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October 8, 2015

TV Squad Ten: Low-paying jobs that apparently pay great on TV

by Allison Waldman, posted Apr 17th 2009 11:08AM
Samantha WhoIf we all lived in the box -- you know, the TV box -- life would be a hell of a lot easier. Taxes would be paid with ease. Mortgages would be managed. And even the lowliest job would be more than enough to maintain a respectable lifestyle, one that looks quite comfortable in fact.

Despite the grim economic news we hear every day, the characters on television have been able to survive -- indeed, thrive -- in some of the crappiest jobs in the universe.

An editorial assistant at a fashion mag, like Ugly Betty, finds a way to keep a Manhattan studio apartment, and commute home to Papi in Queens. Running a gym is a breeze for Old Christine, because she doesn't really work. And even without an income, Samantha Who? is never without her Jimmy Choos.

If you just want the list, click here.

Low-Paying Jobs That Pay Well on TV

    10. Samantha Newly (Christina Applegate), 'Samantha Who?' -- Real Estate

    Sam is in a unique position because of her amnesia, but one part of her life seems to be unaffected, her luxury lifestyle. Before her accident she had been a ruthless, well-paid real estate shark. But the new Sam couldn't be that mean, so she walked away from her corporate job as a vice president and now is partnering with her mother in a start up real estate business, complete with hideous red blazers. They haven't made a sale. Still, despite no discernible source of income, Samantha has a fantastic Chicago apartment (which she shares with ex-love Todd, a photographer) and a wardrobe that's equally top-drawer. Maybe there was a settlement from the hit-and-run accident, because if Sam is living on her past income, she should be busted by now.

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    9. Christine Campbell (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), 'The New Adventures of Old Christine' -- Gym Manager

    Up until this year, divorcee Christine has managed a ladies' fitness center in Los Angeles. Then her marriage of convenience with best friend/gym partner Barb was cause of the parent company that owned the center. Somehow now, Christine and Barb are still running the center, although the details are murky and the place doesn't seem to make any money. Still, Christine lives in a pretty little house, with a spare guest house for her brother Matthew, and her son Richie is in a private school that costs $30,000 a year. How does Christine do it? Ex-husband Richard is a contractor, but he's working on getting married to new Christine, so he can't be giving her that much in alimony to his ex-wife. This is a case of TV money stretching in ways no real cash can.

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    8. Jim (John Krasinski), 'The Office' -- Salesman

    Pennsylvania has been hard hit by the economic downturn, but in Scranton, Jim Halpert has settled bought a house (granted, it was his parents' place) and gotten engaged even though he's failed to get promoted or moved up Dunder-Mifflin, a small, national paper company. Even allowing for generous commissions and Jim's charming sales style, he's not making more than $35,000 a year. While it's true that Jim doesn't live an extravagant lifestyle, he does seem comfortable, and on TV, that looks really comfortable. That's a lot more than many people in the real world can say.

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    7. Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), 'Ugly Betty' -- Editorial Assistant

    Sure, Betty has the glam job of all time, working for the editor of Mode, one of America's top fashion magazines, but she's probably making less than $25,000 a year. And with the recent cutbacks at Meade Publications, I wouldn't be shocked to learn that she doesn't have medical or dental anymore. Betty's family has severe financial troubles, and yet La Suarez actually moved into a New York City apartment earlier this year. Even in the worst neighborhood, there was no way that Betty should have been able to even put down the security deposit. The whole idea of Betty living and working in Manhattan is a TV fantasy, not all that different from Ann Marie on That Girl, except with a Latina twist.

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    6. Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), 'Chuck' -- IT Guy

    Poor Chuck. Not only is he a Stanford grad reduced to doing computer installs for the Buy More in Burbank for about $12/hour, but his secret spy work for the government as the Intersect apparently does not include a salary. Still, Chuck lives very, very comfortably with his sister and her fiance, both doctors, in a cozy California townhouse. They even have a pretty little courtyard with a fountain. Granted, Ellie and Awesome are probably doing pretty well, but Chuck doesn't make enough dough to take Sarah out on a date even if he got the nerve to ask her.

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    5. Kenneth Parnell (Jack McBrayer), '30 Rock' -- Page

    Kenneth does not live in anything approaching comfort, but he does work in New York City in perhaps the most famous show business building of all time, 30 Rockefeller Plaza. At $10 per hour, he's better off just living out of his desk and going home only to shower. At least at work he has a clean toilet, satellite/cable TV, catered food, air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. Of course, Kenneth is a special case because compared to his country roots, any big city environs seem like a step up. As since NBC provides the page uniform, he doesn't have to worry about a clothing allowance.

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    4. Gary Barnes (Jay Mohr), 'Gary Unmarried' -- House Painter

    How does Gary manage to get by? Even if he's the most successful painter in the suburbs, making more than the average $90,000 a year, he still lives like a guy making twice that amount. He has a nice, two-story house, a couple of cars, employees working for him, and he pays child support for two kids as well as alimony (although maybe not if Allison ever marries her fiance). He should be squealing about how broke he is, but life on TV is not real life. Gary shows no signs of struggling to survive and his family hasn't had to sacrifice a thing.

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    3. Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher), 'Desperate Housewives' -- Children's Book Author

    Wisteria Lane is hardly a low-rent district. In fact, it's a very upscale neighborhood where you have to keep up with the Jones -- or the Schaivos or the Solises, etc. Somehow divorcee Susan Mayer manages quite nicely, even though her occupation of choice is children's book author. Unless she's J.K. Rowley, Little Ms. Author would be lucky to be earning $80,000 a year, and that's assuming that her books are thriving in Barnes & Nobles and on the library book circuit. Still, on TV, a writer sounds like the perfect profession. You work at home on your own schedule, you take an occasional meeting with an editor, you do a book tour if you have a published product, and then you cash checks. In reality, most writers are scratching for contracts as book deals are drying up all around them.

