In episodic television, a bottle episode is produced cheaply and restricted in scope to use as few regular cast members, effects and sets as possible. Bottle episodes are usually shot on sets built for other episodes, frequently the main interior sets for a series, and consist largely of dialogue and scenes for which no special preparations are needed. They are commonly used when one script has fallen through and another has to be written at short notice, or because of budgetary constraints. Bottle episodes have also been used for dramatic effect, with the limited setting and cast allowing for a slower pace and deeper exploration of character traits and motives.
The term \"bottle show\" was coined by Leslie Stevens, creator and executive producer of 1960s TV series The Outer Limits, for an episode made in very little time at very little cost, \"as in pulling an episode right out of a bottle like a genie\". The earliest known use of the term \"bottle episode\" dates from 2003.
Bottle episodes are sometimes produced to allow as much of the budget as possible to go to the more expensive episodes of the season. Scott Brazil, executive producer of The Shield, described bottle episodes as \"the sad little stepchild whose allowance is docked in order to buy big brother a new pair of sneaks\". They can also be used to incorporate major current events into the flow of a long-running series, such as the episode of The West Wing following the September 11 attacks, or the episode of Chicago Fire in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mad About You episode \"The Conversation\" (season 6, episode 9) was a single-shot bottle episode, originally shown on broadcast TV in 1997 with no interruptions. During the credits, Paul and Jamie are watching a TV show and he comments on how difficult it is to do a single-shot, 20-minute scene, and she insists that \"It's their job!\"
The third-season premiere of The West Wing was delayed by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. When the season did return, the first episode was a bottle episode titled \"Isaac and Ishmael\", in which the main cast paid tribute to those affected by the attacks and informed viewers about what to expect from the delayed premiere. Set almost entirely in the White House Mess Hall, the main characters explore the motivations and nuances of terrorism.
The third story of Doctor Who, The Edge of Destruction, was a bottle episode created in different circumstances from most. The series had been picked up for thirteen episodes by the BBC, and the previous two stories had contained eleven episodes between them; hence, a two-part story was needed. It only featured the main cast of four. Doctor Who has also had occasional bottle episodes since then, most notably \"Midnight\", which, apart from bookend scenes at a holiday resort, is set entirely on a shuttle bus, with a monster depicted only via sound effects and the acting of the guest cast.
The third-season episode \"Fly\" of Breaking Bad features only two members of the main cast (plus a few extras) and takes place almost exclusively in the secret laboratory used to cook crystal methamphetamine. Although widely acclaimed by critics, this episode was the lowest rated episode of the entire series. Series creator Vince Gilligan has referred to this as a bottle episode, noting that the limited setting and cast allowed for a slower pace and deeper exploration of character traits and motives:
The comedy-drama series Girls features four bottle episodes. In \"One Man's Trash\" (season 2, episode 5), series lead Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) experiences a two-day romance with Joshua (Patrick Wilson), a handsome doctor whom she meets at her workplace, at his brownstone home. \"Beach House\" (season 3, episode 7) sees Hannah and friends Marnie Michaels (Allison Williams), Jessa Johansson (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosia Mamet) spending the weekend at Marnie's mother's friend's beach home on Long Island. \"The Panic in Central Park\" (season 5, episode 6) sees Marnie encounter her ex-boyfriend, Charlie (Christopher Abbott, who was a series regular for the first two seasons), by chance. The two then on a series of misadventures throughout New York City; the episode only features the two characters for much of the runtime. \"American Bitch\" (season 6, episode 3) takes place entirely in the home of famous writer Chuck Palmer (Matthew Rhys), the subject of an article written by Hannah which accuses him sexual misconduct involving his female fans. Hannah and Chuck engage in a mental battle of wits over the article with latter accusing the former of helping to damage his reputation. As with the previous example, they are the only two characters featured in nearly the entire episode.
The comedy-drama series Leverage had three bottle episodes. \"The Bottle Job\" (season 2, episode 11) uses only three locations: Nathan Ford's (Timothy Hutton) apartment; McRory's, the bar it sits over; and the bar's backroom. It also alludes to the concept by forcing the Leverage team to execute a late betting or \"wire\" con, which normally takes days or weeks just to set up, in only an hour and a half; Ford explicitly calls it \"the wire in a bottle\". (Ford, a recovering alcoholic, also reverts to drinking as part of the con; \"hitting the bottle\" is an expression for heavy drinking.) \"The Cross My Heart Job\" (season 4, episode 9) sees the team confined to an airport with no equipment or other resources, fighting to stop a transplant heart from going to a terminally ill defense contractor who's had it stolen from its intended recipient. And finally, \"The Broken Wing Job\" (season 5, episode 8) has Parker (Beth Riesgraf) working to foil a kidnapping while stuck at home with a broken leg, while the rest of the team is on a job in Japan.
