How the Most Expensive TV Shows Ever Scored on the Tomatometer

With the second season of Netflix's The Crown delivering new episodes of high-priced royal drama, here's a look at the most expensive TV shows ever — and whether they were worth the money.

by | December 8, 2017 | Comments

With seemingly every network on the hunt for an expensive, epic series that will win both awards and critical acclaim — crucial in the peak TV landscape — budgets for television series are ballooning. But are the pricey finished products worth the cost? Below, Rotten Tomatoes ranks the 10 most expensive TV series ever (according to industry reports and analysis) based on their Tomatometer scores.

10. Marco Polo 66%

Per the New York Times, the first season of this series cost $90 million for 10 episodes — which scored a woeful 24% on the Tomatometer its first season on 33 reviews. Its second season score, 100%, was based only on 10 reviews, but brought the series score higher. Thanks to lack of critical support and lackluster audience response, the historical drama about the famous explorer was canceled after two seasons.

9. Friends 78%

(Photo by NBC)

Thanks to its immense popularity and A-list stars, the final season of Friends cost a whopping $10 million per episode to produce, thanks in large part to the hefty salaries for each of the West Village–dwelling pals — Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer each made $1 million per episode. While there aren’t enough Tomatometer-eligible reviews online to give the series a score for the entire 10 seasons, the last year still saw an average of more than 22 million viewers per week and was the fourth most popular series on television.

8. % 

In 1998, NBC shelled out $286 million a year for the rights to 22 episodes of ER’s fifth season, making it the biggest deal in television history for a series. While, as with Friends, there are no Tomatometer scores for ER’s many seasons, at the time, the medical drama was garnering an average of 32 million viewers a week. Hey, at least George Clooney was still there (he left in the second half of the season).

7. The Get Down 81%

Netflix outbid FX for Baz Luhrmann’s epic about the birth of hip hop in the Bronx, but production delays and other costs saw the budget for the series balloon to a reported $200 million. With mixed reviews, the series did not continue past its initial 12-episode order (released in two parts).

6. Sense8 86%

Netflix’s sprawling, globe-spanning drama shot on location in 16 cities and 13 countries around the world and cost approximately $9 million per episode, according to reports. While the streaming service allegedly canceled the series due to its large cost (and proportionally low viewership, though Netflix does not release that data), it did offer a compromise after fan outcry: a feature-length movie to wrap up all the unresolved storylines.

5. Rome 86%

Co-produced by HBO and the BBC, this historical epic about the ancient Roman Empire (and Julius Caesar’s reign of power) cost a reported $110 million to produce in 2005, which would equal closer to $140 million in 2017. The popular series also served as an American showcase for actors like Kevin MckiddCiarán HindsRay Stevenson, Polly Walker, Indira VarmaJames Purefoy, Tobias Menzies, and more.

4. The Pacific 91%

The 2010 HBO miniseries cost $217 million to make — more than $20 million for each of its 10 episodes — with $5 million alone going toward recreating one particularly carnage-filled scene on the small island of Peleliu, where 11,000 Japanese soldiers attacked the U.S. Marines as they landed. It was the most expensive miniseries ever, per reports.

3. The Crown 89%

The Crown might be a quiet character exploration with no crazy action or stunt sequences, but the period drama, about the reign of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, has plenty of bells and whistles. That’s to be expected, considering the Netflix series has to recreate opulent castles, exotic locales, and period-appropriate locations for the Golden Globe–winning drama — all to the tune of a reported $130 million for the first season of the critically acclaimed series.

2. Game of Thrones 89%

Costing approximately $6 million an episode, the story of the battle for the Iron Throne features an extensive cast, massive battle scenes, lavish costumes, not to mention those pesky dragons. It all adds up to one pretty insane budget.

1. Band of Brothers 94%

Before The Pacific came Band of Brothers, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s first World War II miniseries. At $125 million, it was the most expensive miniseries at the time it was made — until The Pacific. The critically acclaimed epic, a fictionalized account of the U.S. Army’s “Easy Company” airborne division, won both Emmy and Golden Globe awards in 2001.