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    2. Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub), 'Monk'; Shawn Spencer (James Roday), 'Psych'; Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), 'The Mentalist' -- Police Consultants

    Only on TV can part-time Sherlock Holmes-inspired detectives enjoy comfortable lifestyles while never knowing where the next paycheck is coming from. These three guys are the wizards the cops turn to when the crime scene is hot and the local constabulary don't have a clue. They all live in desirable Northern California locales -- Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Santa Rosa -- where they manage to pay the rent somehow, because they're not on the regular police department budget. Jane, at least, we know was a celebrity so that explains his natty clothes; but who financed Monk's Mission furniture? And does Shawn really pay rent on the Psych office or is Gus footing the bill with his pharmaceutical sales?
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    USA Network (2) I CBS

    1. Penny (Kaley Cuoco), 'The Big Bang Theory'

    How is it possible that university-level physicists Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter have to share an apartment to help make ends meet, but a Cheesecake Factory waitress and aspiring actress Penny, who lives across the hall, doesn't have a roommate? Okay, to be fair, Big Bang has dealt more realistically about Penny's money woes. She's kvetched about needing to collect money from her ex-boyfriend, and she has tried to move up the Cheesecake Factory ladder by learning to bartend, but Penny's no Rockefeller. In one episode (The Financial Permeability), Sheldon -- who apparently has saved about every dollar he's ever earned -- doled out some spare funds for Penny, but how was she able to get into gaming in The Barbarian Sublimation on her meager salary? Those games are costly!

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Um, btw, it's kenneth Parcell, with a c, not Parnell. Epic fail.

April 29 2009 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hi buddy
I do agree with you that you think that much about our young generations. I also think the same.I am very happy to get that comment from you .so I am thanking you for giving this wonderful suggestions.

office jobs-

April 23 2009 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow... A list post that sucks on it's own, even before any bitching about the format ;)

April 19 2009 at 12:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Allison - I think this is a great idea. Since Friends I've had issues with people living in big cities on inadequate wages. However, outside of Samantha Who, I fear I must, along with 20+ others, add in my .01 and disagree with your list.

Regarding Samantha, I have wondered why she has not experienced financial difficulties since quitting her job and not charging her ex rent. Yet, it's possible she purchased her condo outright in her VP days and had enough in savings to cover maintenance fees and electricity, but doubtful. However, the show has shown her repeatedly shopping her own wardrobe for clothes purchased in the past life.

However, regarding the others . . .

Jim is a middle-class American living in a low-tax, working-class area with a 30-year mortgage in Scranton, PA is quite doable. And, a low-scale marriage might only require 4-5k, which is doable for a white collar job.

Betty didn't live in the best apartment and did have rent difficulty, evidenced by her requiring Amanda as a roommate.

Chuck isn't living all that comfortably. He doesn't own a car, lives in his sister's condo and his primary wardrobe consists of his Nerd Herd shirt.

Shawn took out a loan for the Psych office and the first show pictured him in not the best of apartments, living off reward $ for solving crimes. Additionally, considering Monk, the show has repeatedly exhibited his cheapness and $ difficulty which led to his inability to pay his assistants.

Terri Hatcher's character was a successful writer who also received alimony payments. However, she did take a second job to assist her child in attending private school

I think the idea of your article has credence. However, the people you referenced are middle-class/working-class Americans. By definition, they should be 'comfortable,' even if they are not wealthy. Additionally, their shows have all shown these characters experiencing financial difficulty. I would love to see this again referencing early-Friends Out-of-Work actor Joey Tribiani sharing with Chandler Bing or Betty's sister who is inexplicably able to support her son despite lacking customers. Why does the family on 90210 always complain about money problems when they're living in his mother's house rent-free, sending their kids to public school and come from a 2-income family including a fashion photographer & a BH principal?

April 17 2009 at 11:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The photo gallery lists are always a failure.

April 17 2009 at 8:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd have to agree with others that this list is fairly inaccurate. But then, whoever wrote it is kind of out of touch.

For example, when discussing Penny, they assert that online gaming is expensive. Unless you buy a high-end gaming rig to do it, it's very affordable. Age of Conan is selling at Best Buy for $30, and assuming a competitive subscription rate, the monthly fee is about $15. Grabbing fast food and a movie rental a couple times a month would cost more than that.

Moving on to credit where credit's due - thanks for the list-only link.

April 17 2009 at 8:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Reach for it! Awww, not quite.

April 17 2009 at 7:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would agree with you, Tanninghammer, they always show reporters living the high life, which is a joke. Before she wrote her books or worked for Vogue, how did Carrie on Sex and the City afford her place when she was just writing a column, only appearing in 1 paper. Also, maybe Chuck doesn't make much money, a but a friend who does IT stuff for Best Buy is paid very well.

April 17 2009 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@ Josh & Raked: the house that nathan & hailey have is from the pre-signing $ nathan made before his accident. he made a lot of $ from signing bonuses & endorsements (his shoe) that they apparently never decided to take back. also, now he plays for that other team & he also did slamball, i bet he still gets paid for that.

April 17 2009 at 6:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a newspaper reporter myself, I vote for Ray Romano on this list. While for a single person, a newspaper reporter can live comfortably, I can't imagine a single-income could pay for his suburban Long Island, three kids lifestyle. Even if he is a columnist

April 17 2009 at 5:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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