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Fleece the Budget

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Worth every penny.
"I'm gonna be beaten. Badly beaten. And I see no reason to sit here tonight and pretend otherwise. However, I've got thirty minutes of prepaid, non-refundable network time. Now, I could sit here, give you the same old song-and-dance about "good jobs with good wages", and "the best America is yet to come blah, blah, blah, blah!" But if you haven't bought it by now, why bother? So, instead of speeches, I've decided to throw a party for everyone involved with the campaign. It's a good party. A fun party. And you're invited. After all, the federal matching funds - you paid for half of it!"
Michael Dukakis (played by Jon Lovitz), Saturday Night Live, "The Dukakis Hour"

It's common for the creator of a show to hold negative feelings about the network execs. Hell, it's all but inevitable. There comes a time, then, where said creator just needs to vent a little hatred.

And when someone is given full reign of the show's content AND budget, they have room to vent a lot of hatred. Now, they have a choice: either they can spark an outcry and try to fight the system, quickly costing them their job; or they can put on a big ol' smile and make them suffer - all while Playing It For Laughs.

Fleecing the budget is when the creator of a show adds something into the lineup that isn't there for any reason apart from the fact that it is profoundly expensive. This could be just about anything that costs money - a prop, a series of plane tickets, an effect, a choreographed dance scene. It doesn't have to make the slightest bit of sense in context - in fact, the laughter it evokes with the fans stems not just from the blatant spitting into the network's eyes but also the sheer ridiculousness on which this trope runs. Usually lampshaded heavily.


Another form this may take is when production companies, or services, realizing that a big budget production is being created, will jack up their prices in order to take advantages of the proceedings. This will often lead to films being developed under code-names. The most famous of these is the fake title "Blue Harvest" used for George Lucas's production of Return of the Jedi, having learned his lesson during production of The Empire Strikes Back.

Contrast Creator Backlash, Writer Revolt, Shoot the Money




  • One car ad had a lighthearted version, with a director pitching an ad to a group of executives, describing the car driving through all kinds of exotic locations like Hawaii, all filmed on location for the best possible spectacle. The execs' comments make it clear they think he's more interested in being the one flown out to all those places.

Anime and Manga

Live-Action TV

  • During Conan O'Brien's squabble with NBC regarding The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, he happily decides to fill one of his shows with "new comedy bits that aren't so much funny, as they are crazy expensive." One of the most famous of these, pictured above, involves a Bugatti Veyron supercar dressed up like a mouse, that plays The Rolling Stones's "Satisfaction". Supposed cost of this bit? $1.5 million. Of course, most of the things used for these were loaners or obvious fakes, but the royalties for the music legitimately sent the cost through the roof. Another example was Tom Hanks coming out to "Lovely Rita" by The Beatles. In addition to being a reference to his wife Rita Wilson, the usage rights were very, very, expensive.
  • In one episode of Top Gear (UK), the three hosts are forced to make very short and simple videos of the cars they are supposed to review. Jeremy Clarkson accomplishes this by flying himself and his car all around the world to test different parts of its engineering. When he can't figure out how to open the glove box, he flies to Australia to see if it will work "while it's upside-down". He even makes the trip to Hong Kong to "come up with a good metaphor". Needless to say, the other hosts aren't pleased.
    • Richard Hammond's video was peppered with costly special effects and at one point featured a CGI spaceship firing lasers at the car as it zoomed around the track.
    • The punchline for the episode was that there was absolutely no money left for James May's segment and he had to make do with a staid interview with one of the people who created the modern roadsign.
  • One Mark Evanier's anecdotes involves getting an elephant for a live action comedy hour he wrote for. It was supposed to be a literal Elephant in the Room, but then it decided to go to the bathroom offscreen during filming.
  • According to rumour in Doctor Who fandom, when Philip Hinchcliffe was sacked as producer, his response was to tell the designers and directors of the current season's last three stories not to worry about any overspending on the budget. On the good side, those remain three of the most popular stories in the show's history among fans. On the down side, this may have had something to do with the ever-tighter budgets on the next couple of seasons.
  • The Kids in the Hall did a sketch on this topic titled "Screw You, Taxpayer" (as CBC is supported by public funding, meaning it was the VIEWER'S money they wasted)


  • The Lonely Island song "Japan" is about making a music video in Japan that includes as many expensive things as possible, such as traveling to Hawaii for a single shot, stays at first-class hotels, and even throwing piles of yen in a river — all so that the trio can get a nice vacation at the expense of their record label.
  • blink-182's The Rock Show video is about the band getting a big cheque to make a video, cashing it, and then blowing all the money on strip clubs, smashing cars and brand-new HD televisions, and throwing cash out of windows.

Video Games

  • In The Sims 3 expansion, "Showtime", the quality of your show is partially determined by the cost of the props used to decorate the stage.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons episode "Radioactive Man" has the production of the title big-budget super hero blockbuster come to Springfield to film. Along with all the travails of Bart and Milhouse trying to become involve with the production, is Mayor Quimby trying to milk the production for all it's worth.
  • In the opening to the third Family Guy's Star Wars episodes, the yellow floating text complains about FOX's management style and then sends a random, garish, animated purple elephant skipping across the screen. It states that the elephant doesn't even make sense and was only made for this reason.


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