You ever sit back during a commercial back to look at your own life, wondering how all those characters on TV are scraping by? You really shouldn't stress over such things, since our lives aren't crafted by well-paid writers. And while it's true that some real-life Americans are living lavish existences beyond their means, it usually involves something illegal, and still doesn't match up to your favorite small screen characters' large-scale living. From too-large homes to sky-high expenses, here are 7 TV regulars whose jobs couldn't possibly afford their lifestyles.
Penny Hofstadter (The Big Bang Theory)
While she's now married and sharing an apartment with Leonard, Penny's early situation on The Big Bang Theory was not at all realistic on a financial front. Don't get me wrong, a server can do quite well working at The Cheesecake Factory, but I'm not quite sure you can do Pasadena-well with those tips. With some loose estimations assuming she flubs the numbers on some tips for tax purposes, I put Penny at pulling in about $1,800 a month. When you then put some of the features of her apartment -- one bedroom, hardwood floors, dishwasher -- into some apartment listing sites in the Pasadena area, absolutely nothing comes up in terms of feasible results. The site I used couldn't even find a slum apartment for Penny to sleep in!
Pasadena is a city where rent just below $2,000 is considered a steal and even applying some inflation into the equation, there's almost no way Penny could've swung that rent so early on in the series. Maybe she had a secret slush fund somewhere, or perhaps Leonard floated her some cash considering he was splitting rent with Sheldon?
Al Bundy (Married With Children)
Out of everyone on this list, the Bundy family from Married With Children had about the least glamorous lifestyle on television, at least in how it was presented. It was understood that the family didn't have a lot of extra money, and when you're living on a late '80s shoe salesman's wage (about $4.00 hourly) and living in a two-story home in the Chicago suburbs, that should come as no surprise. The mortgage rate of any three-bedroom multi-level house in most states COULD be possible for someone who makes minimum wage, but it's severely unlike that person could afford anything else, even if it was imperative to survival.
If Peggy Bundy ever would've gotten a steady job, and maybe if they did the laundry as opposed to Peggy buying new clothes all the time, they could probably swing more. I would imagine eating a decent meal that doesn't consist of a "Tangwich" would be motivation enough to for Peggy to pick up a part-time job, or for Al to attempt to find a better one that he actually enjoyed. Also, how did they afford Buck?
Cisco Ramon And Caitlin Snow (The Flash)
I'm not sure what the going rent/mortage rate is in Central City, but I'm guessing "free" isn't it. We've seen the non-impoverished digs of both Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon over the years, and while they're both modest apartments, who is paying for them? It made plenty of sense back in Season 1 of The Flash when Harrison Wells (Eobard Thawne) was on the team, as he was at least well-known and presumably made some handsome sums of money for his breakthroughs in science.
In a world without Wells/Thawne, though, who is paying the S.T.A.R Labs team, or for S.T.A.R. Labs? Seems like the government would have dropped its funding of the laboratory like a hot potato following the particle accelerator incident, and Barry and Joe can't afford to pay both Cisco and Caitlin on their PD salaries. Science can be a high-paying job, but when no one is doing the funding side of things, you're going to have a hard time making ends meet. Maybe the lack of money is what subconsciously drove Caitlin down the path of villainy! We're perfectly fine with Cisco not being rich, since he wasn't the nicest guy in Flashpoint.
Shoshanna Shapiro (Girls)
Let me kick this off by saying none of the main characters in Girls could afford their lifestyles, because come on, but Shoshanna Shapiro was by far the worst offender in that arena. Hands down, she had the best apartment in the series, as well as the most accessories; and that came from being super trendy for years on end. All that, and she didn't even have a job the first 3 seasons of the Girls.
Shoshanna is the youngest of the characters, so it's plausible that she was receiving some type of support from her parents, and that does seem like a safe assumption, considering she was at NYU the first 3 seasons of the show. That would possibly threaten to disqualify her, but it's still an unaffordable lifestyle for her, even if her rent and tuition are paid for. As an interesting side note, Shoshanna's Japanese apartment loft she stayed in when living in Japan runs about $117 a night in Tokyo via Air BNB which is still well out of her price range, but cool to know for anyone vacationing!
Danny Tanner (Full House)
Full House's Danny is a morning show host in San Francisco, and salary sites put a morning anchor in California somewhere around $100k at the time, and that's assuming Danny is really popular in San Francisco. (He was #3 in ratings at one point.) Past reports have said homes in the area of the Tanner household sold for about $750k in the early '90s, which is the info we could find in terms of that specific neighborhood, even though we know the show started in 1987.
Danny can swing that mortgage, but then he has three little girls to raise, as well as two grown men living there that don't always have jobs. Utilities, food, school, and a lot of other activities would put a big strain on Danny's paycheck, although it could be possible his wife had life insurance which could definitely help with some of the costs. (Eesh!) Ultimately, all that struggle would've paid off, as Danny is now sitting on a house valued at around $3 million dollars minimum. It must destroy him knowing that Kimmy Gibbler is now living in it.
Carrie Bradshaw (Sex In The City)
"Rent Controlled" is often the magical solution in New York City TV shows. Any character can have any job in the best part of the city thanks to an old relative that handed it down or some crazy deal that never seems to happen in real life. Honestly, Carrie Bradshaw's apartment is the least of her problems, as she spent cash like no other; and Lord knows how she got it. Sure, Sex In The City was a popular newspaper column, which would probably give great supplemental income to a full-time employee. Carrie wasn't putting her nose to the grindstone in some cubicle, though, as she was out buying expensive clothes, eating expensive meals, wearing expensive shoes, and taking multiple cab rides.
Even if she was getting $1,000 per weekly column in 1998 (and she likely wasn't), there's no way she could begin to rack up such a massive amount of debt throughout the course of her high-class living on TV. Also, what news company was ever doing fantastic enough to offer $4.00 per word (which is her freelance Vogue rate), Carrie? Should I be the one upset I'm not clearing $5k simply by writing this?!
Max Black And Caroline Channing (2 Broke Girls)
It's a show called 2 Broke Girls, so they're supposed to be poor and struggling, and while Max and Caroline don't exactly scream opulence, their living space does. They have a huge Brooklyn apartment that could house quite literally a horse (albeit temporarily). And sure, a server can make more dough at an NYC diner (average $23.34/hr) than some other places, refer back to the title of the show. Furthermore, it may be completely legal to own a pet horse in New York City, byt the logistics alone of feeding, cleaning, and caring for a Brooklyn equine are astronomical and well above the pay grade of 2 waitresses.
With their best stretch of combined income, Max and Caroline still would not be able to float the minimum $2,700 a month you would need to live in this posh neighborhood let alone their super big apartment. Even if they sold Chestnut when they first got him, Max and Caroline would still need about $200 extra (given current horse rates on Google) to float even one month of rent. What I'm saying here is, you won't find any 2 Broke Girls in the Williamsburg neighborhood.
Those are just a few of the many characters on television who are living well beyond their means. Is there anyone we left off? Let us know who we missed in the comments and make your case as well! Also, keep up with your secretly poor pals and their shows via our midseason premiere guide and summer premiere schedule.
Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.
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