‘The Big Bang Theory’ Short Sitcom Episodes Cost a Whopping $9 Million to Create

Everyone knows it takes money to make money, and the creative minds behind the top television shows and films aren’t afraid to stretch the budget to its limits in order to bring their vision to life. These staggering costs can be eye-popping, but they often pay off big when it comes time to get in front of an audience. 

Audiences have high expectations these days when it comes to special effects, an A-list cast, and superb editing — all of which cost big bucks. We hardly bat an eye at hearing about the expense it takes to create an episode of an action-driven show like Game of Thrones or a period piece like The Crown that requires a lot of detailed costume and setting work. 

What’s a little more shocking is that even a show like The Big Bang Theory — a short sitcom without any particularly daring stunt work — can rack up an astronomical bill for even a single episode. 

‘The Big Bang Theory’ ran for 12 seasons

Premiering in 2007, The Big Bang Theory followed some classic sitcom conventions with some new and interesting twists. It was created by Chuck Lorre, the mastermind behind hits like RoseanneGrace Under Fire, and Dharma & Greg.

The show centers around brilliant Cal Tech physicists and their new next-door neighbor. Sheldon Cooper (played by Jim Parsons) and Leonard Hofstadter (played by Johnny Galecki) are best friends and roommates who sometimes get on each other’s nerves. The humor of the show centers around the quirks of the genius — but not always so street savvy — physicists and the relationships they build over the course of the show. 

Something of a surprise hit, the series had an impressively long run of twelve seasons before finally wrapping up in 2019. 

The stars of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ earned impressive salaries

Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco in 'The Big Bang Theory'
Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco in ‘The Big Bang Theory’ | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

When the series started back in 2007, many of the cast members were relatively new to the acting scene or hadn’t been pulling in particularly high-profile work. Galecki and Parsons, however, had a little more star power behind their names and — as the leads — negotiated a fairly standard starting salary of about $45,000 per episode when the series began.

Just like any job, stars expect to see a raise in their own pay as the production as a whole sees more success, and that’s what happened on the set of The Big Bang Theory

By around Season 5, the salaries of the ensemble cast had grown to impressive heights. Parsons and Galecki were each bringing in around $8 million per season, and they were joined by Kelly Cuoco — who played Penny and whose role on the show became central to its success.

Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch joined the series later than the other cast members, and a gap in their salary reflected the difference. Still, they also pulled in multi-million-dollar salaries for each season of the show. 

The final season of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ saw explosive costs per episode

When the show began, the two starring cast members were making $1 million per season. By the time the show wrapped up twelve seasons later, the top five cast members were making $1 million per episode.

As ScreenRant reports, these astronomical casting costs put The Big Bang Theory on a list of the most expensive TV shows — despite its pretty simple premise and overall short runtime per episode. These final episodes cost an astounding $9 million each. 

It might seem odd to see the sitcom listed among hits like Westworld with its over-the-top special effects or Marco Polo with its huge cast. However, any fan of The Big Bang Theory will tell you that the cast and their chemistry is what made the show work, so if the creators were going to make an investment in anything, star power made the most sense.