Tag Cloud

Musicals Shondaland Hallmark romance Quiz indie Horror NYCC video on demand Funimation BET Amazon Fox Searchlight Freeform Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt MTV Black Mirror Trophy Talk politics harry potter Disney streaming service biography justice league children's TV festival joker stop motion Awards Christmas FOX Black History Month Spring TV 71st Emmy Awards SXSW comics anthology ghosts Film Opinion SundanceTV scary movies cops dceu Family toronto reviews Character Guide E3 Apple TV Plus Turner Classic Movies television cancelled television sitcom YouTube Premium blockbuster TBS travel Action Walt Disney Pictures Travel Channel criterion cartoon HBO free movies Podcast nfl Epix Classic Film Martial Arts Starz social media transformers game of thrones asian-american crossover 2015 technology miniseries thriller Toys Film Festival psychological thriller History Animation WGN Superheroe 2018 Comics on TV Mudbound slashers spain Women's History Month Winter TV BBC One news IFC Films dark police drama Red Carpet USA See It Skip It versus Endgame First Reviews TV Land Star Trek TV renewals what to watch sequels Schedule Disney Plus Trivia Tarantino stand-up comedy series cars PBS revenge Cartoon Network El Rey Nat Geo 2017 chucky Valentine's Day 4/20 OWN child's play Apple TV+ canceled TV shows Nominations Holidays halloween tv anime football Lifetime Christmas movies Video Games Drama Stephen King Amazon Prime laika Sundance Now cats 45 YouTube Red Sundance italian hist Election based on movie Best and Worst Thanksgiving President HBO Go TCA Winter 2020 Trailer 72 Emmy Awards zombies book Rom-Com Awards Tour spider-man stoner political drama Columbia Pictures BBC America discovery HBO Max ABC PaleyFest BAFTA talk show fast and furious Rocky werewolf Pirates Esquire FX on Hulu name the review TLC medical drama Vudu movies binge comedies cinemax Spike Ellie Kemper mutant San Diego Comic-Con DGA Television Critics Association Lionsgate serial killer Marvel Studios green book hollywood Netflix The Purge nbcuniversal APB VH1 A24 2016 Crackle ESPN screenings 24 frames vampires psycho CMT halloween Tubi Peacock OneApp Superheroes Certified Fresh TCA 2017 unscripted Pride Month Brie Larson Hallmark Christmas movies independent Song of Ice and Fire Biopics American Society of Cinematographers WarnerMedia CBS All Access spy thriller Sundance TV Lifetime Netflix Christmas movies Fox News FXX renewed TV shows PlayStation 20th Century Fox The Academy superhero 007 archives Mary Tyler Moore breaking bad Winners Mindy Kaling festivals finale X-Men Comedy Central VOD best aliens Baby Yoda TV Universal Infographic MSNBC cancelled TV series Shudder Grammys The Walking Dead franchise Ghostbusters hispanic Cosplay latino Paramount Pop TV Paramount Network The Witch 2019 Spectrum Originals twilight DC streaming service Nickelodeon Fall TV comic Photos Teen Hulu Countdown BET Awards films classics streaming scorecard GIFs Captain marvel TruTV spanish language Marathons Disney Channel crime drama directors critics quibi worst Star Wars doctor who 21st Century Fox Comic Book Music dogs Britbox war facebook Warner Bros. Disney Chernobyl ratings Anna Paquin YA ABC Family jamie lee curtis TNT Amazon Studios Chilling Adventures of Sabrina cancelled TV shows Writers Guild of America toy story Calendar TIFF disaster remakes Showtime natural history Extras Holiday Sci-Fi game show LGBT video Rock cooking Crunchyroll rotten Pop VICE foreign SDCC FX Reality dc CNN french Watching Series Premiere Dates teaser batman Amazon Prime Video space theme song movie Binge Guide docudrama Comedy japanese New York Comic Con true crime Pet Sematary NBC Discovery Channel parents Country Lucasfilm tv talk Logo Sony Pictures Ovation Summer golden globes E! richard e. Grant Marvel GoT GLAAD screen actors guild Polls and Games documentary Masterpiece dramedy kids nature spanish romantic comedy robots crime thriller south america sag awards Fantasy emmy awards ITV witnail a nightmare on elm street Musical TCA Awards First Look TCM National Geographic supernatural Bravo casting 2020 Kids & Family animated TCA spinoff LGBTQ Turner The CW Super Bowl Arrowverse Oscars elevated horror strong female leads RT21 Tomatazos BBC Box Office blaxploitation period drama CW Seed zero dark thirty reboot Set visit universal monsters mockumentary zombie Emmys YouTube singing competition DC Comics CBS Heroines Television Academy all-time indiana jones Dark Horse Comics obituary satire diversity sports Western Academy Awards dragons award winner documentaries concert Food Network Creative Arts Emmys crime Reality Competition Marvel Television worst movies boxoffice AMC Apple USA Network Sneak Peek Syfy Interview The Arrangement historical drama Adult Swim sequel science fiction comiccon die hard venice DirecTV IFC rotten movies we love Mary Poppins Returns Pixar Emmy Nominations canceled cults Cannes RT History Hear Us Out cancelled Rocketman Mary poppins Acorn TV adventure Tumblr Disney+ Disney Plus adaptation DC Universe Elton John Avengers Year in Review composers A&E christmas movies MCU Mystery mission: impossible