Left: “American Idol”
Reason: Wanted to Pursue Stand-up and Acting
Est. Salary Loss: $15 million per year
The estimated salary loss you see above is based on what Brian Dunkleman’s co-host, Ryan Seacrest, is making every year at the legacy reality TV show. Dunkleman was only a host for “American Idol” for a single year before leaving to try acting and comedy.
It was a bad decision on his part since “American Idol” went on to make it bigger than anybody thought possible, while Dunkleman didn’t. Right now he’s making less than a thousand a week, and regrets not sticking with the show, especially, according to him, when he opens his bank statements.
Left: “Three's Company”
Reason: Contract Disputes
Est. Salary Lost: $120,000 per episode
Contract disputes would be putting it lightly. Somers became a household name but was dismayed to discover that co-star John Ritter was making quite a bit more than her per episode – thirty thousand dollars more. That was even during the eighties. She not only demanded a pay raise but wanted a percentage of the profits, too.
The producers not only denied her request but reduced her screen time per episode to sixty seconds, which was filmed separately from Ritter and Joyce DeWitt. The feud that started then divided the cast and became a very public one as Somers fought the producers.
Left: “Chappelle's Show”
Reason: Wanted to Spend More Time With Family and Stand-up
Est. Salary Loss: Millions
To call “Chappelle's Show” a massive success is a little bit of an understatement. It was fresh, it was funny, and it pushed the right boundaries to get people talking. However, after only two seasons Chappelle walked away, despite raking in millions per year.
He was working twenty-hour days, and he realized it was taking too much away from his family and his true love, his stand-up career. He also didn't like that anybody who saw him started yelling the show's many ribald catchphrases at him. Instead of taking a fifty-million dollar contract, he walked away.
Left: “The Waltons”
Reason: The Role Wasn't Challenging Enough
Est. Salary Loss: Unknown
After playing the matriarch of the titular family in the hit show “The Waltons,” Michael Learned decided her time was up. She felt the role wasn't challenging her enough as an actress, despite winning three Emmy Awards and four Golden Globes for her performance.
In 2017 she said she regretted leaving the show, but she couldn't stand sitting around and asking if John wanted more coffee any longer. Her character disappeared from the show, but she was able to return a few times for four made-for-TV reunion movies.
Left: “Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist”
Reason: Scheduling Issues
Est. Salary Loss: Unknown
Lauren Graham had to make a tough decision during 2020. She was not only in “Zoey,” but she was also contracted to appear in the Disney+ show “The Mighty Ducks,” and thanks to SOMETHING that happened during all of 2020, the scheduling for both shows was thrown mightily out of whack.
“The Mighty Ducks” was supposed to finish shooting much earlier than it did, and the producers of “Zoey” decided to remove Graham's character, Joan, from the second season, though they've said publicly the door is open for her character to return.