Steve Eighinger

Cheaper can be better, give me 'The Walking Dead'

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 20, 2019 12:01 am

The highly popular television program on AMC "The Walking Dead" is about a post-apocalyptic world inhabited -- and often controlled -- by hordes of rather toothy zombies.

The program costs about $3 million per episode to produce. (Yeah, I know. I was surprised, too, at that figure.)

A bit pricey, you say, for a weekly gorefest? Well, yes, but even more surprising it's not even close to the top 10 all-time costliest programs.

That figure for "The Walked Dead" piqued my curiosity at what programs have cost more through the years. I think some -- and maybe most of -- the following may surprise you. My top 10 list is a compilation of numerous sources and numbers. Here's a few things to consider before continuing down the page:

Only three of the 10 were produced by network television, including none by ABC and Fox.

HBO and Netflix combined for seven of the 10 programs.

I have included mini-series, if they were at least 10 episodes in length.

I have never seen even one minute of more than half of these shows, and I'll be surprised if any of you have either.

Here's the costliest shows in TV history, based on per-episode average costs:

10. "Big Bang Theory (2007-19, CBS)," $9 million per episode: High actor salaries, plus costly licensing fees paid to Barenaked Ladies for the theme song, contributed to expenses.

9. "Rome (2005-07, HBO)," $9 million-plus per episode: The price tag was due to "Rome's" large ensemble cast, elaborate sets and costumes, not to mention shooting overseas. HBO pulled the plug after two seasons.

8. "Marco Polo (2014-16, Netflix)," $9 million-plus per episode: Netflix filmed this saga in Italy and Kazakhstan, with most of the production done in Malaysia. That proved way too costly.

7. "Friends (1994-2004, NBC)," $10 million per episode in its final season: The tales of Chandler, Phoebe, Joey and the gang living and working in New York City was one of America's most shows for a decade. Each of the six co-stars made $1 million per episode.

6. "Westworld, (2016-present, HBO)," $10 million per episode: The pilot for this show alone cost $25 million. The third season is expected in 2020.

5. "Band of Brothers (2001, HBO)," $12.5 million per episode: Tom Hanks was the executive producer of this acclaimed series about American soldiers in World War II.

4. ER (1994-2009, NBC), $13 million per episode during its final years: The medical drama lasted 15 seasons (331 episodes), with stars like George Clooney and Anthony Edwards hauling in some serious coin.

3. "The Crown" (2016-present, Netflix), $13 million-plus per episode: The program deals with the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the events that helped shape the 20th century.

2. "Game of Thrones" (2011-2019, HBO), $15 million per episode during its final season: Was any program hyped more than this one in recent years?

1. "The Pacific" (2010, HBO), $21.7 million per episode: The show's complex battle scenes, choreographed to make "The Pacific" as historically accurate as possible, added to program's sky-high costs.

Final thought: Cheaper can still be better. I'd much rather watch "The Walking Dead" than any of these costlier ventures.