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.

Watch Kit Harington Gag After Having to Kiss Emilia Clarke on Game of Thrones

HBO
HBO

The romance between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen might be heating up on Game of Thrones (though that could change once Jon shares the truth about his parentage), but offscreen, Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke's relationship is decidedly platonic. The two actors have gotten to be close friends over the past near-10 years of working together, which makes their love scenes rather awkward, according to Harington.

A new video from HBO offers a behind-the-scene peek at "Winterfell," the first episode of Game of Thrones's final season. At about the 12:20 mark, there's a segment on Jon and Dany's date with the dragons and what it took to create that scene. Included within that is footage of the two actors kissing against a green screen background, which would later be turned into a stunning waterfall. But when the scene cuts, Harington can be seen faking a gag at having to kiss the Mother of Dragons.

“Emilia and I had been best friends over a seven-year period and by the time we had to kiss it seemed really odd,” Harington told The Mirror, then went on to explain that Clarke's close relationship with Harington's wife, Rose Leslie, makes the intimate scenes even more bizarre. "Emilia, Rose, and I are good friends, so even though you’re actors and it’s your job, there’s an element of weirdness when the three of us are having dinner and we had a kissing scene that day."

As strange as it may be, Harington finally came around and admitted that, "I love Emilia and I’ve loved working with her. And it’s not hard to kiss her, is it?"

[h/t Wiki of Thrones]

11 Surprising Facts About Prince

BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images
BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

It was three years ago today that legendary, genre-bending rocker Prince died at the age of 57. In addition to being a musical pioneer, the Minneapolis native dabbled in filmmaking, most successfully with 1984’s Purple Rain. While most people know about the singer’s infamous name change, here are 10 things you might not have known about the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

1. His real name was Prince.

Born to two musical parents on June 7, 1958, Prince Rogers Nelson was named after his father's jazz combo.

2. He was a Jehovah's Witness.

Baptized in 2001, Prince was a devout Jehovah's Witness; he even went door-to-door. In October 2003, a woman in Eden Prairie, Minnesota opened her door to discover the famously shy artist and his bassist, former Sly and the Family Stone member Larry Graham, standing in front of her home. "My first thought is ‘Cool, cool, cool. He wants to use my house for a set. I’m glad! Demolish the whole thing! Start over!,'" the woman told The Star Tribune. "Then they start in on this Jehovah’s Witnesses stuff. I said, ‘You know what? You’ve walked into a Jewish household, and this is not something I’m interested in.’ He says, 'Can I just finish?' Then the other guy, Larry Graham, gets out his little Bible and starts reading scriptures about being Jewish and the land of Israel."

3. He wrote a lot of songs for other artists.

In addition to penning several hundred songs for himself, Prince also composed music for other artists, including "Manic Monday" for the Bangles, "I Feel For You" for Chaka Khan, and "Nothing Compares 2 U" for Sinéad O'Connor.

4. His symbol actually had a name.


Amazon

Even though the whole world referred to him as either "The Artist" or "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince," that weird symbol Prince used was actually known as "Love Symbol #2." It was copyrighted in 1997, but when Prince's contract with Warner Bros. expired at midnight on December 31, 1999, he announced that he was reclaiming his given name.

5. In 2017, Pantone gave him his own color.

A little over a year after Prince's death, global color authority Pantone created a royal shade of purple in honor of him, in conjunction with the late singer's estate. Appropriately, it is known as Love Symbol #2. The color was inspired by a Yamaha piano the musician was planning to take on tour with him. “The color purple was synonymous with who Prince was and will always be," Troy Carter, an advisor to Prince's estate, said. "This is an incredible way for his legacy to live on forever."

6. His sister sued him.

In 1987, Prince's half-sister, Lorna Nelson, sued him, claiming that she had written the lyrics to "U Got the Look," a song from "Sign '☮' the Times" that features pop artist Sheena Easton. In 1989, the court sided with Prince.

7. He ticked off a vice president's wife.

In 1984, after purchasing the Purple Rain soundtrack for her then-11-year-old daughter, Tipper Gore—ex-wife of former vice president Al Gore—became enraged over the explicit lyrics of "Darling Nikki," a song that references masturbation and other graphic sex acts. Gore felt that there should be some sort of warning on the label and in 1985 formed the Parents Music Resource Center, which pressured the recording industry to adopt a ratings system similar to the one employed in Hollywood. To Prince's credit, he didn't oppose the label system and became one of the first artists to release a "clean" version of explicit albums.

8. Prince took a promotional tip from Willy Wonka.

In 2006, Universal hid 14 purple tickets—seven in the U.S. and seven internationally—inside Prince's album, 3121. Fans who found a purple ticket were invited to attend a private performance at Prince's Los Angeles home.

9. He simultaneously held the number one spots for film, single, and album.

During the week of July 27, 1984, Prince's film Purple Rain hit number one at the box office. That same week, the film's soundtrack was the best-selling album and "When Doves Cry" was holding the top spot for singles.

10. He screwed up on SNL.

During Prince's first appearance on Saturday Night Live, he performed the song "Partyup" and sang the lyric, "Fightin' war is a such a f*ing bore." It went unnoticed at the time, but in the closing segment, Charles Rocket clearly said, "I'd like to know who the f* did it." This was the only episode of SNL where the f-bomb was dropped twice.

11. He scrapped an album released after having "a spiritual epiphany."

In 1987, Prince was due to release "The Black Album." However, just days before it was scheduled to drop, Prince scrapped the whole thing, calling it "dark and immortal." The musician claimed to have reached this decision following "a spiritual epiphany." Some reports say that it was actually an early experience with drug ecstasy, while others suggested The Artist just knew it would flop.

This story has been updated for 2019.

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