Sitcoms aren’t usually very expensive, relying more on dialogue, and character and plot development rather than spectacular CGI scenes or settings. How much could it cost to produce a show where every episode is set in the same living room or coffee shop? Apparently, quite a bit.
Married…With Children – $1 Million Per Episode
Loved for its sarcasm and bleak but comedic outlook, Married…With Children eventually ended in 1997. At that time, its budget per episode was $1 million. In today’s dollars, that’s about $1,650,000. In the final season, Ed O’Neill (Al Bundy) was making $500,000 per episode, fully 50 percent of the entire budget per episode.
How I Met Your Mother – $2 Million Per Episode
Having five main characters certainly contributed to the cost of the show, with each character earning $225,000 per episode, with the exception of Neil Patrick Harris (Barney Stinson), who earned $400,000. That means $1.3 million of each episode’s budget went towards paying the show’s core actors.
Arrested Development – $3 Million Per Episode
When the show came back in 2013, it did so with a bigger budget, much of which went toward convincing the original actors to drop what they were doing and return to revitalize the sitcom. An episode in season four cost $3 million. The show went on to air for another six years before ending in 2019.
Seinfeld – $3.25 Million Per Episode
In its later seasons, it was costing about $2 million per episode to produce the show. In today’s dollars, that amounts to just over $3.5 million. As with most sitcoms, much of the cost went straight to the actors who made the show so hilarious.
Cheers – $4 Million Per Episode
It certainly wasn’t the Boston barroom set that caused these prices. Actor Ted Danson, also of Fargo and CSI, was earning $500,000 per episode. Add in the rest of the regular cast members and you can see where the budget went.
The Tick – $5 Million Per Episode
The high cost of creating superhero-worthy effects no doubt played a part in the economic decision to cancel this sitcom. Special effects, CGI, and green screen technology all contributed to this Amazon Prime original series costing $5 million to produce each episode.
Frasier – $7.3 Million Per Episode
The show ended in 2004, at which time each episode cost about $5.2 million to make. That is just under $7.3 million today. Frasier Crane actor Kelsey Grammer received $1.6 million per episode, making him the highest-paid actor in any of the sitcoms listed here. Add the other actors, including two dogs, who were each paid $10,000 per episode, and once again, you can see where the money went.
The Big Bang Theory – $9 Million Per Episode
For 12 seasons, this series kept fans laughing at the antics of four nerdy physicists. From 2013 to the show’s finale in 2019, each episode cost about $9 million to produce. This was mainly due to the actors’ high salaries.
Friends – $12.5 Million Per Episode
At its peak, this show cost $10 million per episode to make, which in today’s dollars comes to $12.5 million. $6 million of that went straight to the main actors who each had an equal salary of $1 million per episode by season 9.
WandaVision – $25 Million Per Episode
Marvel hasn’t held back in the special effects department in its feature-length films, and its made-for-TV stories look to be no different. The incredible budget of $25 million per episode went mainly into the incredible movie-quality effects. Add to that a variety of sets, costumes, top-billing Avengers actors, and the fact that Vision required constant CGI enhancement, and you can see how this show became so expensive.