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Bottle Episode
"I hate bottle episodes. They're wall-to-wall facial expressions and emotional nuance. I might as well sit in the corner with a bucket on my head."
Abed, "Cooperative Calligraphy" (the bottle episode), Community

A "bottle episode" is designed to take up as little money as possible. The easiest way to go about this is to use only the regular cast (or even just part of the regular cast) and set it in a single location, especially if you have a main standing set. This keeps production costs down, because no one needs to scout locations, build new sets, or create fancy CGI graphics of the outside of the spaceship. Bottle episodes are often a chance for a slow, characterization-filled episode before/after a big special-effects-laden action episode. Of course, all this doesn't mean the episode will be cheap, just that it's meant to be; like any regular episode, unforeseen complications can cause the show to run over the scheduled budget.

Note that the term has become synonymous with "single-location" episode, even though bottle episodes can (theoretically) have as many locations as a normal episode. All that matters is that it costs less, because the money is having to pass through a "bottleneck". The Star Trek cast and crew call this a "ship-in-a-bottle" episode, which is where the name originated.

Typically, effects-heavy shows such as Star Trek will hold off on the bottle episodes until near the end of a given season, saving the Big Money for mid-season cliffhangers and special guests.

Bottle episodes are known as a challenge and/or a chore, depending on the writer. Since most/all of the episode is set in a single location (sometimes even entirely in one room) with a smaller than usual cast, the dialogue (regarded as one of the harder things to write) needs to be better and tighter than in other episodes since the writer can't really do anything else with the cast. Depending on the writer and how well the premise works out, bottle episodes can range from terrible, to some of the best episodes of their shows and even their franchises.

Sometimes, writers create single-location episodes just as an exercise to see if they can, like in the case of one of the first bottle episodes, Seinfeld's "The Chinese Restaurant", which actually ended up costing as much as a regular episode due to the expense of the new set. In any case, this generally results in either one of the most boring episodes of a series, or one of the best. In britcoms especially, they tend to be one of the better episodes.

Some plots lend themselves to the nature of a Bottle Episode, such as Sinking Ship Scenario, "Groundhog Day" Loop, Locked in a Room, or Episode on a Plane. Sometimes an episode which is a Period Piece may look fancy and expensive, but these are often using the studio's already-existing (thus free) costumes and sets. Die Hard on an X, though limiting the episode to one location, rarely fits this trope, since the other elements of that trope often negate the budget-saving aspects of a Bottle Episode. Also, a bottle episode may or may not involve a Minimalist Cast.

Keep in mind that a Bottle Episode is not necessarily bad, and is not even among Sturgeon's Tropes. Just being a Bottle Episode does not mean the episode had No Budget or badly done - they were just saving some up, or making up for an earlier expensive episode.

Almost all Clip Shows (and, by extension, Recap Episodes) fit this trope, despite not strictly being an actual Bottle Episode. Not to be confused with Drowning My Sorrows, nor with sending out messages in bottles.

Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Haruhi Suzumiya episode "Someday in the Rain" takes this idea and runs with it including a long shot of Yuki reading a book motionless as language lessons and radio programs play in the background. Oddly the budget was clearly substantial and the episode has no connection to the light novels the rest of the anime is based on — implying that it may have been done either for the hell of it or as a deliberate reference to the typically conservative animation styles in anime.
    • Surprisingly averted with the infamous Endless Eight arc, consisting of the cast stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop repeating most of the same actions and lines over and over for 8 episodes. Despite the premise practically begging for laziness and animation recycling, each episode was animated from scratch (with the cast's constantly rotating outfits hinting at this.)
  • Episode four of Kamichama Karin has possibly the most Off Model art of the whole series, but the story was actually quite well-written.
  • Episode 11-B "Nothing To Room" of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. The episode consists entirely of a single shot with no variations in camera angle or location (with some minor modifications to depict different times of day), and the majority of the episode is just the characters talking with each other about nothing in particular. Even the plot is minimal; it's basically "Panty and Stocking sit on the couch and waste an entire day." It still manages to be entertaining, though.
