The Wall Street Journal and Reporter Amy Chozick highlights some of the most expensive TV shows produced, including Starz' "Pillars of the Earth and HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."Starz, meanwhile, has sold the first season of "Spartacus" to more than 50 territories.
While some of these period dramas mix racy cable standards with high-toned performances and history lessons—HBO's "John Adams" with Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney comes to mind—"Spartacus" is more in the bread-and-circuses genre, with lots of blood, music-video-like fight scenes and other flourishes, requiring 4,000 visual effects in the first 13 episodes. In between warding off attacks, rippled shirtless warriors take time to relax with harems of half-naked women. "We aren't taking ourselves too seriously," says Stephan Shelanski, executive vice president of programming at Starz.
A computer-generated Roman colosseum required about 175 extras made to look like they filled a 9,000-seat stadium. The expense—each episode cost under $5 million—was kept in check partly because of a favorable exchange rate in the New Zealand location, producers say.
Reported by Barbara Davies