It’s easy to think that it doesn’t take much to spot which TV shows were expensive to make. Common sense dictates that the massive epic fantasies must take a huge budget to produce, so the shows more grounded in reality are probably cheaper to make—right?
While this is solid logic, it actually isn’t always true. Sure, some of the TV shows that were super expensive to make are easy to point out, but some on this list are actually pretty surprising and will definitely give you pause as you wonder why they were so expensive!
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Some even started out reasonably and, as their popularity grew, so did their budget.
10 Game of Thrones
Let’s start with the obvious.
With its massive landscapes, different worlds and locations, and array of huge actors and actresses starring in the show, it’s not hard to imagine what eats up the finances over at HBO. Game Of Thrones even has dragons—if there’s something expensive that a show could possibly have, this one has it covered.
Therefore, it’s unsurprising that this show eats up about $15 million per episode. But HBO can afford it—this show’s success has been amazing and with the final season coming around next year, it’s sure to have the most epic episodes yet.
It seems more than surprising, actually. With its small, cheap set and its far from outlandish scripts and locations, it seems weird that Friends is one of the most expensive television shows of all time to produce. But, as you can imagine, it wasn’t the set or the special effects that ate up so much of that budget. As the show grew in popularity, so did its six stars, and they eventually began to need way higher salaries than what they had started out on. Most of that $10 million went directly in their pocket.
Lost may have been a terribly confusing show, but it really sucked its viewers in. The show had a huge cast, most of them popular actors or actresses, and it showcased their lives after crashing on a desert island. It wasn’t very grounded in real life though, and often required special effects, since the survivors would encounter strange creatures or happenings and eventually even traveled through time.
Even the pilot of this show reportedly cost $14 million to produce, which was a huge risk and very high compared to the average. I wonder what would have happened if it hadn’t taken off?
7 House Of Cards
House Of Cards was already an expensive show to film—and when Netflix cut ties with Kevin Spacey, it became even more so. Season six had already filmed two episodes and this cutting of ties required them to be scrapped, scripts to be rewritten, everything to be redone. And yet, Netflix was completely willing to take the hit and take a stand—though they did have to reduce their originally intended thirteen episodes to a mere six, to save them tens of millions of dollars that surely would have been the price of keeping the season as long as originally intended.
Camelot was a show from Starz that only lasted one season. Starring amazing actors such as Jamie Campbell-Bower and Eva Green, it was set up to be amazing but, due to scheduling conflicts, had to be canceled.
And Starz truly must have expected it to be a success since they reportedly spent $7 million on each episode. Quite a huge amount, especially for Starz—and maybe if those scheduling conflicts hadn’t happened, the money would have paid off and it would have been really successful. It put an enjoyable twist on the legend and it was kind of sad to see it canceled.
5 Band Of Brothers
Band Of Brothers was an American war drama miniseries that was also super expensive to film. It was originally broadcast by HBO, who have now got quite the legacy of expensive TV shows behind them—and with a cast like this show had, it’s no wonder that it was expensive to produce. It won Emmy and Golden Globe awards though, so it seems like the money that was put into this show was pretty worth it.
They apparently spent months developing the plot of this show too, so it wasn’t just money that went into making it so great. This show had a lot invested in it in many ways.
Sense8 had such a high production cost that Netflix actually canceled it, saying that it didn’t have a strong enough viewership to support the high production cost.
Which is kind of weird—the show seemed to have a wide, strong fanbase, but apparently it wasn’t enough. Either the show really did cost a ridiculous amount of money to produce or the fanbase was vocal enough to make itself seem larger than it actually was.
Luckily, Netflix did actually do a special to wrap up the storylines after they axed the show, due to fans being desperately unhappy with the decision.
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3 The Crown
Following the story of British royalty, it luckily gained enough of a universal audience to support that cost. It gained a loyal fanbase, which is fortunate—that would have been a lot of wasted money had the series failed. Netflix seem to know what they’re doing by this point though, and the show is actually thriving and has benefitted them pretty decently. Phew.
Still, that number is almost an incomprehensible amount, but when you consider the cast and costumes—it makes sense.
2 Marco Polo
Marco Polo was another Netflix venture canceled quite quickly because if its high production cost. It was the first Netflix original not to be renewed for a third season, and was apparently responsible for a $200 million loss.
But the second season was announced pretty quietly, so maybe not enough was put into the advertising?
It makes sense that it was so expensive though, more so for the locations and effects than the cast this time, unlike most of the other shows listed here. It was also a very enjoyable series while it lasted which, sadly, was not for too long.
I remember ER. When I was a kid, it was my parents’ favorite show, so it was constantly on in the background and the theme song sticks in my head even now. But I would never have guessed it had such a high production cost that it is one of the most expensive TV shows ever.
It’s similar to Friends in that it didn’t necessarily start out expensive but that’s where it went after it gained a lot of popularity. Which is a hazard of a TV show gaining traction I guess, though not something I really tended to think about before.