A meta-example is Community's eighth episode of its second season, \"Cooperative Calligraphy\". After the opening, characters Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) and Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) both refer to the situation as a bottle episode. The entire episode is set inside a study room of the college with only the main cast. Its plot centers around the pen of the character Annie Edison (Alison Brie) going missing as she refuses to let anyone else leave the study room until they come forward with it.
Another meta-example is Teen Titans Go!'s twenty-ninth third-season episode, titled \"Bottle Episode\". Its plot centers around the main characters being trapped in a literal glass bottle, and passing the time by reminiscing about previous episodes (making it also a clip show). The episode breaks the fourth wall multiple times with dialogue referencing the expense of television production, giving production staff a break, and the need to fill episodes that fall through.
In the animated series SpongeBob SquarePants there is a bottle episode named \"Idiot Box\" (season 3, episode 4). SpongeBob and Patrick play with their imaginations inside a cardboard box for the plot of the episode. Only 3 main characters are featured and the episode takes place majorly inside and outside Patrick's house and the cardboard box.
The sitcom Frasier made use of bottle episodes, notably \"My Coffee With Niles\" (season 1, episode 24), an homage to the film My Dinner with Andre that consists almost entirely of a conversation between Frasier and Niles at Cafe Nervosa, and \"Dinner Party\" (season 6, episode 17) which takes place wholly within Frasier's apartment.
Long running ABC drama Grey's Anatomy had a bottle episode in its thirteenth season. The episode focused on Doctors Grey, Edwards, Webber and Hunt as they perform surgery. The episode remains in the operating room as each doctor remembers different moments in their lives.
Foreman and Cameron start talking about her test for HIV. They find Ritalin in the patient's car. However, the pills are the daughter's. House thinks it is the Ritalin and wants to discharge her. Foreman, who is still in charge, overrules House and keeps her in until they can confirm the Ritalin is causing her symptoms. Instead, House goes to see the patient and her daughter. The patient says that she never gave Ritalin to the daughter, but the bottle is nearly empty. The patient finally admits that she took the pills. House discharges her.
Misty does her visual thing but can't quite see if it was Mariah yet and Luke interrupts her. Mark Bailey (Justin Swain) comes in with names on some of the victims including Anansi and the figure out that the missing witness was likely his wife, Ingrid (Heather Simms). Luke hits the streets trying to find Ingrid and making sure it wasn't any of the other gangs. Misty gets pulled in to do a press conference to try and calm the city down. She does a good job. Shades, still obviously effected, goes to Mariah and asks what she was thinking. Mariah tells him she sees the doubt and fear in his eyes, but she needs him to leave Hernan aside and be Shades and get the job done. At the station, Misty sees that only 9mm rounds were used on everyone else, just the one .38 shot was fired and that's the same caliber that shot Candace (in season 1). Back with Bushmaster we find out that as a kid he was given a mysterious vaccine along with a bunch of other kids, all of them died but him. Tilda thinks the nightshade is what's killing him (though the explosion looks like it might've helped). We flash back and see the night that the bottle of rum crashed in through the window of young John's house. His mother pushed him out the window to safety but the house collapsed before she could get out. Mama Mable came by and tossed the lawyers contract onto the fire. Tilda feels sorry for Bushmaster, but is reminded the same Stokes blood runs in her veins.
While Felix is distraught at a meeting about how to find the people who destroyed his car, Fiona prepares the back door for breaching using the shape charge they made earlier. Sam takes the lead and points the shotgun at the crew. Fiona follows, pointing her gun at the gang. Michael struts in last and introduces himself as \"Johnny,\" placing the business card on the bar. He identifies himself and his partners as a car theft ring who is interested in establishing a business here in Miami. The problem is that Felix is in the way, so they tell him he has 48 hours from now and counting to leave Miami or they will handle him and his gang personally. Felix is not intimidated, but while Johnny and Sam continue their threat, Fiona empties out a whiskey bottle on the bar. After explaining to Felix about the kinds of headaches he could have in Miami, including the unbearable heat, he caps off his threat with \"your place is on fire\" before Fiona sets fire to the bar. Felix threatens to kill them later when he finds them. 59ce067264