Philip Michael Thomas earned around $25,000 per episode for the first two seasons of Miami Vice in 1984-1985. His salary then rose dramatically to $50,000 per episode from 1986-1989 for seasons 3 through 5. Over the course of the show‘s 5 year run, Thomas ended up earning over $4 million in total salary.
As an entertainment industry financial analyst, I‘ve broken down the numbers behind the scenes of this iconic 1980s show and its stars‘ legendary salaries. Join me as we take a nostalgic trip back to the neon-lit world of fast cars and lavish lifestyles in Miami Vice.
## Miami Vice Was an Instant Ratings Hit in the Mid-1980s
When Miami Vice premiered on NBC in 1984, it became an unexpected phenomenon. The show ranked #1 in ratings during seasons 2 and 3, reaching an average of over 20 million viewers per episode. This was massive viewership at the time, as cable TV competition was still limited.
NBC was able to charge advertisers premium rates of around $500,000 for a 30-second commercial by 1986. This equated to over $25 million in ad revenue per episode, a goldmine for NBC.
As Miami Vice soared in popularity, so did the negotiating power of its stars.
## Philip Michael Thomas Started Out Making Less Than Don Johnson
In the first two seasons from 1984-1985, Philip Michael Thomas reportedly earned approximately **$25,000 per episode** as Ricardo Tubbs.
Meanwhile, his co-star Don Johnson was making **$30,000-35,000 per episode** as Sonny Crockett. So despite being the breakout heartthrob, Thomas was initially out-earned by his colleague.
However, Thomas saw his salary nearly double in season 3 as his popularity continued to rise.
## Huge Per Episode Salary Jump After Season 2
For seasons 3-5 from 1986-1989, Philip Michael Thomas‘ Miami Vice salary rose to $50,000 per episode, a significant increase from his original $25,000.
This likely reflected NBC‘s desperation to keep the show‘s young star onboard. It amounted to over $2 million per season for Thomas, making him one of the highest paid actors on television.
Here is a breakdown of his estimated Miami Vice earnings over the 5 seasons:
|Season||# of Episodes||Per Episode Salary||Season Earnings|
Adjusted for inflation, Thomas earned over $10 million in today‘s dollars over the full 5 seasons of Miami Vice.
## How Did Thomas‘ Salary Compare to Other TV Stars?
To provide context on how lucrative Thomas‘ deal was, let‘s look at what other top TV actors of the 1980s were earning per episode:
– The cast of Dallas – $35,000-$40,000
– Tom Selleck on Magnum P.I. – $200,000
– Michael J. Fox on Family Ties – $70,000
– Heather Locklear on Dynasty – $40,000
So at $50,000 per episode, Thomas was ahead of most of his peers besides a few breakout sensations like Selleck. His youthful energy and heartthrob status gave him exceptional negotiating power despite being relatively new to stardom compared to veterans like Larry Hagman.
## The Show‘s Success Allowed Big Salary Demands
In many ways, Thomas and Johnson came along at the perfect time just as audiences were tiring of family sitcoms and primetime soaps. Miami Vice felt like something totally new and different.
NBC execs realized they had struck gold with the show‘s stylish action and cinematic quality. This allowed Johnson and Thomas to drive hard bargains in contract negotiations, backed up by Miami Vice‘s #1 ratings.
However, NBC failed to anticipate the show‘s imminent decline. As competition mounted and its novelty wore off, Miami Vice fell out of the top 30 by 1988. This led to its cancellation in 1989 after 5 seasons and 117 episodes.
## Lasting Influence Despite Short Run
While Miami Vice had a relatively brief run compared to era-defining hits like Dallas and Dynasty, its cultural impact was massive. All these years later, it remains one of the quintessential symbols of 1980s style, music and action entertainment.
Beyond the flashy clothes and sports cars, at its core Miami Vice offered groundbreaking storytelling, mixing hard-hitting crime drama with emotional character beats. It brought cinematic production values to television, paving the way for modern prestige dramas.
And central to its legacy were the charismatic duo of Don Johnson‘s Sonny Crockett and Philip Michael Thomas‘ Rico Tubbs, still icons of 1980s cool.
## Where Are the Miami Vice Stars Now?
Philip Michael Thomas‘ career cooled off after Miami Vice, as he was unable to recapture the magic of his role as Rico Tubbs. But he found consistent acting work over the decades since, along with various music and entrepreneurial projects.
While Thomas never again reached his Miami Vice peak salary level, he has built a healthy net worth around $2 million according to reports. Not bad for an actor with one iconic role at the height of of the 1980s cultural renaissance.
As for Don Johnson, he went on to star in other hit series like Nash Bridges and currently stars on ABC‘s Kenan. Johnson amassed a personal net worth around $50 million, partly thanks to retaining his leverage for higher salaries after Miami Vice.
But to many, he will always be that handsome, stubble-faced detective Sonny Crockett cruising around Miami in fast cars and an Armani suit. Both Johnson and Thomas had the right look and charm at just the right time, cashing in on Miami Vice‘s lightning in a bottle success.
## Thomas Hit the Salary Jackpot in His Prime
As we‘ve seen, Philip Michael Thomas maximized his earning power and negotiating leverage at the peak of Miami Vice mania in the mid-80s. His per episode salary skyrocketed from a modest $25,000 to an extravagant $50,000 as his stardom swelled.
While television economics have shifted drastically in the decades since, with top stars now earning well over $1 million per episode, Thomas was an early pioneer of the genre-defining antihero. His iconic Rico Tubbs character paved the way for the Tony Sopranos and Walter Whites of today‘s TV landscape.
And for a shining period in the neon-lit 1980s, Philip Michael Thomas earned a salary fit for a true pop culture sensation.