You see a lot of unrealistic things in television: superheroes, ghosts, Big Bads out to start the apocalypse approximately once a season, just to name a few. But there’s one thing that tops all of these ridiculous TV tropes, easily winning the most unrealistic feature of modern day television: the myth of the incredibly large, beautiful apartment in the center of a city, somehow paid for by a group of underemployed mid-20-somethings.
The history of unrealistic apartments in television shows is long and storied, but here are the 10 Most Unrealistic TV Show Apartments.
Leonard and Sheldon’s rent for their large Pasadena two-bedroom can easily be covered by the combination of the two scientists’ salaries; however, their across-the-hall neighbor, Penny, is a little more suspect. Penny’s apartment is only slightly smaller than the boys’, with only one bedroom, and yet for the earlier seasons of the show she was somehow able to afford to live in it by herself on a waitress’ salary, even when the tips are generous. Even with a little extra cash from her few and far between acting jobs, it’s unlikely that the show’s perky blonde would actually have been able to afford that pad alone.
Yes, Liz does have the top job on TGS, but with the show’s questionable popularity, it’s unlikely that she would make enough money to afford her beautiful apartment in the Upper West Side of New York City. However, the most unrealistic aspect of Liz’s apartment is how clean it is. With how messy we see Liz being in her office (and her personal life), how does she manage to keep her place so pristine? Let's ignore the occasional found-under-the-couch Pop Tart. Add in the cost of a weekly maid service and it’s even more unrealistic that she could afford to stay in that apartment.
Sure, Matt Murdock may try to explain away his ridiculously huge loft by saying that no one who isn’t blind would be able to live there with the multi-story light-up billboard next door, but I don’t buy it. This is midtown Manhattan we’re talking about, and Daredevil has managed to get himself at least a few thousand square feet with little to no income coming in from his and Foggy’s struggling law firm. People would kill for an apartment like his - and then swiftly be dealt with by Daredevil, of course. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there’s very much money in saving the world either, so Matt might want to consider an apartment downgrade.
Chuck’s huge Burbank pad made sense when he was rooming with his doctor sister and her fiancé, but after they moved out and fellow minimum-wage earner Morgan moved in, it became less realistic. With its prime position right outside of Los Angeles and its popularity as a destination for the entertainment industry, Burbank is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the United States when it comes down to housing prices. Sure, Chuck had a lot of extra money coming in from his spy job, but Morgan didn’t know that when they moved in together; Chuck picking up such a large share of the rent should have been his first tip-off that something wasn’t right.
Although Brad and Jane could probably manage to pay for their beautiful Chicago apartment and Penny could realistically afford to own a home by herself, it’s unlikely that limo driver Max, food truck owner Dave and clothing store owner Alex would actually be able to afford their places. Max and Dave’s loft is huge, and, even though it’s mostly unfurnished and a little bit gross, it would probably draw a nice chunk of change on the rental market. Meanwhile, while Alex is a small business owner, her store never seems to be very successful, and it’s suspect that she would be able to afford her gorgeous apartment all by herself after Dave moves out.
There’s probably not another nine year old in the world with a room as cool as Arnold’s. Made entirely out of glass windows, Arnold’s room in the attic of his grandparents’ boarding house in the fictional city of Hillwood was only accessible by ladder. The entire room, from lights to alarm clock to pullout wall sofa, is controlled by one remote control, making it incredibly high-tech for such a young kid. Who built all that stuff in? In addition to how tricked out it is, the room is also the biggest in the house and has a great view to boot, making it a pretty crazy place for a young kid to get the chance to live in.
Ted and Marshall’s huge two-bedroom is just the start of How I Met Your Mother’s questionable apartment choices. Lilly, on a school teacher salary while helping to support her fiancé through law school and living his dream of being an environmental lawyer, was somehow basically living with Marshall and yet still keeping her own place in Chinatown for the earlier seasons of the show. Meanwhile, Robin lives alone in a beautiful building, somehow supporting herself and her five dogs, even though her early season job as a television reporter on MetroNews One probably wouldn’t pay upwards of 50K per year. And Barney’s apartment? PLEASE.
For an apartment where a whole lot of nothing happened, they sure needed a whole lot of space. The large NYC pad became so iconic over the course of the series that Hulu recreated it for a fan experience tour when the series came to the streaming service in 2015. It's spacious, it's got an excellent view. Even if we decide to believe that Jerry Seinfeld’s career as a successful stand-up comic may allow him to afford the place, it’s even more unlikely that his neighbor Cosmo Kramer would have been able to afford to live in the same building, with his dubious employment record. Maybe acting like you're sick for medical students pays more than we realized...
Sure, there are four roommates living in the series’ Los Angeles loft, but that doesn’t mean that they can afford it. Nick and Winston’s varied employment and Jess’ teaching job must mean that advertising associate Schmidt would be shouldering most of the rent for the apartment. Although Nick and Jess may be able to contribute more now that Nick co-owns the bar and Jess is working as a vice principal, and the gang may be gaining a new roommate in Cece next season should she decide to settle in the loft following her and Schmidt’s nuptials, it’s still unlikely that the gang would be able to piece enough together to pay their rent every month. Maybe that’s where the funds from the Douchebag Jar go.
The mother of all unrealistic TV show apartments, the various apartments of the Friends gang in the West Village ranged from crazy to crazier to craziest. Where to start? Monica and Rachel’s apartment, even though it was rent controlled, still would have forced the waitress and (for a while, unemployed) chef to shell out a good chunk of change each month. Meanwhile, Joey and Chandler’s place, even with most of the rent being saddled by Chandler, must have cost them a pretty penny with its two large bedrooms and inexplicably huge common area. Then there’s Phoebe’s place, which she was still able to afford alone on the small salary of a masseuse after her grandmother passed. The only realistic tenant would be Ross in the former apartment of Ugly Naked Guy, but even that place might be a little bit too nice for a university professor.
What do you all think? Did we miss the most egregious example of an unrealistic apartment on TV? Let us know in the comments!