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Are TV characters' salaries realistic?

By Laura Morsch
CareerBuilder.com Editor

Editor's Note: CNN.com has a business partnership with CareerBuilder.com, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to CNN.com.

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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 Payscale.com, 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.

Christian Troy, "Nip/Tuck:" Plastic surgeon

Real-life median salary: $156,500, according to Payscale.com.

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 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (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 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 About.com 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.</li>

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.

Laura Morsch is a writer for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.



© Copyright CareerBuilder.com 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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