  • In the first season of Pokémon, the episode "Pikachu's Goodbye" was thrown together during the hiatus following the "Electric Soldier Porygon" seizure incident, and was the first aired when the show returned from its hiatus. To take pressure off the animators, the only Pokemon included were Meowth and Pikachu (the latter in large numbers). The end result was arguably the first season's Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • One chapter of Hunter × Hunter is solely about a conversation between a blind girl and her friend, a dying king. As it's from the point of view of the blind girl, every panel is pitch black except the speech bubbles. The perspective returns to normal third-person at the end of their conversation to show that the king has died.
  • Genshiken has an episode with only two characters, Kasukabe and Madarame, with the majority of the acting simply being Madarame ranting in his head about his feelings for Kasukabe, and the majority of the animation being Madarame on various minimalist backgrounds as he struggles in his imagination, while Kasukabe turns the pages of her book.
  • Taken to the Logical Extreme with the last two episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Episodes 25 and 26 start with a disclaimer - Instrumentality is starting, but we don't have the time to show it, so we'll just completely deconstruct our characters.

    Comic Books 
  • "The Waiting Game" (aka Spotlight: Hoist) from Transformers: More than Meets the Eye. The issue stars four mismatched Autobots and their pet Insecticon trapped in shuttle on an uninhabited world. They cannot venture out for fear of being killed by an extremely powerful Decepticon and are unable to call for help. They wind up spending most of the issue swapping stories and getting on each others nerves.

    Film 
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a bottle episode, as much as a movie can be. After Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which Development Hell and special effects turned into an extremely expensive project ($46 million, including development on the aborted Star Trek: Phase II TV series), the studio gave the next film a considerably lower budget. It resulted in what is still typically considered the best Trek film - despite costing only a quarter of what its predecessor did. Harve Bennett hired a production team with mainly TV movie experience, most of the ship footage is Stock Footage reused from the first movie, and Meyer wrote the script so that a majority of the scenes would be set on the Enterprise bridge set (which was also redressed as the Reliant bridge). The space suits worn by Terrell and Chekov as well as the uniforms worn by extras were also leftovers from the first film. Kirk and Khan also never physically meet in the film; they are always on different ships or planets. The two actors had busy schedules and working around them would have been much more expensive. Yet Khan is often cited as the greatest opponent Kirk ever faced, despite the fact that their scenes were filmed months apart from each other.
  • Alfred Hitchcock liked to experiment with this format:
    • Except for a shot of the ship sinking at the beginning, the entirety of Lifeboat is set on the lifeboat, the plot driven solely by the survivors' increasingly hostile bickering among each other.
    • Rope begins with an Establishing Shot of the apartment building where the rest of the movie takes place. Not only does the whole story unfold in one room, the movie was edited in such a way to conceal as many cuts as possible, making it feel like the whole movie was a single shot.
    • Paralleling the protagonist's voyeuristic tendencies in Rear Window, the camera in this movie never ventures more than several feet away from Jeffries's room's window. Until the climax, the camera never even leaves his room.
  • The majority of the original Halloween movies take place over the course of the titular day, with brief prologues set the day before. In particular the first two—the second even picks up right where the first one ended.
  • Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster is considered this in the Godzilla franchise as it's unlike its previous films. The cast is mostly on an island or out at sea, Godzilla does not attack a city (although he does attack a military base), and the only other monsters are Ebirah and Mothra.
  • Quentin Tarantino has said he wrote Reservoir Dogs like this to keep the costs down to make it more likely to be filmed. The majority of the movie takes place in the warehouse, while Mr. Orange's apartment and Joe's office were located in the same building.
  • Hard Candy only has two main characters and is set almost entirely in the house of the male lead.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Superman is an early example. Not only were many of the same shots used in many episodes (the establishing shot of the Daily Planet, Clark running into an alley emerging as Superman, the same shot of Superman flying and looking to his left superimposed over different backdrops) but in any given season, every scene in the usual sets, such as Perry White's office were filmed within a few days, and for the most part, the seasons were all filmed within two weeks.
