10 of the Most Expensive TV Shows Ever Made

Doona Bae stars in in Sense8
Doona Bae stars in in Sense8
Murray Close, Netflix

Since the inception of the medium, television has always been seen as a cheaper yet more marketable alternative to film. But that doesn't mean it’s cheap to produce—not by a long shot. Some of the most beloved series in television history have had massive budgets (and, surprisingly, so have some of the worst).

It was recently announced that Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars show would have a budget of $100 million for the first season alone. While this certainly demonstrates Disney's faith in the project, it also makes the show, which is still in the early stages of pre-production, one of the most expensive series ever produced for television. Here are 10 other series that share that descriptor.

1. GAME OF THRONES

Budget: $15 million per episode


HBO

Come on, you knew HBO's smash fantasy epic was going to top this list. Virtually everything is shot in exotic locations, it costs a lot to make those dragons look realistic, and actors who weren't household names in the show's beginning certainly are now (and command a higher salary because of it). For the series' upcoming final season, each episode is scheduled to cost around a whopping $15 million.

2. THE CROWN

Budget: $13 million per episode

In an effort to keep growing its original programming catalog, Netflix is currently planning to take on an additional $2 billion in debt. But the company isn't likely to fold anytime in the near future, in no small part because of shows like The Crown. The series' dedication to getting history just right (producers paid $35,000 to recreate Queen Elizabeth II's wedding dress for the first episode) doesn't come cheap: all those elaborate period costumes and lavish locations cost about $13 million per episode.

3. ER

Budget: $13 million per episode


Getty Images

There was a time when ER—the NBC medical drama that turned George Clooney into a household name—was an absolute cultural force. (Quentin Tarantino even directed an episode.) The series hit its peak between 1998 and 2003, when NBC seemed happy to essentially hand producers a blank check. Between its massive cast of up-and-coming stars and slightly-above-average production costs, each episode was budgeted at around $13 million.

4. BAND OF BROTHERS

Budget: $12.5 million per episode

It’s probably not surprising to anyone who has ever seen Band of Brothers, HBO’s 2001 miniseries about “Easy Company” of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, that it was insanely expensive to make. With Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks among its producers, the miniseries was shot on location, had a massive cast, featured period-accurate costumes and sets, and had explosive action sequences—all of which added up to a cost of a cool $12.5 million per episode.

5. THE GET DOWN

Budget: $11 million per episode

Justice Smith in The Get Down
Netflix

Netflix's whole business model is based on its appeal to niche audiences, which can be remarkably successful or an unmitigated disaster. Unfortunately, Baz Luhrmann's passion project The Get Down was the latter. Costing Netflix a reported $120 million for a single season, the show was built on elaborate sets and had to pay out exorbitant fees for the rights to classic R&B and funk songs. It was intended to have a second part, but Netflix canceled it after no immediate return was seen.

6. FRIENDS

Budget: $10 million per episode

By the end of its run, Friends had become a generation-defining show—and its cast knew it. All six of the series’ main stars were making north of $1 million per episode in the final seasons, and while NBC tried to keep shooting costs to a minimum, it still added up to about $10 million per episode.

7. THE BIG BANG THEORY

Budget: $9 million per episode

A still from the CBS series 'The Big Bang Theory.'
CBS Entertainment

While it was once a run-of-the-mill, vaguely-offensive-to-nerds sitcom, The Big Bang Theory has become a record-breaking hit for CBS—so much so that the seven main cast members renegotiated their contracts a few years back and are now making between $750,000 and $1 million per episode. Add that to shooting costs, the show's numerous celebrity cameos, and the royalty fee they pay to Barenaked Ladies for the theme song, and the show ends up costing around $9 million for 25 minutes of airtime.

8. MARCO POLO

Budget: $9 million per episode

Netflix had high hopes for Marco Polo, an epic historical drama that traced the early years of its titular merchant/explorer. The show debuted in December 2014 with a $90 million budget for its first 10 episodes. Just a few weeks later, Netflix happily renewed the series for a second season with the same basic budget, which ultimately ended up being its last. The series is best known for leaving the streaming giant $200 million in debt.

9. ROME

Budget: $9 million per episode

A still from 'Rome'
HBO

In a way, one can almost blame Rome—John Milius, William J. MacDonald, and Bruno Heller’s historical drama about two Roman soldiers who regularly become entangled in real-life historical events—for Netflix’s big gamble on Marco Polo. But its initial success is also regularly cited as the reason we have shows like Game of Thrones. Though Rome's first season was popular enough to justify its $9 million per episode budget, ratings took a dive in season two, which ended up being its last.

10. SENSE8

Budget: $9 million per episode

It might be the most successful thing the Wachowskis have made since The Matrix, but Netflix still had to cancel this sci-fi sleeper hit because it was costing them a healthy $9 million per episode. Apparently, the Wachowskis insisted on filming everything on location, meaning they had to pay for long-term filming permits in nine different metropolitan areas around the world.

Harry Potter Fans Are Waiting 10 Hours or More to Ride Hagrid’s Roller Coaster

Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando

Muggles will do anything to be a part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Orlando opened up its newest ride this week at its version of Hogsmeade, the village that surrounds Hogwarts castle. Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure takes wannabe wizards and witches on a twisting, high-speed flight through the mystical Forbidden Forest.

Diehard fans began waiting overnight outside the park in anticipation of the ride, and it looks like just about everyone had the same idea. At 8:30 a.m. on opening day, the line was already eight hours long, and quickly stretched to 10 hours long by 10:30 a.m., CNN reports.

The line is worth the wait for many fans of the franchise. As Potterheads already know, Rubeus Hagrid, beloved friend of Harry Potter and the gang, has a special affinity for mysterious creatures. So who better to see the beasts of the forest with than the half-giant?

Participants on the ride can choose to sit in Hagrid’s sidecar or in the driver’s seat. The winding track includes appearances by some of our favorite wizards, like Arthur Weasley, and creatures benevolent and otherwise, such as Cornish pixies, massive spiders, and the three-headed dog, Fluffy.

Fans aren’t the only ones wanting to experience the ride. Some of the stars of the film series had a little reunion in Orlando this week to celebrate the opening, including Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood).

Unlike the fans, however, they have magic (fame) to keep them from having to wait in 10-hour lines.

Happy riding, Potterheads!

[h/t CNN]

Chernobyl Creator Craig Mazin Urges Visitors to Treat the Exclusion Zone With Respect

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Following the success of the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, one tour company reported that bookings to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone located in Ukraine rose 35 percent. Now, series creator Craig Mazin is imploring the new wave of tourists to be respectful when snapping selfies at Chernobyl, Gizmodo reports.

A 2500-square-kilometer exclusion zone was established around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant shortly after its reactor exploded in 1986 and flooded the area with harmful radiation. The abandoned towns are still too radioactive for people to live there safely, but they have been deemed safe to visit temporarily with the supervision of a guide.

Chernobyl has supported a dark tourism industry for years, but thanks to the miniseries, photographs taken there are gaining new levels of attention online. News of influencers posing for irreverent selfies at the site of the nuclear disaster quickly went viral. Mazin tweeted:

Regardless of why people are visiting the site, being respectful in the presence of tragedy is always a good idea. It's also smart to resist leaving a tour group to snap the perfect selfie in some abandoned building: Tour companies warn that breaking rules and wandering off approved paths can lead to dangerous radiation exposure.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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