Richest Sitcom Characters
What Makes the World Go Around
Having Money Can Be Funny
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway were once alleged to have had a conversation about the rich.
Fitzgerald supposedly pointed out that the “rich” were quite different than others to which Hemingway was said to have responded that the difference was due to their “having more money.”
Regardless of anyone’s thoughts on wealth, most will agree that having more money sets people apart to an extent, if only financially.
That difference creates a source of a near sub-genre that has been heavily mined for drama.
Comedy has also made use of the source though, arguably, to a lesser extent.
Nonetheless, in doing so, situation comedy has created some memorable wealthy folks.
Here, in no ranked order, are the richest sitcoms characters:
The Whimsical Billionaire
Character: Gomez Addams Actor: John Astin Show: The Addams Family
Much of the focus towards the family was about how creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky they were. One thing that was often overlooked was that Gomez Adams patriarch was filthy rich.
He was believed to have built his monetary fortune by a mix of inheritance and highly profitable business endeavors.
Despite his success, actual money seemingly meant nothing to except it enabled him to indulge in whatever whimsy compelled him at any given moment and he had loads of whimsy. Such is not the sort of thing available to a person with meager to respectable fiscal resources.
The only attribute stronger than his vast amounts of money was his passion for life. He lived large. For him, there was no other way.
The Order of the Day Is Fun
What's a Millionaire?
Character: Jed Clampett Actor: Buddy Ebsen Show: Beverly Hillbillies
Jed was completely sincere and without a hint of pretense, two extremely endearing traits.
For the most part, money didn’t interest him.
The idea to leave the reclusive, hand-to-mouth mountain life for the almost vulgar, audacious trappings of Beverly Hills was not his.
He gave into the notion because it was thought his beloved daughter, Ellie Mae, would stand a better chance of finding a suitable “feller.”
Old Jed just as soon preferred the quiet life, tending to the chores, doing a bit of whittling and hanging out with his ancient canine pal, Duke.
Swimming Pools, Movie Stars...
Thurston Howell III
Character: Thurston Howell III Actor: Jim Backus Show: Gilligan’s Island
Howell was old money, hailing from New England and speaking with a distinctive “Locust Valley Lockjaw” accent, which was all but mandatory to demonstrate his class and breeding.
Despite his upper class rearing and style, he affected a certain clueless air that didn’t do him any favors on the island. For example, he went on a three hour tour (a three hour tour) carrying a small fortune in cash and several changes of clothes. Little good it did him.
Aside from his ingrained charm, his single most admirable attribute was his general fondness for his beloved wife, whom he called “Lovey.”
For a man of his generation and means, women were often mere accoutrements.
Not so for good old Thurston. He genuinely loved his missus.
An Ethical Thing to Do
Dr. Charles Winchester
He Got On The Wrong Side of Everyone
Character: Dr. Charles Winchester Actors: David Ogden Stiers Show: M.A.S.H.
Like Thurston Howell, Dr. Winchester, was a northeastern “Blue Blood,” having graduated from “Haa-Vaadd” Medical School.
His original assignment to the 4077th Surgical Outpost Unit in Korea was supposed to be temporary.
Soon after his reluctant arrival, and to his horrified astonishment, he learned that the assignment was permanent.
Despite his upper crust affectations being the source of much mockery among his colleagues, Winchester, to his credit, eventually learned to fit in without sacrificing his considerable character traits.
To be sure, however much the horrors of war may have taken out of him, with his dear daddy’s help, he would never want for anything.
Eight Ball in the Wrong Pocket
To The East Side
Character: George Jefferson Actor: Sherman Hemsley Show: The Jeffersons
The measure of George Jefferson’s achievements, though quite incredible, weren’t as impressive as what he overcame to become a success.
While his chain of dry-cleaning stores throughout the metropolitan New York City area was awesome, it should be noted his father passed away when he was a child. Because he had to care for his mother, he was unable to finish high school.
Further, he managed to escape the ultra-modest, soul crushing environs of the original family trade, that of sharecropping in rural Alabama. It was the paltry insurance settlement that he received from a car accident that seeded his first Jefferson Cleaners store.
While he was famous for his combative, ready to argue at-the-drop-of-a hat demeanor, it was thanks to his struggle towards economic success that, in large part, shaped his mindset.
Not Content To Be Rich
Character: Jimmy James Actor: Stephen Root Show: Newsradio
If eccentricities were counted as money, Jimmy James would be even wealthier than his insanely huge fortune.
Not content to enjoy the economic privileges that are due a billionaire, Mr. James needed a taste for adventure to whet his appetite for excitement. Or perhaps he was more of a raconteur whose desire to tell a good story transcended the boundaries of such trivialities of truth and actual reality.
Among his whopper-sized tales were his contention that he served as “Deep Throat” in the Watergate investigation and the possibility that he was the elusive D.B. Cooper.
A World-Class Negotiator
Character: J. Peterman Actor: John O’Hurley Show: Seinfeld
Sure, J. Peterman was the owner of a highly successful catalog clothing company. For the most part, he seemed to set himself apart as though he were from another planet…perhaps a planet of his own mind…population one: himself.
It set the high, nearly impossible character standards for others and, as a result, made it difficult for him to relate. Perhaps that was why he seemingly had no friends outside of his business.
It also made it difficult for him to understand the outside world.
Still, despite his eccentricities, he was, mindset-wise, exactly where he needed to be for his business to function.
Style Is Everything
A Man In Interesting Times
Character: Philip Banks Actor: James Avery Show: Fresh Prince of Bel Air
A successful attorney turned judge, “Uncle Phil” had a long, difficult road to his obvious wealth.
Hailing from the difficult environs of West Philadelphia to Harvard Law School to Bel Air was a brutal path and he seemed a bit hardened by his considerable experience.
While his position as judge did little for his wealth, he seeming earned the big money as a senior partner for a law firm while in private practice.
His world view was heavily influenced by witnessing and/or participating in many of the significant civil rights events of his youth.
With His Campaign Manager
Sure, He Was Handsome But...
Character: Walden Schmidt Actor: Ashton Kutcher Show: Two and a half Men
Despite being a billionaire software entrepreneur, Walden Schmidt was the poster man child for the notion that money cannot buy one love.
His vast financial wealth coupled with his considerable good looks did little to shape him for having a successful relationship with a woman. That’s not to say he didn’t have an impressive array of lady would-be partners.
Sometimes he appeared to be too needy. Other times he was simply too eccentric.
Such are the particulars of a predicament we all should face…if only for a little while.
Character: Jay Pritchett Actor: Ed O’Neill Show: Modern Family
Jay Pritchett is a self-made man who seems to be, in his later years, trying to enjoy the things he missed out on while being a part of his original family.
He is far more dutiful and involved with his current family, which includes his vivacious wife, Gloria and his stepson Manny. Jay and Gloria also have a son of their own, little Joe.
Despite being in a position where his company, which manufactures blinds and shutters, doesn’t take up anywhere near as much time as it used to, Jay is from another generation and regularly struggles with the rapidly-changing world around him.
The one thing that does change is Jay being a pragmatic man’s man. It simply is at the core of his personality.