    • The Season 1 episode "Crime Wave" consists largely of clips from earlier episodes. It wasn't quite a Clip Show because they weren't showing these shots as "highlights," they're just used as stock stuff, even though some of it (the fight from "Mind Machine") were fairly notable.
  • Steptoe And Son pretty much IS this trope
  • Saved by the Bell was often made of bottle episodes, especially in the first season where the scenes were shot entirely in the one and only classroom and the hallway immediately outside. Even more common on the single season of Good Morning Miss Bliss as it didn't have the same budget.
  • Night Court was almost exclusively bottle episodes particularly in the first season when budgets were limited. The vast majority of the content takes place in the court room, with only occasional visits to the hallway and Harry's chambers. Later on another hallway and the cafeteria was added. Only rarely did they venture out to a late night restaurant or someone's apartment.
  • Every single episode of BlackAdder II was somewhat of a bottle episode. The first series of the legendary British sitcom, though generally being well received, cost the BBC huge amounts, with many different and massive sets, from the many rooms of the castle to the battlefields, towns and other locales. When the next series came along, the BBC wanted to keep costs down, and so there were only a few sets, all relatively small, with the odd outdoor scene, new set and such. Downplayed in the first episode, as there are a massive number of sets: a bunch of outdoor scenes, a doctor's office, a bedroom, the Queen's court, Bob's home and numerous other joints.
    • The trend for having a small number of sets continued with the third and fourth series. Blackadder the Third rarely moved away from the Prince Regent's apartments, the servants' quarters downstairs and Mrs. Miggins' Pie Shop, while Blackadder Goes Forth rarely left the trenches or General Melchett's post behind the lines.
  • How I Met Your Mother uses flashbacks and flashforwards very liberally, but "The Limo" was, according to Word of God, a bottle episode. No flashes, and the tale of them hitting up five parties on New Years Eve was told almost entirely from the backseat of a limo (with only a couple shots of street, and one brief phone call to the limo from one of said parties).
  • Star Trek: The Original Series was a pioneer of this trope. All the modern Star Trek series would frequently resort to series of Bottle Episode when ratings were down (or when the budget was). A notable side effect of bottle episodes is that they are frequently of higher quality in terms of writing, direction, character development, and plot than their unbottled counterparts.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: A perfect example of this is "Duet", from the first season of Deep Space Nine - shot purely on existing sets, with purely existing costumes and props, with a grand total of one guest star and a brief appearance by a semi-regular, it cost less than half a normal episode. It's also generally considered one of the top five episodes of the entire series' run and one of the best episodes in the entire history of the franchise, and is a crucial moment of Character Development for Major Kira.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Subverted with the episode "The Next Phase". It was meant to be a bottle show and was written with saving money in mind, but they somehow didn't account for the many complicated special effects required, which made it one of the most expensive episodes of the season.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: The Shuttlepod One plays it straight, taking place almost entirely in the titular shuttlepod, with a few short scenes taking place on the Enterprise itself, and only featuring the main characters.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Because Joss Whedon has to take this trope and mix it up with Angst Up to 11, we have the episode 'The Body'. It has only one instance of special effects, one vampire (that's where the SE come from), and takes place almost entirely indoors and has no soundtrack.
    • There's also season 6's "Older and Far Away," where Halfrek tricks Dawn into wishing nobody can leave the Summers house. Hilarity and drama ensue.
  • Angel:
    • Episode "Spin the Bottle" has at least the tendencies of a Bottle Episode: most of the episode takes place in the hotel, with no guest stars and an "amnesia" concept that makes for a low need of special effects.
  • The episode "Night School" in Teen Wolf takes place in the high school at night. It has Scott, Stiles, Lydia, Allison and Jackson form a temporary alliance while trying to evade the Alpha.
  • UK cop drama The Bill often invoked this in the old days, when the "cheapie" episode could be distinguished by the fact that it would take place entirely within the confines of the police station, and (usually) had a plot focused on characters doing their daily paperwork/avoiding doing their daily paperwork. In other words, the bottle episodes were usually the ones which focused a lot on 'character interaction' rather than on story.
    • One award-winning episode was set entirely in the back of a police van.
    • Another notable episode was set entirely in the Interview Room
  • Friends has done this quite a few times, especially in the first season where the entire cast had to stay in one apartment, and it was so well received that bottle episodes became a staple of that program.
    • Notably, the season 3 episode 'The One Where No One Is Ready' is often lauded as one of the best episodes ever, and it never even leaves Monica and Rachel's main room (except for a short scene during the credits).
    • Interestingly, the episodes featuring all six Friends among themselves are consistently the best episodes of the entire series. This fact is why Thanksgiving episodes are typically bottle episodes.
  • In Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the episode "A Blast for Buck" was mainly a montage of previous episodes, plus a framing story where Buck Rogers receives an ominous sounding message in a container teleported into his room. The episode took place almost entirely within a single room.
  • Cheers had many episodes where the entire episode took place in the bar, including the entire first season. The first episode with scenes set outside the bar was the second season premiere, "Power Play".
  • Frasier, perhaps following the lead of the show it spun off from (Cheers), employed this a lot. Early episodes rarely left Frasier's apartment, KACL, and the Cafe Nervosa. The grand champion example of a Frasier bottle ep would be "The Dinner Party" which uses only the main cast (plus one voice over), only one set (Frasier's apartment), and occurs in Real Time.
  • The first season finale of Married... with Children, "Johnny Be Gone", takes place only downstairs at the Bundys', only features the main cast, and is in fact one long scene. This was repeated, albeit with guest stars, in the penultimate episode "The Desperate Half-Hour".
  • Titus is nothing BUT bottle episodes, though sometimes it's two joined rooms rather than just one room and it does cut away to Titus in the Neutral Space note . Other than that, a typical episode of Titus usually has two settings, the five main actors note , and maybe some recurring supporting characters note  or one-shot characters.
  • The Britcom Men Behaving Badly had a bottle episode that took place in a single room — indeed, very nearly a single camera shot.
  • Mad About You had a bottle episode ("The Conversation", which was also an example of The Oner) where the camera didn't move — it remained stationary, pointed at the door to the crying baby's room, while Paul and Jamie talked about stuff. The characters left the frame completely several times, talking off-screen and the camera was pointed at nothing. This was lampshaded in the ending credits, where Paul was watching an unseen show and commenting about what amazing cinematographic skill it took to shoot an entire episode from one camera shot.
  • Spooks did something very close to one in its second series (The VX one) and it was one of the best of that series.
  • The Dead Zone had a Bottle Episode ("Cabin Pressure") that took place entirely on a flying airplane (which, admittedly, was not one of the show's normal sets). Interestingly, this episode was also an example of Real Time.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Classic:
      • The original series had "The Edge of Destruction", which was set entirely in the TARDIS. It came immediately after a seven-part Dalek serial (the first ever), which naturally required them to spend a lot of money on building tens of Daleks. For an example of how cheap it is, Hartnell's Doctor (who wears a bald cap and a lace front wig as part of his costume, giving the illusion that he's balding) is first shown to us lying face down after an injury, and Susan ties a bandage around his forehead before we see his face. This bandage covers up the gap between his real hair and the wig, saving money on the bald latex makeup.
      • "Planet of the Giants" - not as extreme an example as "The Edge of Destruction", but it takes place entirely in a small house, and involves the TARDIS being shrunk, shown by having its miniature just placed amongst cobblestones in the garden of the small house (meaning no need to build miniature sets). The props the TARDIS crew mostly interact with are bits of discarded giant packaging and giant matchsticks (painted card), big grains (papier mache), a big cork (obviously just a painted bin), and some dead insects. Some of the danger going on around them is shown by just projecting footage of it onto a screen behind the actors. One special effect (the explosion of a can of pesticide) is executed with a Jump Cut and a dubbed in sound effect. Another (Susan and the Doctor hiding from the tap water) is shown by filming the actors and then superimposing footage of running water. The only special effects which would cost much to achieve are a surprisingly good ant puppet that's on screen for all of twenty seconds, and the set of the sink in which the cast spend two whole episodes (executed by building the top half of the sink and plug chain, and then giving the impression of a giant plug on the bottom of the sink through forced perspective). All of this, of course, was to save money for the next serial, a six-episode post-apocalyptic Alien Invasion featuring a lot of truly gorgeous sets, lots of Daleks, fighting, a huge cast, driving, caverns, possessed humans, a big rubber-suit monster, and plenty of travel and Scenery Porn.
      • "Mission to the Unknown", a sort of proto-Minisode, a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a Dalek television series and a prequel to the later serial "The Daleks' Master Plan". It was written hastily when "Galaxy 4" was judged to be too long and rewritten down to four episodes rather than the planned five. It uses three sets (a human spaceship, the Dalek War Room and a jungle) all built for and recycled in "The Daleks' Master Plan", a couple of Daleks, a couple of very low budget monster suits made of glue and fluff representing Plant Aliens (which also get reused in "The Daleks's Master Plan"), a bunch of rather better-looking aliens on the Dalek ship (also reused in "The Daleks' Master Plan") and a spot of cheap Gorn. There is no Doctor, no companions, and the majority of the episode takes place with two actors arguing in the jungle.
      • "The Underwater Menace", an unpopular script that was dashed out as cheaply as possible when the producers realised it was the best script out of the bad bunch they had. Unlike many of these examples, which are quite minimalistic, suspenseful and creepy, this does not work in the episode's favour as it relies very heavily on sets (representing a massive Atlantean temple system with a series of box rooms with shells glued on), costumes (cardboard headdresses for everyone!) and monsters (the 'fish people' are dressed in what look like Pierrot-style white ruffled bodysuits with sequins to represent scales and big cardboard eyes). Some people find this to be enjoyable 1960s camp and link it to the psychedelia movement. Others find it Special Effect Failure.
      • The first episode of "The Mind Robber", which was added at the last moment to extend the story to five episodes and took place only in the TARDIS and on an empty stage.
      • "Inferno", which is set in a Mirror Universe version of UNIT. It takes place entirely on sets already built for UNIT and a bit of location filming in a generic refinery. There are monsters in the episode, but they are Technically Living Zombie versions of the main cast requiring minimal makeup, and much of the supporting cast is playing both their usual characters and their evil counterparts. There are few effects beyond some fight sequences and Stock Footage.
      • The Fourth Doctor serial "The Brain of Morbius" was written to be the season's cheap story - it's not particularly extreme as one, but it has only a couple of fairly simple sets, is light on the special effects and features mostly heavily made-up Human Aliens with only a couple of proper monsters showing up. In fact, the original script had a villainous robot character in it, but to save money on building a robot the script was rewritten to convert it into Mehendri Solon, a Human Alien Mad Scientist, and his deformed servant. This all ended up working in the story's favour, as Solon is able to be a lot more expressive and entertaining than some guy in a robot mask would ever be able to manage, the simple visuals force the serial to rely on very tight and intelligent dialogue storytelling, and it's ranked amongst Tom Baker's best serials.
      • Due to an inexperienced crew and financial problems, "Warriors of the Deep" ended up as a bottle episode. Light-saturated sets in box rooms, recycled monster costumes (after all the tape fell off), and a truly heinous pantomime horse creature.
    • The revival of Doctor Who has done this Twice a Season, having to squeeze fourteen episodes into a budget (and shooting schedule) of thirteen. Often the limitation is not in set construction, but in special effects or actors, meaning a 'Doctor-lite' and a 'Companion-lite' episode get shot in the same production block:
      • "Boom Town": Specifically described by Russell T Davies as a bottle episode, set in Cardiff, with the guest stars being Margaret Slitheen and Mickey Smith, recycling monsters that had already been designed, and more scenes in the TARDIS than any other episode up to that point.
