By Dorothy Pomerantz, Forbes Staff

The 10 women on our Highest-Paid TV Actresses list earned a total of $94 million between May 2010 and May 2011. That may seem like a lot, but consider their movie peers: Just the top three women in movies earned almost as much combined ($88 million).

So yes, women make a lot less in TV than they do if they are big movie stars, but there are advantages. Working mothers with TV roles usually get to stay in L.A. (or New York) instead of having to jet around the world to film locations. There's a steady paycheck and no worrying about Angelina Jolie beating you out for the part in the next big film.

And usually the roles are better. None of the women on our list play the doting girlfriend or the damsel in distress. They all portray strong-willed, well-rounded women who have the room to grown and change over the course of many seasons.

Just look at the two women who tie for first place on our list: Tina Fey and Eva Longoria. Each actresses earned $13 million between May 2010 and May 2011.

In addition to starring on 30 Rock, Fey is the producer and head writer. And while the show hasn't been a massive rating success for Comcast's NBC network, it has developed the kind of loyal following that laps up DVDs and watches the shows again and again. 30 Rock is now in syndication on Fox and Comedy Central. Fey's unique take on the work-place comedy is a big part of the reason the show draws such loyal fans. Who else but Fey could coin a term like lizzing?

The women on Desperate Housewives aren't pushovers either. Longoria leads the pack with $13 million thanks to lucrative endorsement deals with L'Oreal and LG, but all three of her co-stars are also on our list. Marcia Cross ranks third with $10 million and Felicity Huffman and Terry Hatcher tie for fifth with $9 million each.

The adventures of the four suburban housewives have been a boon for Disney's ABC. When the show hit the air in 2004 (along with Lost), it transformed ABC from a has-been to the hottest network almost overnight. The show has had a massive run but its current season (the eighth) will be the show's last. The season's recent premiere was the show's lowest rated.

But don't cry for the ladies. They'll collect fat checks from syndication for years to come. Older episodes can currently be seen on Lifetime.

You don't see too many female crime investigators in the movies but two women make our list with those TV roles: Mariska Hargitay and Marg Helgenberger.

The pair tie for third place with Marcia Cross. Each of the three women earned an estimated $10 million during our time frame.

To come up with our earnings estimates (which are gross earnings and don't account for things like agent and manager fees) we talked to lawyers, producers and agents in the know to find out what each star made per episode, from any syndication deals and from endorsements.

Helgenberg has anchored the original CSI on CBS for 11 years now. In that time much of the rest of the cast has rotated. She's now acting opposite her third male lead: Ted Danson. The former Cheers actor took over from Laurence Fishburne, who had starred in the show for two and a half seasons. Hargitay has also become a television mainstay. She's a big part of the reason Law & Order: SVU (now in its 13th season) has become the most successful part of the Dick Wolf franchise. Between new and syndicated episodes SVU pulls in an average 53 million viewers per week.




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librartist2

I dont think its bad for actors to make such huge salaries. With all the money they get for sponsors (commercial breaks) if the money didnt go to the actors, the producers would get it all. As it is, they get a huge chuck of change. You never hear of "starving producers" only starving actors. (the same goes for athletes). But, with the way the economy is now - I think its obscene that sponsors can pay millions for 3 min commercials. I say - go back to "old TV" with less commercials. Who cares about all those products anyway?! We still go to the stores and buy what we want. I dont mine a commercial that tells us about new products on the market - but, all that old stuff, over and over. Stuff we have known about for years!

October 01 2011 at 8:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joel

Very interesting list and I agree with most of the comments about this article. Mariska Hargitay is an awesome
actress and deserves every cent she gets paid. As for the article, I have a correction.
Terry Hatcher should be spelled Teri Hatcher and to marsha, it's called Law and Order: SVU, not SUV
Later.

October 01 2011 at 1:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
marsha

These well seasoned actresses who entertain us every week earn alot of money but when their show gets cancelled, they may struggle to get other jobs because younger and perkier actors are always on the wings - they got to make hay while the sun shines so they say. For instance, Law and Order SUV is a super show but now Charlie's Angels remake is on with girls much younger and perkier - whose acting couldn't touch Ms Hargitay in a million years.

September 30 2011 at 10:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
changeToSpanish

Hollywood and TV actors should be taxed at a 90% level with no loop holes. Elect me president and this will happen.

September 30 2011 at 9:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
larry

I'm glad to see Gweneth Paltrow was not on the highest paid actresses list. I'm not sure Gweneth Paltrow and her arrogant attitude could fit in the same room.

September 30 2011 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ruggit

They need to get out and protest. Poor women are on the verge of poverty wages.

September 30 2011 at 6:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
laler32

Mariska Hargitay... the reason I believe in a God...

Thank you, Lord! My eyes thank you as well!

September 30 2011 at 5:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mldspenser

I hope they all banked most of their money. But my main comment is WHO WRITES THIS STUFF? Don't they know better than to use expressions like "lizzing" without an explanation? It doesn't have to be more than a few words in ( ). Not everybody watches every show on TV. What does it mean????

September 30 2011 at 5:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vitsing

Mariska Hargitay is a class act and beautiful woman. She deserves every penny she makes for her consistence performance on Law & Order: SVU. I watch every episode.

September 30 2011 at 4:20 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
English

Tina is not worth that on her best day and neither is Longoria. The entire entertainment industry which includes sports is competely out of step with the rest of the country, in terms of employment what a bunch of adults playing kids games of pretend get paid. At least in the movies the women appear nude.

September 30 2011 at 12:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to English's comment
moudsie

13 mil -- really, think about it, how ridiculous is this -- what actors/actresses and sports people are paid -- it's freaking obscene.

September 30 2011 at 5:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply