast of Friends making $1 million per episode 20 years ago. A little after that time, others came close to matching Sheen like Kelsey Grammer, Tim Allen, and Ray Romano.

Nowadays, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon broke Sheen’s record by gaining $2 million each for acting and producing Apple TV+’s The Morning Show. When landing big names like that, it’s no surprise Apple was willing to have deeper pockets.

What was it with Sheen, though, that made CBS willing to dole out so much for his performance as Charlie Harper? When ratings are good, negotiations almost always lead to a jackpot.

Many have forgotten how popular ‘Two and a Half Men’ was

A decade ago, America was a slightly different place, including being a time when Sheen’s behavior was somehow forgiven before the #MeToo movement began. The 2010-2011 season was when Sheen managed to negotiate a deal to make his $1.8 million per episode, only because Two and a Half Men was on a rating high.

It was averaging around 15 million viewers per night around this time, giving fuel toward Sheen thinking he was worth a fortune. In a way, he was right since he seemed to be the perfect comedic anchor on the show thanks to the character reflecting his own personality.

Not that Charlie Hunter was quite as crazy as Sheen really was, as the public was about to find out. His insane antics against the show not long after seems akin to career suicide in retrospect. No doubt his drug problems were to blame, but his criticisms of Chuck Lorre are still a huge mystery after being part of something most actors would give anything to have.

Of course, Sheen got his revenge later by leaving and ending up on another popular show (Anger Management on FX) where he got paid again more than some thought he was worth.

In the future, stars may be paid based on what they’re worth in the public eye

Sheen was already a controversial figure before Two and a Half Men, giving rise to speculation fellow male TV executives gave Sheen what he wanted.

At least the world of television can celebrate paying two A-list women who have stellar reputations. Over time, there’s probably expectation more movie stars will move to cable and streaming services, possibly setting new precedents in what they’re paid. All those $10 million paydays they’re used to in movies may end up becoming the new TV contract not many will ever be able to reach.

As for Sheen, he may be done in showbiz for good. Unless he somehow manages to successfully reboot Two and a Half Men as one of his most recent showbiz fantasies.