      • "Love & Monsters": Both the Doctor and Rose are absent for most of the episode apart from the Cold Opening and the end. There's a few People in Rubber Suits, some basic CGI and some recycled effects from other episodes.
      • "Fear Her": A nearly FX-free episode (some lights and banging, animation, a monster that's just a big ball of wire and a single shot of a CGI jellyfish). It was a last-minute affair to take the place of a planned episode by Stephen Fry which fell through.
      • "Midnight": Nearly all of the episode takes place in a single location with minimal effects. Donna is almost entirely absent from it, because she was filming "Turn Left", in which the Doctor was likewise mostly absent. It's basically one continuous scene: Of a sixty-six page script, there are thirteen scenes. Two are effects shots and one is wordless. Scene 9 is the longest one, starting on page 17 and ending on page 65. Rusty wrote it on the hoof in about three days. Like "Blink," this episode is considered remarkably good and scary in its weirdness. And despite all this, it wasn't a money-saving episode. They had to build that one set to meet a lot of requirements, pay a whole cast for two weeks instead of a few days each, and spend a day on rehearsal, since it had to be performed basically like a play. It's a bottle episode done for its own sake. It's a bit surprising it ever got made.
      • "Amy's Choice": Which uses only the TARDIS set and the same sleepy country town utilized for "The Eleventh Hour".
      • "The Lodger": An episode set mostly in a Colchester flat. Amy's scenes are limited to a handful in the TARDIS control room.
      • "The Girl Who Waited": Stealth Doctor-lite. Almost everything is white rooms; Karen Gillan Acts for Two and the TARDIS fizzes a bit. There are Tin Can Robots, a quick shot of a garden, and the Doctor is physically absent for most of the story, being present for short scenes at the beginning and end and spending the rest of the time performing ADR lines over Rory's communicator.
      • The specials for Red Nose Day 2011 are set within the TARDIS control room, which is also within the TARDIS control room. It's a Klein Bottle episode!
      • "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS": There are only six characters and two settings. There are no monsters. There's about a minute of CGI of objects floating in a white room. There's also some Christmas lights in a black room.
      • "Listen" from Series 8 has been described by Steven Moffat as this, saying it has a tiny cast, no CGI and a focus on 'the Doctor having a tiny mental breakdown'.
  • In Torchwood the vast majority of "Countrycide" was filmed entirely around a few buildings in rural Wales and had no CGI at all. And as with Doctor Who's "Blink", the episode is pant-soilingly scary.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • The first two series were predominantly set in the bunk room or the engine room, and usually one or two other rooms, all aboard the ship Red Dwarf itself or its sub-craft Blue Midget. Most scenes focused on the two main characters Lister and Rimmer, and subplots focused on The Cat. The budget was very low partly due to a writer's strike early on, and partly because the BBC didn't have much faith in it at the time. The second series was popular enough to get them a higher budget for the third series.
    • In what is frequently regarded as one of the show's best episodes, "Marooned" primarily takes place on a crashed Starbug, with a couple of shots of Red Dwarf. Kryten, Holly and The Cat make very small appearances, with most of the episode focusing on Lister and Rimmer. It was also shot with a handheld camera, unusual at the time.
    • Series VII's Duct Soup was almost entirely set in the air ducts of the ship. They put the episode together at the last minute to replace the unfilmed episode Identity Within, having spent most of the budget on the rest of the series, and therefore had to keep to a minimum for new sets.
    • Much of Series X was this because Dave didn't have as high a budget as the BBC did.
  • Several episodes of The Twilight Zone were either filmed in a small space ("Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room" was filmed in a single room with a minimal cast), filmed with a minimal cast (the Pilot Episode had Earl Holliman walking around a deserted town asking "Where Is Everybody?" for nearly the entire duration), or filmed only with two people (in "Two", Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery are the only two soldiers at war after World War III has vaporized everyone else). "The Last Night of a Jockey" takes all honours, however - set entirely in one room, with a cast of one (Mickey Rooney).
