'Frasier' clinches deal to become the best paid actor in TV history

Andrew Gumbel
Saturday 23 June 2001 00:00 BST

Kelsey Grammer, the star of the television sitcom Frasier, has clinched a deal with the show's producers making him the highest paid actor in television history.

According to the deal, reported in yesterday's entertainment industry bible, Daily Variety, he will receive over $1.6m (£1.1m) per episode for the next two seasons – amounting to around $75m (£53.1) for the 48 episodes projected for the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Mr Grammer could also earn royalties from syndication rights to the show, which has been among the most popular comedy shows on television during its nine years on the air.

According to Daily Variety, the final details of the deal with Paramount Network Television still have to be worked out. Neither the studio nor representatives of the actor would comment yesterday. But the reported figure would outdo previous record-holders, Jerry Seinfeld (creator and star of Seinfeld), Tim Allen (of Home Improvement) and Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt (of Mad About You). All these performers earned over $1m (£710,000) per episode for the final season of their respective shows.

Mr Seinfeld probably ended up with more money than Mr Grammer will, Daily Variety noted, because of royalties and syndication payments he enjoyed as Seinfeld's creator and co-producer. Nevertheless, Mr Grammer, who plays the suave Seattle psychologist, Frasier Crane, also enjoys a producer credit and occasionally directs episodes of Frasier. His character is one of the most enduring on the small screen, having originated in the Boston bar-room sitcom Cheers before relocating to become the star of his own show.

David Hyde Pierce, who plays Frasier's eccentric brother Niles on the show, is also believed to be renegotiating his contract. But the bad news for fans is that stratospheric salaries such as the one reported in Daily Variety are usually an indication that a show is on the verge of pricing itself out of the market and getting kicked off the air for good.

Last year, the six principals of another popular sitcom, Friends, each negotiated salaries of $750,000 (£531,000) per episode. In the past few weeks, reports from at least one of the actors have suggested this season of the show will be the last.

Actors often negotiate hard for such enormous sums of money as they realise that once their shows end they will have trouble winning other acting parts and convincing audiences that they have left their oldpersonas behind. None of the four principals of Seinfeld, which ended in 1998 as the most successful comedy show in US television history, has done anything as memorable – or indeed as lucrative – since.

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