IF YOU WANT to know the main difference between the real world and the world of the TV sitcom, it's this: Only on sitcoms is the schlumpy fat guy married to the major babe.
Naturally, we saw this phenomenon again the other night with the debut of the dopey CBS sitcom Still Standing, with Mark Addy and Jami Gertz playing married couple Bill and Judy Miller.
Putting it as kindly as possible, Bill Miller has a potato for a face and the kind of build that suggests he starts each day with, oh, a dozen eclairs.
Meanwhile, Judy Miller is your basic knockout, your basic va-va-va-voom.
Judy Miller walks into a restaurant, every guy starts dribbling soup down his shirt.
But we're supposed to believe Judy watches Bill shuffle into the kitchen every day with his big gut spilling over his boxers and thinks: "My God, it's my own Pierce Brosnan!"
Of course, schlumpy fat-guy husbands and babe wives are nothing new to sitcoms.
This kind of thing goes back at least to the '50s and The Honeymooners, in which Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows played Ralph and Alice Kramden, a coupling that could have taken place in the real world only if someone held a gun to Alice's head and said: "Marry fatso over there or we plug you."
Of course, there's also a history of schlumpy skinny guys married to major babes in sitcoms.
Think of The Bob Newhart Show in the '70s, where Newhart played a pasty-faced, mild-mannered psychologist with a receding hairline named Bob Hartley married to a character played by the gorgeous Suzanne Pleshette.
Sure. Happens all the time.
But this season, schlumpy fat guys married to major babes are again prominent in sitcoms.
Now you've got CBS' The King of Queens, where Kevin James, a flabby guy with three chins and the face of a parcel deliveryman, plays lovable parcel deliveryman Doug Heffernan, whose wife Carrie (Leah Remini) looks like she belongs on a fashion runway.
Now you've got CBS' Yes, Dear where moon-faced, rumpled Mike O'Malley plays lovable and opinionated Jimmy Hughes, with a wife played by a woman (Liza Snyder) who - this is all you need to know - previously guest-starred in the series Sirens.
Now you've got ABC's According to Jim, with beefy Jim Belushi cast as this big, lovable, beer-swilling mope who's a dad and a contractor and plays in a garage blues band and who, um, y'know, just happens to be married to a woman who looks like she stepped out of the official coronation photo for the Princess of Monaco.
But somehow these two lovebirds, the hangdog Jim and the beauteous Cheryl, make it work.
In fact, here's a line from an ABC According to Jim promo that shows exactly how they make it work: "Cheryl gave up dating corporate guys for life with a simpler man who makes her laugh. She's champagne and strawberries to Jim's beer nuts and bratwurst - but they're in love."
Sure, I ... I guess that sounds plausible.
It's just that, well, the idea of a schlumpy fat guy married to a babe defies all the laws of human nature and natural selection of the species. In real life, schlumpy fat guys not only don't marry babes, they don't even date them.
In fact, not only don't they date them, they don't even get to talk to them.
It's a sad, cruel fact of life and one that can first be observed in the teeming halls of middle school, where chubby, schlumpy, hormone-addled sixth-graders with braces chat up budding Britney Spears lookalikes, only to be met with withering stares and the conversational equivalent of a knee to the groin.
By the time these chubsters get to high school, they've been beaten over the head for years with the same message: It's Biff, the tall, handsome, sandy-haired quarterback of the football team who gets the babes. All others need not apply.
Of course, even in real life, there is one exception to the schlumpy-fat-guys-don't-marry-babes dictum. And that exception is this: If the schlumpy fat guy is filthy rich, he gets to marry whomever he wants.
Still, it's hard to see how this applies to the sitcoms we're talking about.
I mean, the main characters are all supposed to be working-class guys, or middle-class at best. So we can assume Bill Miller didn't show up in a Ferragamo suit and a Ferrari for his first date with Judy, and dazzle her for months with his wealth - his yacht and penthouse apartment and all the rest - until she agreed to tie the knot.
Gosh, you don't suppose she married him for love, do you?
Hey, it is a sitcom, after all.