HBO’s ‘The Pacific’ Is The Most Expensive Show With $21.7 Million Budget Per Episode

Television has gotten an upgrade in the last decade and miniseries like HBO’s The Pacific are a significant reason why. Until recently, the high-budget drama was mostly aimed at the big screen, but HBO’s revitalization of prestige television made gorgeous, expensive productions accessible on the small-screen, too. To this day, The Pacific remains the most expensive tv shows ever produced. 

‘The Pacific’ is a military series

A quasi-sequel to HBO’s 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers, which focused on American soldiers fighting overseas in Europe during World War II, The Pacific shows what happened to soldiers stationed on the other side of the world. Like Band of BrothersThe Pacific featured a cast of recognizable faces and soon-to-be stars like Rami Malek and James Badge Dale. 

With a $200 million budget that is typically saved for big-budget genre movies, The Pacific aimed to paint a realistic portrait of not only life on the battlefield in the Pacific Rim but the time away from it where soldiers had to cope with everything happening in the world. Taking the stories of several real-life members of the 1st Marine Division, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ miniseries was among the most audacious projects in television history. 

Viewers got to see iconic moments like the battles of Okinawa and Iwo Jima firsthand. The series wasted no expense in painting war as an ugly reality and was rewarded handsomely for it. Stars like Malek would later break out in different roles, thanks largely to the success of The Pacific. In many ways, it helped HBO show that unrelated high-budget shows like Game of Thrones, which debuted the following year, could work on the small screen. 

‘The Pacific’ is an expensive venture

To give the realistic portrait that The Pacific aimed to create, they needed to spend a lot of money to create a realistic version of the 1940s wartorn planet. From period-accurate costumes to Hollywood special effects, nothing came cheap for Spielberg and company.

They initially wanted to spend about $100 million on the project but spent a mind-boggling $217 million. For a television channel without box office receipts, that’s a huge gamble. 

Rami Malek of 'The Twilight Saga'
Rami Malek plays Merriel Shelton on the HBO Miniseries The Pacific.| Michael Buckner/Getty Images

From massive casts of extras making $70 a day to thousands of extras to the off-camera equipment needed to keep the actors safe, sheltered, and away from any danger, no miniseries had ever gone to this length for accuracy. According to the Hollywood Reporter, every bloody squib used in many battle scenes cost $1,000 on its own. This is no small price for a film set during the bloodiest war in human history. 

While the show was a massive gamble, HBO Programming president Michael Lombardo was proud of what Spielberg and company had done. “The decision to proceed with this, knowing the price tag, was daunting,” Lombardo said. “But everybody is proud of the result.”

Audiences, critics, and award shows took notice, too. 

‘The Pacific’ is a hit

The miniseries was a hit in every sense of the words. Critics loved it, audiences couldn’t get enough of it, and the show became a favorite of nearly every television-based award show on the planet.

It won the three Emmys for its cast, its art direction, and most outstanding miniseries. To this day, despite more high-budget prestige television becoming the norm, it is the most expensive television series in history. 

Fans of the series can look forward to another massive installment, this time focusing on the airborne soldiers of the war. Masters of the Air is set to start filming in 2021, although this time, it will be on Apple TV. The new series is rumored to have a budget of over $250 million. 

The Pacific is one of the most ambitious television projects in history. Every penny appears on the screen, and to this day, its impact can be felt across nearly every genre imaginable. It’s safe to say that despite approaching a quarter-billion-dollar budget, the series paid off for everyone involved.