Here's what 11 classic TV characters earn at their jobs

How could Mike Brady afford that home with six kids and a maid?

It was always intriguing to see how our favorite TV characters lived. Some of them had decent jobs, but seemed to live beyond their means. This discrepancy had us thinking, what kind of money did our favorite characters make?

To find each character's salary, we used the website PayScale and entered their profession, location and approximate years of experience in the field. For example, someone like Mary Richards wouldn't have any experience, but someone like Lt. Theo Kojak would have a couple decades under their belt. 

Once we entered the information, PayScale gave us the median salary for each person. All the figures are in 2016 dollars, but we included what the salary would be during the time the show takes place, adjusting for inflation. 

The results we got might surprise you. Do these salaries seem fair to you?


1. Carla Tortelli, 'Cheers'

Tortelli was so mean-spirited because she probably wasn't pulling in a lot of tips waiting tables. As a waitress at a Boston bar, Tortelli would make around $27,209 per year. 

The equivalent salary in 1982 would be $11,082.

2. Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney, 'Laverne & Shirley'

These ladies were making their dreams come true as bottlecappers at the Shotz Brewery. In similar factory positions today, people make around $33,571 per year. 

The equivalent salary in 1958 would be $4,095. 

3. Mary Richards, 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'

After being dumped by her boyfriend, Richards moved to Minneapolis and got a job as a producer at a local news station. With no experience, she would probably start off making about $35,516 per year. 

The equivalent salary in 1970 would be $5,816. 

4. Alex Reiger, 'Taxi'

While everyone else at the Sunshine Cab Company thought of being a taxi driver as a temporary gig, Reiger considered it his profession. After driving around the streets for as long as he did, he would make around $37,179 per year. Or maybe he'd go Uber?

The equivalent salary in 1978 would be $10,231. 

5. John Gage and Roy DeSoto, 'Emergency!'

Paramedics John Gage and Roy DeSoto did some important work, but they didn't rake in that much money. In fact, with their experience, they would only each make about $44,816 every year. 

The equivalent salary in 1972 would be $7,907.

6. Ralph Kramden, 'The Honeymooners'

The Kramdens were certainly portrayed as poor on The Honeymooners, but that wouldn't really be the case in today's society. Bus drivers in New York City with comparable experience earn a median salary of $51,075 per year. 

The equivalent salary in 1955 would be $5,777. 

7. Gabe Kotter, 'Welcome Back, Kotter'

Kotter was paid pretty well for what he had to put up with. On average, high school teachers in New York City earn about $64,561 per year. 

The equivalent salary in 1975 would be $14,660. 

8. Ponch, 'CHiPs'

Frank "Ponch" Poncherello might have been pretty new to the police force, but he was already making the big bucks. With his level of experience, he would pull in around $64,943 per year as a California trooper. 

The equivalent salary in 1977 would be $16,611.

9. Lt. Theo Kojak, 'Kojak'

As a detective, Theo Kojak was in charge of investigating some pretty tough crimes. To compensate, he would earn a yearly salary of $77,223. How many Tootsie Pops could he afford with that?

The equivalent salary in 1973 would be $14,472. 

10. Mike Brady, 'The Brady Bunch'

With six kids, a stay-at-home wife, a maid and a fairly expensive home, Mr. Brady had a lot on his plate. Luckily, he'd make good money as an architect, at around $87,978 per year. 

The equivalent salary in 1969 would be $13,628. 

11. Captain Merrill Stubing, 'The Love Boat'

Who would have guessed the captain of The Love Boat was the highest paid person on this list? In addition to making a lot of fantasies come true, Stubing would net in around $113,540 every year. 

The equivalent salary in 1977 would be $29,042.

 
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KJames90755 2 months ago
Don't forget the home prices were much lower in the time the Brady Bunch series was set, that big house probably only set him back about $35,000-40,000 fictional at that time. My stepfather bought a 2BR/2BA in the College Park area of Costa Mesa for $28K in 1971.
AndreaZ 2 months ago
I waited tables and I can guarantee that a person waiting tables in a pub like Cheers in Boston makes way more than $27,000 a year today. Probably closer to $60,000 or more a year.
JeffreyCoon 2 months ago
Rest in peace Robert Reed; what a talented actor. "Brady Bunch" provided great television. Broke so many invisible barriers. Reed helped break invisible barriers!📺🏳️‍🌈🌈
AndreaZ JeffreyCoon 2 months ago
He didn't break any barriers. He stayed in the closet his entire career.
Jayfive67 AndreaZ 2 months ago
so what? it would have destroyed his career if he had come out.
JimmyMuraco Jayfive67 2 months ago
That's why he didn't break any barriers. Had he come out, was embraced by the public, and gone on to be a major star, the he would have broken that barrier. I don't think the public was ready for that back then.
LanceMcCrickard 2 months ago
I wish they did Sheriff Andy Taylor or Deputy Barney Fife.
TinaMarieHaddadRhodes 2 months ago
I find it hard to believe 13,000 a year living in California in 1969 would be enough money to have that big house that he was said to have built and have a house keeper. And added three more kids, two cars, more of a food bill, clothes bill etc without being in some kind of debt. I would think to save money the housekeeper would have to go because she was not needed anymore with a new wife to take over. And maybe the wife would have to get a job too to have the happy life the Brady’s lived.
Alice WAS NEEDED because Carol was a Real Estate Agent at the time, so Mike and Carol's combined salaries would have been more than enough.
inflation was a lot lower in 1969 especially than it is now under Biden.
JamesTobey Kahuna 2 months ago
Carol didn’t work in the original series. It was revealed in “The Brady Brides” she became a real estate agent and that was continued in “A Very Brady Christmas” and “The Brady’s”.
HerbF 17 months ago
Since it's possible that Carol Brady's husband had died (Even though they wanted her to be divorced) the 3 girls would receive dependent survivor benefits from Social Security till they were 18 so that would be extra income into the Brady Home.
JamesTobey HerbF 2 months ago
Excellent point. It’s also possible that both she and Mike got life insurance when their spouse(s) died. It was also common at that time for people to trade cars every few years and it would often cost $1,000 to $2,000 or even less.
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