HBO is reportedly shelling out big bucks to put some extra pop in its apocalypse. The Last of Us, the upcoming TV adaptation of the blockbuster video game of the same name, purportedly “well exceeds the eight figure per episode mark,” which would make it among the most expensive TV shows ever made.
There are a couple of ways to judge the most expensive shows, but no matter how you slice it, you’ll probably land on three names. For a total series, the current record is thought to be held by the 73 episodes of Game of Thrones, which started off around $10 per episode and by the final season was costing over $15 million per pop — a pretty penny, considering there are much cheaper ways to piss off your fans. If you want to know the most spent on a per episode basis, then look no further than Disney+, where shows like WandaVision reportedly topped out at around $25 million per episode. And finally, if your gaze extends into the future, then the most expensive show is likely going to be Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series, which has already committed to a total budget of about $1 billion.
While we don’t have exact figures for the zombie hellscape of The Last of Us, an IATSE union rep in Albert, Canada, has given a vague overview of the ledgers. In an interview with a local CTV affiliate, IATSE 212 President Damian Petti said the show is “a monster” that “has five art directors and employs an army of hundreds of technicians.” All of that, plus presumably hefty salaries for the two stars, Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, is how you arrive at a project that, as he said, “well exceeds the eight figure per episode mark.” It’s hard to judge what “well exceeds” means, though if it costs as much as WandaVision and runs for multiple seasons, it could pass the billion-dollar threshold soon enough.
For now, ten episodes of The Last of Us have been announced. The show is adapted by Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and video game creator Neil Druckmann, and began filming earlier this month. Season 1 is expected to wrap by next summer, though there is currently no timetable for the show coming to air.