Is Chuck Only Coming Back Because It's Cheap? - Featured

First of all, Chuck and Dollhouse ain't cheap. But most of the new shows debuting this fall will probably cost a tad more to produce. Once you buy the right toy box for stashing your high-end Dollhouse femmebots - or shiny spy toys for the Chuck cast to play with - you really don't need to worry about financing that stuff every season.

New shows like Glee, of course, must curate everything from scratch - studio space, costumes, props. And that means more money.

Now, all the stuff I've outlined above hinges on one factor: crappy ratings. If ratings for a returning show are anything other than horrific, then forget everything I just wrote; the money gets really iffy. Because the actors get grabby.

Right, Matthew Fox?

Actually, first, let's talk about Jennifer Aniston. At the height of their popularity a few years back, she and the rest of the cast of Friends renegotiated their contracts and demanded a boggling $1 million per episode. Needless to say that when that show returned to the air for its next season, it was not cheaper than the season before.

Ditto with Donald Trump, who successfully demanded a doubling in pay - to roughly $1 million per episode - for that show where he fires everybody. But fear not; far sexier renegotiators can and do exist in the Hollywood pantheon, including Lost's Matthew Fox, who got a pay raise from $150,000 to $225,000 per episode last year.

Now. For the rest of your question.

Generally, hour-long shows cost at least $1 million to $2 million per ep, except for reality, which can go as low as $100,000. Half-hour improv and scripted are somewhere in between - Upright Citizens Brigade founder Matt Walsh tells me his upcoming show for Spike TV, Players, rings in at about $600,000 per.

"The ratings don't affect the cost of the show whatsoever," adds Fred Seibert, a former exec at Nickelodeon and MTV who now serves as creative director for the online company Next New Networks. Instead, he says, "actors and writers are the most costly aspect of the show."

Well, yes, that. And cases and cases of Dharma Initiative wine.

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