People who grew up basking in TV’s warm, glowing warming glow have suspected for years that their own families simply do not measure up to the Cleavers, Bradys, Huxtables, Cunninghams, Tanners, etc. And now, depressingly, there is statistical evidence to prove it. As part of its Uphill Both Ways blog, DadGifts.com has compiled census and other data to compare the socioeconomic achievements of television dads to those oft-disappointing real life ones upon whom they’re supposedly based. Breaking down its findings by decade, this informal study covers 68 different TV families from the 1950s (Make Room For Daddy) to the 2000s (Malcolm In The Middle). The results say a lot about the way pop culture alternately reflects and fails to reflect the lives of those in the audience.
Do viewers truly want to see themselves on the TV screen, or would they prefer that sitcoms provide an escape—even a subtle one—from day-to-day reality? The survey’s findings tilt slightly toward the latter. Median incomes for dads have increased both in the real world and the small screen, for example, but TV dads are increasingly outpacing their flesh-and-blood counterparts when it comes to earning power. Fictional fathers were clearing north of $100,000 a year in the new millennium, while real ones weren’t even bringing home a lousy $60,000. Granted, this figure might have been skewed just a tad by including Arrested Development’s Michael Bluth, who was pulling down an impressive $643,000 as a charmingly flustered CEO. TV dads also have larger houses than real ones, the survey finds, but this could be the result of having to accommodate camera crews and live studio audiences.