News

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 67%

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. ER  

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 84%

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 90%

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

book 2015 natural history Spike Epix spinoff OWN Film Festival Winners robots latino The CW Lionsgate nature Paramount Britbox Writers Guild of America 2016 cats serial killer Martial Arts RT21 Photos cults Amazon Prime Drama strong female leads 007 USA Mary poppins Amazon Prime Video psychological thriller animated American Society of Cinematographers San Diego Comic-Con docudrama romance Captain marvel foreign Crackle Certified Fresh elevated horror CW Seed Character Guide anthology Trophy Talk harry potter Tarantino singing competition comic television Pirates Summer streaming game show blaxploitation Country Interview crossover Marvel zero dark thirty Thanksgiving PBS GLAAD Awards Tour VICE composers Shudder adaptation comiccon Acorn TV children's TV BBC America BET Shondaland Arrowverse 21st Century Fox revenge MCU Tomatazos Box Office TIFF Film 24 frames Pet Sematary Adult Swim crime Fox News Fantasy ratings Columbia Pictures teaser NBC Paramount Network Freeform Anna Paquin First Reviews MTV cops Starz Set visit Comedy History Spring TV FOX Cannes Ghostbusters talk show crime drama Grammys witnail RT History Animation HBO MSNBC TNT ITV Nominations Super Bowl crime thriller dceu X-Men unscripted Bravo Marathons TruTV Warner Bros. Tumblr SDCC Valentine's Day thriller Hulu spain Rom-Com mockumentary Pride Month IFC GIFs stand-up comedy what to watch Apple Opinion Election USA Network Rocky green book Esquire cinemax Biopics Dark Horse Comics Sundance Now discovery Syfy Ovation Ellie Kemper period drama YouTube Red Stephen King tv talk Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt New York Comic Con WarnerMedia Oscars PaleyFest dragons sitcom Red Carpet Star Trek ESPN GoT diversity Best and Worst CMT Mindy Kaling The Arrangement AMC doctor who Sneak Peek Reality Competition Women's History Month social media WGN Comics on TV Extras Western toy story FXX TCM Music Christmas The Witch Amazon A&E Lifetime Video Games Watching Series Calendar cooking Mudbound FX based on movie BBC SundanceTV Spectrum Originals politics Disney streaming service Vudu finale NYCC HBO Max 2019 APB Disney Channel political drama Comedy Central See It Skip It Nat Geo Pop Sci-Fi Podcast Heroines casting vampires Star Wars Teen 20th Century Fox space Mystery Binge Guide DirecTV golden globes YouTube Premium Chilling Adventures of Sabrina south america Premiere Dates Cosplay technology supernatural TCA 2017 ABC Family festivals DC Universe dramedy true crime quibi kids CNN game of thrones hist TV Land spy thriller Musicals DC streaming service Family Action President Universal DGA Trailer movies Kids & Family Logo science fiction Walt Disney Pictures Disney Song of Ice and Fire aliens travel Horror transformers hispanic boxoffice cars facebook Mary Tyler Moore CBS ABC Fall TV Creative Arts Emmys First Look anime Trivia disaster Mary Poppins Returns Showtime miniseries IFC Films VH1 theme song Superheroe Elton John TBS E3 LGBT Masterpiece binge Chernobyl Polls and Games E! Musical Rocketman CBS All Access medical drama Sony Pictures El Rey Brie Larson TLC National Geographic Cartoon Network war zombies Awards Infographic adventure Comic Book SXSW sequel Year in Review Netflix 2018 historical drama TCA jamie lee curtis Toys Food Network Holidays TV award winner Pixar Emmys biography Winter TV series Quiz sports Emmy Nominations Lucasfilm spider-man 2017 Schedule Reality Black Mirror YA mutant Nickelodeon Sundance ghosts LGBTQ dc 45 justice league spanish language DC Comics police drama Countdown Rock richard e. Grant psycho Superheroes zombie