05/12/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
"Frasier" and "Friends," move over: "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Ray Romano has closed a deal that will make him the highest-paid actor on TV with a nearly $50 million paycheck for the upcoming eighth season of his CBS sitcom, says the Hollywood Reporter.
The salary boost will reportedly bump Romano, 47, to about $1.7 million-$1.8 million per episode, compared to his current $800,000 or so per episode.
At the moment, the highest paid sitcom star -- with $1.6 million per episode -- is Kelsey Grammer, 48, of "Frasier," which may soon be winding down production after an 11-year run. (Ratings for the NBC Tuesday-night staple have been slipping.) Meanwhile, the stars of "Friends" each receive $1 million per episode.
Along with Romano's deal with the show's producers, HBO Independent Productions and Worldwide Pants (David Letterman's company), CBS quietly negotiated to renew the Monday-night hit for another two seasons at a hefty license fee of nearly $6 million an episode, says the Reporter.
Reps for Romano and CBS would not comment on the deal.
Only three weeks ago, Romano was joking that, in order to keep "Everybody Loves Raymond" fresh and original, his plan was to "stop after one more year."
His sitcom, he told the Associated Press, is "hard work. You start repeating yourself ... The trick is to get out when you're still wanted. Not too soon, but not too late."