Real-World Salaries of Your Favorite TV Characters


♥ my dog ♥
Nov 3, 2005
Somewhere in Europe
i thought this was interesting:

Real-World Salaries of Your Favorite TV Characters

By Kate Lorenz, Editor

Ever notice how most TV characters dress in upscale duds and live in either gorgeous Manhattan apartments or shiny suburban McMansions? Do money trees grow in the evergreen yards of Wisteria Lane, or do those perfectly-coiffed prima donnas actually earn enough to support their luxe lifestyles? And, though we don't see much of the personal lives of characters on shows like "Cold Case" and "Law & Order," one can't help but wonder how well those hard-working public servants are compensated for keeping the streets safe.

Here's a look at the salaries that some of your favorite TV characters would be making if they worked in the real world:

Pam Beesly, "The Office" -- Receptionist
Real-life median salary: $23,120, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Although Pam is the object of her co-workers' affections, she can rest assured that the men who love her aren't gold diggers. Luckily, she lives in a small Pennsylvania town where her petite paycheck stretches a bit further than it would if she lived in, say, Manhattan.

Denny Crane, "Boston Legal" -- Partner, Law Firm
Real-life median salary: $210,000, according to

Denny's eccentric habits don't put a dent in his income, which, as the founding partner of his law firm, is likely quite substantial. With an enlarged ego to match his puffed up paycheck, Denny spends his money on cigars, scotch and women.

Betty Suarez, "Ugly Betty" -- Executive Assistant
Real-life median salary: $37,810, according to the BLS

As an assistant in a notoriously low-paying media niche (fashion magazines), it's possible that Betty is taking home much less than the average salary for assistants. These fashion editorial positions do often come with perks like clothing allowances, but it's clear Betty prefers ponchos to Prada.

Lynette Scavo, "Desperate Housewives" -- Advertising Executive
Real-life median salary: $50,000, according to

Lynette has a lot of work experience under her belt, so it's likely she makes more than the national median for advertising executives. But does she make enough to pay for a large Wisteria Lane home, four children and a husband who'd like to open a pizza parlor? Far less likely.

Dr. Meredith Grey, "Grey's Anatomy" -- Surgical Resident
Real-life median salary: $37,000, according to an American Medical Association report

As one of the rare medical residents with free board (she lives in her mother's house), Meredith doesn't appear to have a lot of expenses beyond her ever-expanding tab at the local dive bar. And, with (possible) medical school loans to repay, that's a seriously good thing.

Jim, "According to Jim" -- Owner, Construction Company
Real-life median salary: $73,000 for a construction project manager, according to

As a business owner, Jim probably earns upward of the median salary for a construction project manager. Though he works hard, he gets the pleasure of being his own boss, and can crack jokes all the way to the bank.

Detective Lilly Rush, "Cold Case" -- Police Detective
Real-life median salary: $44,000, according to

As a Philly homicide detective, Lilly's salary doesn't allow much room for luxuries. But then again, since Lilly's virtual travels take her only to the past (exploring long-unsolved crimes), she can afford to pack lightly.

Arthur Branch, "Law & Order" -- District Attorney
Real-life salary: The current New York County District Attorney makes $150,000 per year, according to New York magazine.

Arthur Branch has the final say on "Law & Order," and his six-figure salary means that he can afford to go out to a five-star meal at the end of a long day at the courthouse. But could he afford to own property in a city where the average price of an apartment is over $1 million? That's another story entirely.

Lorelai Gilmore, "Gilmore Girls" -- Inn Owner
Real-life median salary: $47,420 for a lodging manager, according to the BLS

It's tough to guess the income of an inn owner in a fictional town, but the annual median salary for a lodging manager gives us a starting point for imagining Lorelai's paycheck. Since she doesn't pay for her daughter Rory's college tuition (Rory's newly rich dad covered that), most of Lorelai's income appears to fuel her caffeine addiction.



