Uni raises the roof for its 'House' star


He is the star of the biggest drama on television. Now Hugh Laurie is poised to become one of the highest-paid actors on TV with a new deal to continue on Fox's "House."

Under a pact with producer Universal Media Studios, Laurie's salary is expected to rise to the neighborhood of $400,000 an episode or more than $9 million a year. He also would get some sort of producing credit on the medical drama, which returns for a fifth season Tuesday. The deal also adds another year to the actor's contract on the series, assuring he will stay on at least through the 2011-12 season.

Laurie, who had humble beginnings on "House" with a starting salary in the mid-five figures, got his first major salary bump in summer 2006 when his per-episode fee was upped to $250,000-$300,000 an episode.

Back then, Fox helped UMS foot the bill for Laurie's new deal; it is not clear if the network will participate this time.

The list of highest-paid actors on drama series is now topped by departing "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" leading man William Petersen ($600,000 per episode) and "24's" Kiefer Sutherland (close to $500,000), who both serve as executive producers on their series.

Just as Sutherland's Jack Bauer is synonymous with "24," curmudgeonly medical genius Dr. Gregory House is at the heart of "House." The role has earned the Brit two Golden Globes and three Emmy nominations.

This past season, the medical drama averaged 16.7 million viewers and a 6.7/16 among adults 18-49, ranking as the second-highest-rated scripted series behind ABC's "Desperate Housewives."

Reps for UMS and Laurie's reps at Endeavor declined to comment. (partialdiff)