At a time where there are more television shows to watch than ever before, you wouldn’t expect production to be so costly — but six of the 10 most expensive television series of all time were filmed in the past five years.
The other four finished filming between 2001 and 2010, when TV-watching peaked, according to Nielsen data.
Big-budget items for these shows include star-studded casts and intricate period-piece set decor. The channels behind these shows are mostly premium content providers like HBO and Netflix, but a couple of network television channels appear on the list.
According to independent research from Stacker based on reporting from news and entertainment outlets, here are the ten most expensive television series ever filmed.
10. “The Big Bang Theory” (2007 to 2019)
The CBS show became such a success over its 12-year streak that original cast members Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco nearly doubled their salaries. It’s no surprise the show cost $9 million per episode to make at the end of its run, according to Variety.
6. (Tie) “Rome” (2005 to 2007)
BBC and HBO’s recreation of the soldiers that fought for the Roman Republic during the days of Cleopatra required payment for hundreds of extras, detailed costumes and intense set designs. The show ended after only two seasons — and each episode cost $10 million to make.
6. (Tie) “Westworld” (2016 to present)
In order to create a world where the rich are free to fulfill their most extravagant desires, HBO has spent about $10 million per episode. The 90-minute pilot cost $25 million to produce alone, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
6. (Tie) “Game of Thrones” (2011 to 2019)
HBO’s most-watched show of all time is renowned for its costumes, set design and talent, all of which cost about $10 million per episode. The fantasy drama lasted eight seasons.
6. (Tie) “Friends” (1994 to 2004)
As NBC wrapped up the final season of “Friends,” members of the iconic cast were all interested in pursuing other projects, so keeping them on board cost around $10 million per episode. According to Business Insider, the six titular friends earn approximately $20 million each, annually, through syndication and streaming contracts.
5. “The Get Down” (2016 to 2017)
With a budget of $11 million per episode, this short-lived Netflix show spent quite a chunk of change recreating the 1970s in New York City at the time disco began to die and hip-hop rose up in its place. Buying the rights to a number of R&B and funk songs used in the series wasn’t cheap, either.
4. “Band of Brothers” (2001)
The star-studded HBO miniseries involved period costumes, out-of-country filming locations and was produced by superstars Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Known for its acclaimed D-Day realism, the World War II show cost more than $125 million to produce, or $12.5 million per episode, which was completely unheard of at the time.
2. (Tie) “The Crown” (2016 to present)
The cost of a recreation of Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding dress was $37,000 alone — now imagine how much it cost to create the 7,000 costumes and the life-sized replica of Buckingham Palace integral to the set of the series. With a budget of $13 million per episode, “The Crown” is Netflix’s most expensive show to date.
2. (Tie) “ER” (1994 to 2009)
The NBC show didn’t start as a huge investment, but as the show went on, stars George Clooney and Julianna Marguiles became massive successes. As they grew more famous, the budget for the 15-season show grew, and eventually peaked at $13 million per episode.
1. “The Pacific” (2010)
Following the success of “Band of Brothers,” Spielberg’s series cost a whopping $21.7 million per episode, and most of the money went toward recreating historically accurate battle scenes for this HBO miniseries, also based in World War II. According to the “Hollywood Reporter“, a single scene required 300 actors to stay on an Australian beach for four days and cost $5 million. With all of its intricacies and complex set design, it’s no wonder “The Pacific” is the most expensive TV show of all time.
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