  • The 4400 had an episode that took place entirely inside NTAC HQ.
  • The Outer Limits the Original Series is another contender for possible Trope Namer, and many TOS episodes were written specifically to be produced cheaply. "Controlled Experiment" was made at a time when the first season's production budget was going out of control. Notably, "The Probe" was written and filmed after the series was canceled to fulfill the show's commitment to ABC.
  • The new The Outer Limits had several, including an interesting twist on the Doomsday Device in "Dead Man's Switch" where at least 1 of 5 people have to press a button (which triggers at random intervals) to prevent the end of the world. Humans set this up because aliens are coming and we don't know their intentions. Almost all of the episode takes place in a single room, with 4 other people shown through closed circuit TV.
  • The Goodies used this a few times, two notable examples being "The End", where the Goodies' office was sealed in a block of concrete, and "Earthanasia", which took place in real time on Christmas Eve with the world being destroyed at midnight. These episodes usually came at the end of a series, after the entire budget for location filming, special effects and guest stars had been exhausted.
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had the lighthearted Lower Deck/Breather Episode "You Kill Me," about The Lab Rat Hodges running the other Lab Rats through elaborate (and absurd) murder scenarios as part of a CSI-themed board game he was creating. The previous episode featured the Put on a Bus departure of a main character, while the following episode concerned another main character breaking down after becoming addicted to prescription drugs.
  • Eastenders' two-hander episodes (and its one-hander episode) are usually this to a T - originally designed as casting timesavers much like Doctor Who mentioned above, they've since become revered in their own right - although the show uses them sparingly to prevent overkill.
  • Farscape's "Crackers Don't Matter" is light on effects, takes place wholly on the ship, and has only one weird alien guest star— all odd for the series. The main characters all become increasingly crazy over the course of the episode, eventually turning on each other and exposing harsh truths about their relationships, making the episode a fan favorite.
    • That was just one of the most memorable, there were a lot of Farscape episodes that were set entirely aboard the ship with only one or two guest characters.
  • The new Battlestar Galactica: A lot of the action happens in the eponymous Battlestar, especially the CIC. Ron Moore mentioned at one point that it was a shame that they could not have shot more scenes aboard the civilian ships in the fleet.
    • The episode "Unfinished Business" consisted almost entirely of a boxing tournament in a single room and flashbacks to the time on New Caprica. The flashbacks had all been shot during the hiatus between seasons. They were intended to be spread across the entire season, but they all ended up being put into one episode.
    • Another episode contained an extended space battle scene... in which the scene was depicted without CGI— or even seeing the battle at all— but rather by the reactions of the bridge crew to the audio of the space battle.
  • Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis both have their fair share of episodes taking place almost entirely within the SGC or Atlantis, respectively. Including, for each series, the second ever episode.
    • They even reference each other a bit: One SG-1 episode was called "Grace" and most of the episode was Carter, alone, on the starship, 'hallucinating' a little girl named Grace, as well as some of the other members of SG-1 and her father, with those hallucinations bidding her to deal with her UST. For Atlantis they had Rodney stuck in a jumper under the ocean. The name of the episode was "Grace Under Pressure", which was a rather clever pun - the episode was essentially "Grace" under pressure. In this episode Rodney hallucinates Carter, who not only helps him cope with his situation but advises him on his relations with the rest of the Atlantis expedition.
    • One SG-1 season 8 episode (Prometheus Unbound) was a bottle episode that (except for a brief establishing scene) used only two existing sets; featured only one main actor, several regular secondary actors, and one guest star; and seems to have been set up in such a way that it could be filmed simultaneously with other episodes without taking up all of the main sets and actors. It became notable in that the guest character featured became a fan favorite, and was brought back as a recurring character in the following season and a main character in the one after that.
