It’s often the case that TV comedies are set in New York City. They make us laugh, but we continually have to point out their fakeness. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is set in, well, Brooklyn, but it’s actually shot on a Hollywood stage. And you can tell. Jerry and his friends on Seinfeld often go outside, like to buy muffin tops, but it’s no secret that even the street is on a lot. Sex and the City almost gets it right by shooting exterior scenes around New York City, but most interiors were shot in Silvercup Studios in Long Island City. The lighting is sometimes off, or the exteriors actually look as if they belong on Universal Studios Hollywood.
But even more fake is the NY area apartments that belong to our favorite characters. Roomi, an apartment hunting app, calculated the cost of rent for the apartments our favorite friends live in, and came to the conclusion that none of them would be able to afford them. Carrie has an amazing walk-in, walk-through closet and lives in posh UES despite working in a profession that is notorious for being low paying. Does being a masseuse pay well? We think not, but Phoebe must think so, as that is what she does for a living while residing in a bright, roomy apartment that has beautiful white wood paneling. And Jack McFarland? He’s just a sales clerk, and we know that job pays so close to the bottom that you wonder why you show up at all. And yet he lives in a studio in a classy, high-end West End Avenue building, so he must also be selling Adderall on the side to tenth-grade Collegiate students, which is conveniently right down the street. You never know, you know. We mean, how realistic is it that all these New York apartments on our favorite shows are occupied by those who really can’t afford them? Take a look at our listicle and find out why.
In the hit TV comedy Friends, the character Monica and Rachel live in Monica’s grandmother’s rent-controlled sublet. Monica always had a successful job during each season in the hospitality industry where she eventually became chef at her own restaurant. But Rachel was slow to start, working her way up from waitress at Central Perk to a buyer and personal shopper at Bloomingdale’s and finally as an exec at Ralph Lauren. If Monica shouldered the burden of the rent, and the real life cost of the apartment was $4,500 per month, according to the Washington Post, she would not be able to afford anything else. Of course this is unrealistic, but even more unrealistic is the spaciousness of the apartment, which has two-bedrooms, a huge living room and a “deck” that you had to get to by going through the window. It gets even more improbable when you factor in that the apartment is located on 90 Bedford Street, a sought-after street in trendy West Village known for its stately brownstones and its idyllic and cozy cafes and its top restaurants.
SEX AND THE CITY (1998-2004)
In Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, lives on a floor in a well-maintained brownstone on a street lined with other nice brownstones on the Upper East Side. The show claimed that the cost or Carrie’s rent was $750 per month, which is incredulous as the studio, while not huge, has a walk-in, pass-through closet and a roomy living room. The real-life cost of the apartment is said to be around $2,800 per month. Carrie is a columnist throughout the show, which means she would never be able to afford her rent. And yet she is always seen shopping for Manolo Blahniks and designer outfits that are prohibitively expensive, as well as going out a lot and having Cosmos with her friends. Near the end of the show, when she worked as a freelance writer at Vogue, she got 10 cents per word, which made it slightly more realistic that she lived on the Upper East Side, but if you factor in the cost of life, the rent and, above all, the health insurance that the freelancer has to buy and pay every month because she’s not an employee, then, well, forget about it.
2 BROKE GIRLS (2011-present)
A TV show called 2 Broke Girls is supposed to be about two broke girls. Which it is, in a way, as the characters Max and Caroline struggle each season just to get by. The two friends are waitresses in Brooklyn, and the coffee shop they work at is shabby and is usually depicted as only having two or three diners. Of course, this means Max and Caroline aren’t getting enough tips, which they supposedly live on. If they worked at a hip or popular restaurant in Manhattan, they would be able to afford their Williamsburg loft. For those who don’t know, Williamsburg is no longer up and coming, and it’s now an expensive place to live after its recent gentrification.
The calculated rent of the apartment is said to be $2,700 a month. It would be realistic if Chandler from Friends lived here because of his high-paying IT job, as the rental, while not opulent, is spacious, with one of those huge living rooms that comedy characters have while living in New York rentals. The apartment is so roomy that it even comes with yard space for a real-life horse named Chestnut. A YARD! In the hippest town in Brooklyn! The two roommates would never be able to afford a horse after you calculate feeding it, cleaning it and caring for it. Having a horse, in short, is expensive while their lives continually show them to be broke. So this is one of the most unrealistic shows currently on TV, as both friends would never be able to afford their rent.
This show is downright preposterous. Rachel and Kurt move to New York to attend the fictional New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts (NYADA) in New York City. It’s a TV trope that if a character is barely making it, he or she would live in a loft somewhere in Brooklyn, like Max and Caroline in 2 Broke Girls. First of all, a loft doesn’t mean cheap, and second, you can no longer live in Brooklyn if you are a student (Rachel) or an unpaid intern (Kurt) because it’s now an unaffordable place to live. But there it is, a huge loft that Rachel and Kurt share, where other characters all the way from Ohio stop by to sleep over or to stay awhile. They ride bicycles throughout the loft, and they practice impromptu musical numbers where space is not an issue to dance around all over. Plus, they eat pizza by candlelight while sitting on the floor because that’s what starving artists eat. All because this damn loft has SO MUCH ROOM! Kurt must be a gigolo on the side and Rachel must be a hooker if they are affording a place that has a suggested rent of $1800 a month. But no, they make nothing! And sure, hanging a sheet on a wall suggests that you’re not really making it, but whatever.
The show about nothing has a whole lot of something. We’re talking about Jerry Seinfeld’s Upper West Side one-bedroom apartment on Seinfeld, which, once again, features a spacious living room. According to the Washington Post, a one bedroom in 1993 would cost you $1,550 per month or, later on in the show, about $2,600 per month. Jerry is a comedian on the show, and while he’s successful, his rent is beyond his means. The Upper West Side, which is far from chic and is where you can wear anything you want and go unnoticed. This is where families flock to, especially Jewish ones, perhaps because it’s home to Zabar’s, which is famous for its smoked salmon. But don’t let that fool you. Beautiful apartments line West End Avenue, cross streets are home to well-kept brownstones, and Riverside Drive, known for being home to Columbia professors, is often said that this is the stretch where homeowners are employed in academia, not just at Columbia but also at many other schools in nearby Morningside Heights and Harlem. So you have to be paid well, as these homes range in the $800,000 for a one-bedroom if you bought one. As for renting a one-bedroom, as Jerry does, forget about it. It’s very hard to find rentals here, and if you do, you’ll be paying through your teeth.
Hannah Horvath on Girls lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. And get this, Hannah is always struggling. She notes on the show that, as a freelance writer, she will make less than $24,000 a year. If the estimated rent in real life costs between $2,200 to $3,000 a month, Hannah would be living inside a dumpster. Literally. For all its realism, Girls is also a show, like many above, that doesn’t get everything right. For a soon-to-be single mother, what is she going to do, steal Pampers from Gristede’s? Even with Elijah as a roommate, nothing adds up.
Oh, and then, on the penultimate episode, Hannah, seemingly out of nowhere, gets a full-time job. As a teacher. Because, you know, as a freelance writer, she would naturally know how to teach. Can you say unbelievable?