The Carrington family on the Netflix drama
is rich. Like, really rich. So rich that Steven (James Mackay) doesn’t realise when someone snatches a wad of hundred-dollar bills from his pocket, and his sister, Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies), travels in a private jet as casually as you’d get into a car. Their Atlanta mansion is so sprawling it barely fits in the camera frame.
Observing the show’s lavish interiors and couture garments worn as loungewear, I realised that
Dynasty satisfies an itch I barely knew I had: seeing outrageous displays of wealth on TV. What makes the (fictional) super rich such intriguing figures for me, I wondered? Do I like to watch them scheme, so that I can feel morally superior? Am I fascinated with a life lacking in financial limitations? Or, like a magpie, do I just find shiny objects irresistible?
I’m probably not the only one who has binge-watched
Millionaire Matchmaker with a mixture of disgust, fascination and glee. For more of that feeling, watch these shows about wealthy families.
Photo: Courtesy of PBS.
(2002) The Forsyte Saga How Rich Are They? This British miniseries will appeal to anyone who likes their extravagantly wealthy families to spend their days attending Victorian-era balls and discussing annual allowances. Since the Forstye family doesn't have to worry about money, the show focuses instead on the love interests of three generations of Forsytes, who have fabulous names like Soames, Bosinney and old Jolyon.
20th Century Fox Television/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
(2003-present) Arrested Development How Rich Are They? The Bluth family's real estate empire has endowed them with a massive fortune. Forbes estimates the manipulative matriarch, Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter), to be in possession of a $950 million net worth. At one point, she wanders around her apartment and lifts up possessions, only to find her kids have labelled each one with their names. But all isn't well in the Bluth's California estates. When George Bluth, Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) is arrested for fraud, the Bluth Company's assets are frozen. Since his family members are dysfunctional beyond belief, the responsibility of saving the company falls to Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman).
How Rich Are They?
Let's just say that New York's financially restrictive cost of living doesn't pose a problem for Serena Van Der Woodsen (Blake Lively) and Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), the
show's main characters.
The high schoolers on the show are born into wealth, and start meddling in their fortunes early. In Season 3, for example, Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) fights with his uncle for control over the family empire.
Contrasted with the batch of privileged Manhattanites are Dan (Penn Badgley) and Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen), who we're supposed to believe are ostracised for living in Brooklyn. They're the show's "poor-ish" — emphasis on the "ish" — outsiders.
How Rich Are They:
Lord Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville in the show, secured a spot on
’ Fictional 15, a compilation of the richest fictional characters.
Forbes estimates his net worth
at $1.1 billion, an amount he inherited at birth. How convenient.
highlights the stark divide between Britain’s gentry and the working class. On one end, we have the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), so far removed from the rhythms of a typical life that she genuinely asks,
“What is a weekend?”
On the other, we have John Bates (Brendan Coyle), who struggles to complete his butler duties with a terrible limp he sustained in the Boer War. All the characters live on an estate so sprawling and complex that it functions like a small country, with its own rules and customs.
(2011-2015) Revenge How Rich Are They? The Graysons are as rich as they are amoral, which is to say — very. The Grayson family live in a cloistered, privileged Hamptons bubble, and spend their $20 billion net worth creatively. Conrad (Henry Czerny) runs a vaguely villainesque business conglomerate called Grayson Global, and his wife, Victoria (Madeline Stowe), spends her days being generally evil. Enter Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp), whose father was sent to jail years ago, thanks to the Graysons. Disguised as a fellow one percenter, Emily makes it her mission to take them down spectacularly. And it sure is spectacular to watch.
How Rich Are They?
If you ever wanted a glimpse of how the
's your best bet. In their universe, the Lyon family is most certainly the first family of hip-hop. Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) does it all. He's a rapper, record producer, CEO of Empire Entertainment, nightclub owner, and the founder of a champagne label and line of shoes.
estimates that he's worth about $630 million.
, Lucious' ex-wife, has just as strong a business sense as he does, and is ready to fight for her share of the company and fortune.
(2016-present) The Crown How Rich Are They? Even as their power over the government has declined, the British royal family has continued to be in possession of a vast fortune. Queen Elizabeth currently has a personal net worth of about £420 million. The royals don’t just spend money on The Crown. The royals have palace funds lavished on them, so they can fulfil their duties. For example, Elizabeth sets off on a world tour with a different hand-crafted gown each day, designed to reflect the country’s styles. The royal family’s wealth is never directly addressed in The Crown (how crass to talk about money!), but nonetheless holds incredible importance. For example, Princess Margaret at one point is poised to choose between her status and money, and her love for a divorced commoner, and the exiled Edward VIII is on the palace payroll to maintain his lifestyle.
How Rich Are They? Billions
is set apart from some of the other extreme, soapy shows on this list for its allegedly accurate portrayal of modern wealth.
Salon described Billions
as "the rare show that understands the rich." According to a
, billionaires have sent personal letters to the shows' creators praising the series.
Bobby "Axe" Axelrod (Damian Lewis) is a hedge fund manager who's so rich that, unlike characters on
, he abstains from showing off his money. He signs contracts in jeans and a T-shirt, not suits. Emma Spence, who worked for a superyacht broker, told
that Axe's portrayal is "spot on. Most of the super-rich I have dealt with wear Hawaiian shirts and cargo pants. You’re at the top of your game: you don’t need to display your wealth because your reputation precedes you.”
(2017) Big Little Lies How Rich Are They? Rich enough to make Big Little Lies the best show about interior design off of the HGTV channel. The main characters in Big Little Lies are in a variety of financial situations. Aside from Jane (Shailene Woodley), though, they're all very wealthy, and live in sprawling, well-located houses. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Celeste (Nicole Kidman) go running on the beach, which is quite literally located in their backyards. No house quite compares to CEO Renata's (Laura Dern) modern mansion, though, with its white furniture, tall windows, and prime views of purple-hued sunsets.
(original 1981-1986, reboot 2017-present) Dynasty How Rich Are They? Insanely rich. Blake Carrington (Grant Show) is the head of the energy company Carrington Atlantic, and lives in a modern-day palace. His kids, Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies) and Steven (James Mackay), have responded to their wealth differently. Whereas Fallon schmoozes with other billionaires and hopes to inherit the company, Steven volunteers for liberal causes and tries to undermine Carrington Atlantic's fracking efforts. The Carringtons' butler is someone out of Downton Abbey; he has a different set of silverware for each type of occasion, and wrinkles his nose whenever his careful routine is crumpled by an outsider with notions of how things should be done. Cristal Flores (Nathalie Kelley), Blake's new fiancee, will have to navigate the Carringtons' wealth as well as their drama (and their butler) if she is to survive in the Carrington family.