Dec 23, 2006
Los Angeles
Great article! That is really interesting! The Ugly Betty perks would be sooooo worth that pay cut to me because that is where a ton of my salary goes anyways!! LOL
Jun 4, 2007
Here are more:

Are TV Characters' Salaries Realistic?

Laura Morsch, writer

Think back: When was the last time you saw Carrie Bradshaw chopping vegetables or preheating an oven to cook herself dinner on "Sex and the City?" How about shopping on the clearance rack or setting foot inside a discount store?

Nope, Carrie is a Prada-buying, cosmopolitan-drinking, Manolo Blahnik-collecting kind of girl. She eats out constantly, resides in a roomy one-bedroom Manhattan apartment, and never seems to think twice before slapping down her credit card for more designer duds.

Even her job – sex columnist for a New York City newspaper – is glamorous. But don't let the "Sex and the City" writers fool you: Carrie's annual columnist salary wouldn't come close to affording her that luxurious lifestyle (trust me). According to, a New York City journalist with 10 years of experience earns a median annual salary of about $57,000.

This kind of income-stretching isn't unique to HBO. The "Friends" crew on NBC did some fancy budgeting of their own. For example, consider Jennifer Aniston's character, Rachel Green. In the early seasons, the cash Rachel earns serving lattes – badly – at the neighborhood coffee joint manages to pay rent on an enormous New York apartment and feed her shopping addiction so well she becomes a style icon.

From Orange County to Wisteria Lane, TV characters always seem to be well-dressed, debt-free and driving expensive cars up to their pristine homes. But despite their alluring jobs, most of these characters would be solidly middle-class in the real world.

Here's a look at how much your favorite TV characters would really be bringing home each year:
The Rich... Even in the real world, these characters would be in the upper income brackets.

# Simon Cowell, American Idol – Judge/Talent Scout Salary: $34 million, according to the London Daily Mirror. Even though Cowell is a real person, his stratospheric salary is far from typical. According to, the average Hollywood talent agent with 25 years of experience would make $30,600.

# Christian Troy, Nip/Tuck – Plastic Surgeon Real-life median salary: $156,500, according to Although Troy's partnership is considered to be the best private practice in Miami, he would need a loftier-than-average salary to afford his fast cars and expensive suits.

# Michael Bluth, Arrested Development – Acting Company President Real-life median salary: $140,350, according to the BLS. Top executives can bring home the big bucks, but thanks to Bluth's father's dubious accounting practices, his paycheck might be a bit paltrier.

# Sandy Cohen, The O.C. – Lawyer Real-life median salary: $94,930, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While a nearly six-figure median salary is nothing to scoff at, the typical lawyer can't afford an oceanfront mansion and pool house.

The Posers... Want a home, wardrobe and car like these characters? You might not get them with these jobs:

# Homer Simpson, The Simpsons – Nuclear Safety Inspector Real-life median salary: about $64,000 for nuclear power reactor operators, according to the BLS. So that's how Homer affords all that beer...

# Elliot Stabler, Law & Order: SVU – Detective Real-life median salary: about $54,000, according to the BLS.

# Sydney Bristow, Alias – CIA Agent/Investigator Real-life median salary: around $50,000. The CIA keeps its salaries top-secret, but estimates the typical starting salary for a CIA agent is between $34,000 and $52,000.

# Gil Grissom, CSI – Forensic Scientist Real-life median salary: about $44,000, according to the BLS.

# Grace Adler, Will and Grace – Interior Designer Real-life median salary: about $40,700, according to the BLS. Maybe Grace should be working for her rich, lazy assistant Karen, instead.

# Susan Mayer, Desperate Housewives – Children's Book Illustrator Real-life median salary: $38,060, according to the BLS. Money might be a little tight for this single mother on Wisteria Lane.

# John "JD" Dorian, Scrubs – Medical Resident Real-life median salary: $37,000, according to an American Medical Association Report. If you break his salary down hourly, it just gets worse.