Dropping a fortune on medical school and wasting prime years in libraries and laboratories is for the birds. Wise wannabe doctors head straight for the glory of dolling out fake fixes for fake people in the Hollywood spotlight, where cash rewards are very real. You don’t need a foundation in medical coding, steady hands, calm nerves or even manners. To be a television doctor, you simply need to have the fortune of being casted for the part.
Here are ten small screen doctors who turned imaginary diagnoses into big bucks and distinguished careers.
10.) Heathcliff Huxtable
Bill Cosby’s $40,000 per episode of his self-titled 80s smash may seem like peanuts in an era when tiger-blooded ninja assassins can rake in over a million for the same number of frames. But Cosby’s salary set the record at the time, like many others on this list, and represented what many consider the high point of a career that included stand up comedy, cartoon production, film acting, and oh yeah, eating lots of pudding.
9.) Doogie Howser, M.D.
Who knew the awkward, gangly teen that played a teenaged doctor for 97 episodes of network television gold between 1989 and 1993 would return, after over twenty years in film, to become a star in another hit show? Earning a reported $150,000 per episode, no less. Vinnie Delpino seemed as good a bet as any for future Hollywood stardom.
8.) Dr. Derek Shepherd
Patrick Dempsey gets a reported $250,000 per episode of Gray’s Anatomy. But really, will he ever outshine his role as Ronald Miller in 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love? Classic.
7.) Dr. Nick
Hey, everybody! Do you know who plays the lovable Dr. Nick on the long-running animated institution, The Simpsons? With over two decades on the staff, Hank Azaria deserves more recognition for his goofy catch phrase and lovable medical incompetence than he receives. Though, you shouldn’t feel too bad for the guy. He does bring in a reported $300,000 per episode. Despite not showing up for every single show, this recurring role beats out the guest spots on Family Ties and Growing Pains that launched Azaria’s career.
6.) J.D. Dorian
Zach Braff is one of those super nice, all-around good dudes that everyone loves to see succeed. And that he has. From his realization of Garden State to his owning of the hearts of millions as a young doctor, the guy just couldn’t seem to do wrong in Hollywood. That is until he went absent from the tail end of Scrubs, despite a $350,000 paycheck per episode.
Though the charming and heartwarming series ended two years ago, to the dismay of its loyal fan base, word is that Zach Braff and real life best friend, Donald Faison, regularly play doctor off camera.
5.) Gregory House
Hugh Laurie earns over $400,000 per episode of House, though it’s estimated that 85% of his pay goes to prescription pills.
4.) Alan Harper
Jon Cryer’s $550,000 per episode of Two and a Half Men is roughly half of what the half man, half whirling dervish Charlie Sheen made before exploding in a cloud of bioluminescence, but it’s more than most Americans will make in a decade.
3.) Dr. Ross Geller
David Schwimmer made just $22,500 per episode of Friends when the series debuted. By the time it went off-air, he, along with the other Friends, were raking in $1mil per, not counting syndication royalties.
2.) Frasier Crane
Playing the same character for over two decades might limit opportunities for film work, but Kelsey Grammer became the highest paid television actor of all time in 2001 when he negotiated over $1.6mil per episode of Frasier. The real life man can afford to spit at the peasant lifestyle of his signature character.
1.) Dr. Doug Ross
Despite being paid in paperclips and butterscotch for his role as Doug Ross on ER, George Clooney’s ability to deliver sharp wit and cynical humor have made his one of the most marketable names in Hollywood. A chiseled jawline and status as the perpetual eligible bachelor don’t hurt. Clooney’s gigs aren’t the most profitable in H-Wood, but pulling in $15mil for movies like Ocean’s 13 earns Clooney top spot on this list of television doctors who sold out their patients for the good life.