‘The Crown’ Season 2: The Real Cost Per Episode, Elizabeth Faces ‘Attack on Monarchy,’ and More Details Revealed
Showrunner Peter Morgan sets the record straight on the show’s budget — and why he hates those “Downton Abbey” comparisons.
By Anne Thompson
Peter Morgan (“The Queen”) has long divided his time between playwriting, screenwriting, and television. But having just wrapped the second 10-episode season for Netflix’s “The Crown” (December 8), the executive producer and showrunner is now wholly devoted to a new genre that he calls “cinematic television.”
It’s not a difficult transition. “The Crown” has the scale of a big-budget production (Netflix paid in advance for two seasons, as well as bonuses to buy out all future royalties), as well as serious awards gravitas: The first season scored a Golden Globe win for Claire Foy and now has 13 Emmy nominations, and could win the fierce contest for Best Dramatic Series.
While Netflix doesn’t confirm budgets, Morgan wants to set the record straight: the show did not cost $100 million per 10-episode season (that’s the level of “Rome,” “Westworld,” or “American Gods”) but rather a still-hefty $6 million-$7 million per episode for 20 episodes, or about $130 million.
However, money isn’t what makes the show; it’s what money can buy you, like a bespoke suit on Savile Row. However, merging the standards of a feature film into television, which requires multiple episodes of specific lengths on a strict schedule, is more like, say, creating custom-fit pairs of Nikes.
“There’s a feeling that you are making a bespoke suit made-to-measure,” said Morgan of feature filmmaking. “But in television, it’s off the peg and more industrialized for a production line. That’s why films were more special, because you could feel the attention and the bespokenness — the longer time to think about things and time spent to fix things in post. This is one of the reasons why people are watching more television, right? The scale, but also the boutiqueness, that episodes are honed and refined.
“But at the same time,” he added, “the companies are expecting delivery to old television schedules. So they’re expecting new levels of quality, but on old timetables. They want it every year, and to be making television at this level.”
This, he said, is why he bristles at comparisons with “Downton Abbey,” the last period British import with plummy-accented aristocrats in lofty drawing rooms.
“The difference is in the way we make it,” said Morgan. “This is something new. The biggest challenge of doing the show is that I’m stuck in the middle of two huge expectations, both of which are mutually contradictory, and in conflict with one another. We are now in an age with the budgets to produce properly cinematic television, that we are now making.” Continue reading ‘The Crown’ Showrunner Peter Morgan Previews Season 2