April 23, 2013

Idol fans: Is Mariah worth $18 million?

In this week’s podcast, a reader asked whether Mariah Carey’s American Idol contract might keep her within clawing distance of blood rival Nicki Minaj for another cycle. (I can already imagine the promos for 2014: “This season...the wigs...come...off.”)

I also mentioned that Carey is earning a reported $18 million for a single season, a figure that triggered a real-live cuss word from my new-mommy co-host. Yeah, Carey's amazing five-octave vocal range can probably communicate with silicone-based species on undiscovered planets...but $18 million is still a shitload of money.

Unless it isn’t.

Right after my podcast aired, a former TV business executive pinged me. Maybe $18 million is a huge sum on your ghetto planet, she argued. But not for people in the biz.

“Remember,” she told me, that nearly a decade ago, “The cast of Friends got $13,200,000 in their final season--each.” (Editor's note: I'd read that the cast actually got a mil per episode, and that there were 18 episodes. Either way, fair argument.)

Charlie Sheen, she pointed out, earned in the $40 million range for his last season of 2½ Men. “And Ray Romano got $37,400,000 for the final season of Everybody Loves Raymond.”

Even way back in the day, circa the year of our lord Nineteen Hundred and Ninety Five, “Carroll O’Connor got about $6 million to $7 million for the last couple of seasons of In the Heat of the Night.”
But, I asked, all those folks above had to, like, learn lines! And act, right? Versus Carey, whose Idol work is limited to, um, tossing her hair at Minaj and threatening the weaker contestants with her whistle register!

Unless I am wrong. 

And I am.

“Time in a judge’s chair is the time away from lucrative personal appearances, such as a tour, or a recording studio,” my connection points out. “Plus, the pay is that it’s a reflection on the profitability of the show itself.”

In other words, any show that makes as much money as Idol owes its talent a huge payday, no matter what that on-camera personality actually brings to the table...such as acting...singing...

Or just feuding.

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