Sitcom Episodes That Blew Up Their Budget

Even half-hour comedies go full James Cameron sometimes
Sitcom Episodes That Blew Up Their Budget

With the exception of some shows like Friends or The Big Bang Theory, which eventually paid its cast in gold Gulfstream jets and diamond-encrusted private islands, most TV viewers wouldn’t think that making a sitcom would be all that expensive. Sometimes though, even the most modest of half-hour TV comedies have gone way overboard with their spending, resulting in shockingly costly episodes, such as…

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It Cost a Staggering Amount of Money to Recreate a Specific Truckstop for Jim’s Proposal on ‘The Office’

One of the most famous moments in The Office is when Jim Halpert proposes to Pam Beesly after traveling to a romantic rain-drenched truckstop.

While it’s not much to look at, this brief moment was reportedly the “single-most expensive scene” of the entire series. It seems that the location was based on a real spot that The Office creator Greg Daniels had visited as a child, and he went to Nathan Fielder-esque lengths to painstakingly recreate it for the show, using reference photos to build a facsimile in a Best Buy parking lot in Los Angeles.

If that wasn’t enough, according to Jenna Fischer, in order to “create the illusion of highway traffic, they built a four-lane circular race track around the gas station set” and ”set up cameras on the other side of this raceway, and they had cars drive around it at 55 miles/hour.” The whole thing cost $250,000, which is presumably a lot more than it would have cost to film at one of the country’s many gas stations that already existed. 

Dan Harmon Had to Pay Out of His Own Pocket to Finish a Christmas Episode of ‘Community’


Community is famous for its boundary-pushing storylines, often involving paintball and/or live monkeys. For the Season Two holiday episode, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” most of the story takes place inside Abed’s TV special-addled brain, hence the reason why everything appears to be in claymation.

Yeah, this wasn’t cheap. Community episodes were generally known for going over budget, but this one went “pretty substantially over budget.” Creator Dan Harmon actually had to invest his own money in the episode, even paying for the cameras they used. In addition to the expected costs of the stop-motion animation, the crew accidentally shot the Christmas-y segments in the wrong aspect ratio, which “ended up costing a lot more in the visual effects.”

Filming ‘Seinfeld’s ‘The Parking Garage’ Was a Massive Undertaking

Who amongst us hasn’t misplaced our vehicle, urinated behind a parked car and then blamed said transgression on “uromysitisis poisoning”? That’s probably why Seinfeld’s early episode “The Parking Garage” was so frustratingly relatable. But what began as a simple concept, set entirely in one location, with no explosions or motorcycle stunts, quickly became a complex, pricey undertaking.

While the production initially scouted real parking garages they could potentially shut down for filming, they eventually decided to build their own fake parking garage on the Seinfeld soundstage. This meant dismantling all of the existing sets, including Jerry’s apartment, which itself “proved to be more expensive an operation than anticipated.” The elaborate replica parking garage also involved rotating columns and strategically placed mirrors to create the illusion of space.

The LEGO Episode of ‘The Simpsons’ Took Two Years to Create

The 2014 Simpsons episode “Brick Like Me” transformed Springfield into a world made entirely out of LEGO products (thank you, corporate synergy). This, it turns out, was even harder to make than a Radioactive Man movie co-starring Mickey Rooney.

According to executive producer Matt Selman, the show took two full years to put together, which is “way too long for comedy people to live with the same jokes.” Apparently, it was “the most ambitious and expensive half-hour in the program’s 25-year history.” In retrospect, they could have saved a lot of money by simply throwing together a Playmobil-themed episode instead.

An Episode of ‘I Love Lucy’ Involved a Helicopter Stunt

I Love Lucy isn’t typically known for its stunt work (unless you consider wolfing down a bunch of chocolates off of a conveyor belt a “stunt”), but one episode was surprisingly epic in scope. Season Five’s “Bon Voyage” found Lucy missing her chance to board a cruise ship as it departed, only to catch up with her family via helicopter.

This was the most expensive episode of the series. In addition to the costly cruise ship sets, the climactic sequence involving a helicopter lowering Lucy onto the deck of the ship was filmed using a real helicopter and cruise ship, and Lucille Ball had to rely on a stunt double for some shots, which is pretty rare for a sitcom, just ask Matt LeBlanc’s dislocated shoulder.

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