The 20 Most Expensive TV Shows Ever Made – And How They Splashed The Cash

Recent years have seen the rise of the TV blockbuster — small-screen dramas with big-screen budgets. But can you name the 20 most expensive series ever made? Here’s a definitive run-down of the TV spectacles that saw producers roll out the big bucks like never before. It may have begun in the 1990s, but things just keep on getting more expensive — and not all these productions are sci-fi spectaculars or fantasy epics.

20. Boardwalk Empire — $5.2 million per episode

No one can ever accuse HBO of not backing their hunches. When the network smells a hit, it goes all in, and that was certainly the case with period gangster series Boardwalk Empire, which boasted Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald and Michael Shannon among its stars. That’s a lot of pretty hefty salaries for a start.

Unsurprisingly, another large part of the Boardwalk Empire budget went on the elaborate sets and costumes which faithfully recreated early 20th century Atlantic City. The boardwalk itself was said to have cost a cool $2 million. And in a real statement of intent, HBO dropped a stunning $18 million just on the 2011 pilot — which was directed by Martin Scorsese.

19. Frasier — $5.2 million per episode

The Seattle-set sitcom Frasier is one of the best loved series of all time, featuring the eponymous snobby psychiatrist and his dysfunctional family. Frasier was originally a supporting character in the popular series Cheers, but it wasn’t long before he became a standalone star thanks to his misadventures in his home city after leaving Boston.

But how did a series that was made mostly in the studio run to a rumored cost of $5.2 million per episode at its height? Well, you can thank the cast for that not insignificant expense. Star of the show Kelsey Grammar was reported to be securing a staggering $1.2 million per episode. Still, it was worth it.