Career Salaries on TV

We all know that TV Stars, from Jerry Seinfeld to Ray Romano, pull in very large career salaries, but did you ever wonder what their characters make salary-wise?

Remember the Baywatch cast? Back in their glory days, Pamela Anderson was raking in a reported seven-figure salary, but how much was her character, lifeguard "C.J." Parker, making? They never actually said on any Baywatch episodes, but in California, the hourly wage for a lifeguard, with 5-9 years of experience, is $11.25. If the Baywatch babe was a high-paid lifeguard, she might have been making an hourly wage of $13.60. Kinda makes you wonder how C.J. could afford her cool beach house?   Hmm, they never explained that in any of the Baywatch episodes either.

How does your salary stack up (pardon the pun) against C.J.’s? Do you make more than a Baywatch babe? Find out with our salary calculator.

King of Queens or King of Salary

The star of the King of Queens cast, Doug Heffernan is about as far from being a Baywatch babe as you can get. The King of Queens works in New York City as a parcel delivery man, that is, when he’s not watching the game on TV or bickering with his wife about watching too much TV. What does a delivery (light truck) driver make in New York State? Assuming the King of Queens had 10-19 years of experience, he would be pulling in an hourly wage of $18.75, if his company is small or not a union shop, and $25.00 or more, plus overtime, if he is working for a large unionized company like UPS.

On the King of Queens TV series season premier, his wife Carrie was working as a legal secretary at a law firm. If she had at least ten years of experience, she would have been making an average salary of $68,500. However, in later King of Queens episodes, she lost her job at the law firm and temporarily became a dog walker, trotting pooches around New York City.

How much of a drop in salary was that? An animal caretaker in New York State with 1-4 years of experience makes an average hourly wage of $12.71; so that was about a 50 percent drop in salary for the King of Queens’ wife.

Leave it to Beaver vs. The Brady Bunch

Mike Brady was everyone’s favorite architect and the father of six kids on the Brady Bunch. If my memory of Brady Bunch plotlines serves me correctly, the Brady Bunch cast lived in California, although it was never specified exactly where. How much would Mike Brady be making today as an architect? The average salary for a California-based architect is $73,700, with a high end of $78,800.

Today, if Mike were supporting six kids, a wife, one maid and Tiger the dog on an architect salary, the Brady Bunch would probably have to live on a tight budget. Marcia, Greg and the rest of the clan might have had to win another singing contest with one of those dreadful Brady Bunch kids songs, such a “Sunshine Day” or “Keep On.”

Leave It to Beaver and the American Dream are almost synonymous. Now, they never said exactly what Ward Cleaver did on the Leave it to Beaver TV program, but we do know that he was a “business man” who always seemed to be writing reports and made references to “audits.” Assuming Ward Cleaver was an accountant, where did the Cleavers live? The characters in Leave It to Beaver lived in the town of “Mayfield,” but the state was not disclosed.

However, there is a Mayfield, Ohio, where many fans believe the Leave it to Beaver cast resided. If Ward Cleaver were a Senior Accountant with 18 years of experience in Ohio, today, he would probably make an average salary of $57,600.  That accountant salary might not be enough to support a family of four. If things got tight he could always sell his 1961 Plymouth Fury 4-door hardtop, which would be considered a collectable (file that under: Episodes of Leave it to Beaver not aired yet).

Career Salaries: Barney Fife, Law and Order SVU

Deputy Barney Fife kept the crime rate down in Mayberry, North Carolina, by going after litterbugs, jaywalkers and kids who rode their bikes too fast. “Nip it in the bud!” is one of our favorite Barney Fife sayings. How much would Barney Fife pull in, if he were working in law enforcement today? In North Carolina, a Sheriff Patrol Officer’s average pay is $41,500 (10-19 years experience), with a high end of $49,000; not a bad salary for keeping “Otis the Town Drunk” behind bars.

Detective Olivia Benson faces much more dangerous foes on Law and Order SVU. According to the Law and Order episode guide, the New York City detective has to hunt down kidnappers, murderers and other assorted hardcore criminals. What is her salary for risking life and limb to apprehend anti-social deviants? A New York City detective’s average pay is $68,200. However, if Olivia were being paid in the high end of that career salary range, she could make an annual salary of $99,500.

When it comes to career salaries, perhaps Olivia should have gone to Harvard Law School, like Ally McBeal. The flighty attorney was supposed to be working for a large law firm in Boston, but who knows how much actual work she actually performed in-between her numerous romantic entanglements.

An attorney at a Boston law firm, with 5-9 years experience, makes an average salary of $112,000 and pay can easily go as high as $225,000. Of course, a good deal of her cash would probably be spent on therapy analyzing the infamous Ally McBeal dancing baby, so perhaps it’s better to risk your life on the mean streets of New York City.

You can do your own investigation of TV characters’ pay; what about being a “propane and propane accessories” salesperson? Find out by tuning into the PayScale salary survey. While you are there, find out how your pay compares as well.


Dr. Al Lee