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TV vs. Reality: What Do Your Favorite TV Characters’ Jobs Pay in Real Life?

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On "The Office," Jim Halpert livens up his mundane job by pulling pranks on coworker Dwight Schrute. But what is it like to actually be a salesman in Scranton, Pennsylvania? Parade Magazine found a few Americans who have the same real-life jobs as your favorite primetime stars.

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1. SALES EXECUTIVE
Scranton sales exec Ross McArthur works from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, making calls and meeting with clients for auto marketing company Net Driven. He may not work with paper, but he thinks his office life is remarkably similar to Jim Halpert's. "Sales is sales," McArthur says. "We just don't have Steve Carell cracking jokes all the time. And I don't have an archnemesis like Dwight."

ROSS McARTHUR, 26
SALES EXEC FOR NET DRIVE
SCRANTON, PA
$70,000

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2. CHOIR DIRECTOR
"Glee" may be winning TV awards, but real-life Lima, Ohio, choir director Stephen Popa hasn't noticed any change in his group's popularity. "When the show came on the air, we all thought, 'Great! This is going to get some mileage for the choir,'" he says. "No. We get the same attendance at our concerts. We get the same sort of commentary when other people listen to us as we always did. The dialogue hasn't changed much." Even so, Popa struggles just like Matthew Morrison's "Glee" character, Mr. Schuester. "The frustrations of a music teacher are the same ones any teacher has. We just have the added pressure of public performances and one shot to make an impression. And you don't do that in many classes."

STEPHEN POPA, 41
CHOIR DIRECTOR
LIMA, OH
$48,601

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3. SUPERINTENDENT, PARKS & RECREATION
Chris Johnson hasn't seen a lot of NBC's "Parks and Recreation," but he sounds just as enthusiastic about his work as Amy Poehler's perky Leslie Knope. "I keep reminding myself this is parks and recreation. We're supposed to have fun."

CHRIS JOHNSON, 63
SUPERINTENDENT OF PARKS & RECREATION
PORTAGE, IN
$58,500

What People Earn: See Hundreds of Real Americans' Salaries

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4. POLICE OFFICER
"Police work has its own challenges. It's the nature of the job. When other people are watching 'Mike & Molly,' there have to be policemen on the street," says Roger Fieser. Still, he and his wife love the show, on which Billy Gardell plays a Chicago cop.

ROGER FIESER, 39
POLICE OFFICER
CHICAGO, IL
$77,238

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5. MYSTERY WRITER
Mystery author Nancy Martin, who has written more than 45 novels, finds that she is in her dream job. "I would definitely be a writer all over again," she says. "A flexible lifestyle that allows me to go exploring and traveling—a writing job allows me to do those things," she says. "I work for about nine months on a book and then I take a month or two off to get some fresh ideas or to try something else to experiment a little bit," explains Martin. While her life as a mystery writer isn't as dramatic as that of Richard Castle, Nathan Fillion's character in 'Castle,' she thinks she and the fictional writer have some similarities. "I do like to spend time interviewing shadowing real people. I have not done a ride-along with the cops because my books are lighter than Castle's books," she says "I do like to chat with the experts and see where they work, get to know their mindset and immerse myself in their world—so in that way I'm like Castle." But unlike the TV author, who killed off his most-famous character, Martin has never had the urge to write off the main characters from her books. "I have two different series and two different characters," she says. "So I can work on one and if I get tired of her, I can work on the other again."

NANCY MARTIN, 57
MYSTERY WRITER
PITTSBURGH, PA
$75,000

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6. REALTOR
A battered real estate market didn't stop John Merritt from making a foray into the field. After he left his steady job as a consultant at IBM to spend time with a sick relative, he decided last year to get his real estate license.  Now with a broker and his own company, EliteLAHomes.com, Merritt is enjoying the change of pace. "The hours are definitely a lot more flexible than a typical nine-to-five job," he says. "A bad week for me is 40 hours. Before, I was working 65 hours a week, so when I can work 35 hours and make pretty close to what I was making before, it's pretty amazing." Much like "Modern Family's" "real estate mogul" Phil Dunphy (played by Ty Burrell), Merritt has learned that it's important to have a unique approach to the market. "The one piece of advice I would give is it's really important to distinguish yourself from your competition," he says.

JOHN, MERRITT, 46
REALTOR
STUDIO CITY, CA
$75,000

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7. PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
When talking about "The Good Wife," one of Bill Clutter's favorite shows, the Springfield private investigator immediately compares himself to Archie Panjabi's character, Kalinda. "A lot of [the work I do] is the same," says Clutter, 52. "All of my work is with attorneys. Oftentimes, it's what you uncover in the investigation that will turn a case, whether it's evidence exonerating someone or proof of liability in a civil case. The legwork that goes into these cases involves the investigators." This wasn't always the plan for Clutter. He started out as a runner in a law firm in 1984 with the intent of applying to law school, but that quickly changed. "One of the attorneys got me involved in interviewing witnesses in a case and serving subpoenas. The rest is history."

He abandoned his law school plans to focus on investigations and has been working on death penalty cases since 1985. Normal working hours vary for Clutter, who has been putting in overtime recently on his three current cases. "I don't work bankers' hours, where I come in at a certain time and leave at a certain time. I put in about 50 or 60 hours a week." Last Wednesday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in the state, but Clutter is not worried about lack of work. "I'm diversified. I have a number of private cases where I do mostly criminal defense work. I have more work than I can handle now, so I'll have more time for other areas."

BILL CLUTTER, 52
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
SPRINGFIELD, IL
$122,212

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8. ARCHITECT
Lance Brown did not grow up wanting to be an architect, but that changed in his teens. "At the age of 16, I came across the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. The combination of art and craft and environment all seemed to come together nicely [and I thought] that it would be a very rewarding path to pursue." He pursued the field but didn't start teaching until the late 1960s. "I was invited to do work in research teaching related to community-based housing, and that brought me into the academic world." Now the 68-year-old divides time between teaching at the City University of New York and consulting. "My work week is a pretty good balancing act of teaching research and practice. I'm in the college three days a week and doing preparation and consulting the other four days," he says. "It tends to be a seven-day occupation." Brown has never seen the CBS show "How I Met Your Mother," where Josh Radnor plays an architect in New York City, but he thinks TV and film architects field don't always seem realistic. "I don't think they necessarily portray the extreme focus and concern that architects have to have for the public at large and the individual specifically," he says. "I think they're often shown as serious and glamorous, but I don't think the hard work of actually making environments is ever clearly portrayed."

LANCE BROWN, 68
PROFESSOR, SPITZER SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, CUNY
NEW YORK, NY
$107,000

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