    • Fan favorite "Groundhog Day" Loop episode Window of Opportunity was this to the point that it was overly successful at it. According to the DVD Commentary, because of the minimum set redressing, etc, the whole crew was enjoying going home early every day for once. In the end they had to film a bit of extra footage (biking through the base, the golf scene, etc) because the show was coming in under its normal running time - a rarity, as shows usually need to be cut back.
  • The West Wing:
    • During the second season, Aaron Sorkin was told that money was tight, and to make up for budget overruns, he'd have to write an episode with "no guest cast, no locations, no new sets, no extras and no film. In other words, [he] got to write a play." The resulting episode, "17 People," is probably one of his best.
    • "No Exit" contains three sets bottled by the Secret Service after a possible toxic breach is declared. The President, Debbie and Charlie were sealed in one area with a Doctor and Agent Butterfield, Kate with Josh, Will with Toby, Leo with Abby and CJ with Donna. Notably, except for the group with the President, and the CJ/Donna match, which were fairly amiable, all of the other bottled pairs had spent the majority of the season growing increasingly angry with each other. Also notable because when you lock each of them in one room on a Sorkin production, you lose the ability to pedeconference.
    • "Isaac and Ishmael" also ended up being this, in its capacity as a Very Special Episode (likely because it was done in response to the then-recent 9/11 attacks, and didn't have much of the budget allotted to it because it wasn't planned in advance). The entire episode consisted of the main cast having a discussion about terrorism with a group of high-schoolers while stuck in a guest room at the White House, with characters drifting in and out at their leisure to throw their two cents into the discussion. In the cast's introduction, Bradley Whitford even refers to the episode as a "play".
  • Eureka:
    • "H.O.U.S.E. Rules" - automated house S.A.R.A.H. locks the cast inside
    • "A Night In Global Dynamics" - self-explanatory.
    • There's also the Season 3 episode "You Don't Know Jack" (people start to lose their memories), which consists of maybe 40% footage from previous episodes, and only requires one explosion as far as FX go. However, it is not entirely self-contained, as Allison's daughter is born in this episode.
  • A couple of Firefly episodes, such as "Our Mrs. Reynolds" or "Objects In Space," took place almost entirely aboard the ship.
  • Top Gear occasionally has an episode where the presenters tell us they've "spent all the money" and can't afford their normal mix of insane stunts and expensive cars. This is used as much ironically as straight up; what follows is either even more insane stunts with cheaper cars or the most expensive cars of the season.
    • An example is Series 14, Episode 07, where Clarkson claimed the budget had run out and he had to do a sensible review of the BMW X6 - and then filled the film with gratuitious Scenery Porn shots of him and the car all around the world. It started on a quiet English lane, but the fun began when Jeremy makes a note of the two-part clamshell glovebox.
    Clarkson: It works well here, but what about upside down?
    (Cut to establishing shot of the Sydney Opera House.)
  • Homicide: Life on the Street
    • Won an Emmy for "Three Men and Adena" which was almost entirely two detectives and a suspect sitting talking in the interrogation room.
    • "Night of the Dead Living" from the same season similarly stayed in the station house. Both of these episodes are substantially more Truth in Television, however, as they depict, in fairly realistic terms, events from the non-fiction book of the same name that inspired the show. Not that it didn't also help to save money.
  • The Shield had, in its fourth season, an entire episode set in the Farmington police headquarters' interrogation room, where Vic Mackey and Monica Rawlings spend 42 minutes grilling a suspect. Notably, the episode was an extended 90 minute (with commercials) episode as opposed to the usual 60 minute (again, with commercials) episodes.
  • Bottom has a lot of these.
    • One series 3 episode took place solely on top of a Ferris wheel and God's palm with only the two cast members.
    • 3 episodes take place entirely outside the flat (with only one set), and 3 episodes feature only two characters. There are a few set entirely within the flat.
  • An episode of Hancock's Half Hour, 'The Bedsitter', was not only just set on the one set (Tony Hancock's bedsit flat) but also featured no other actors other than Tony Hancock himself. The plot, such as it was, just featured Hancock trying to amuse himself for 20 minutes. It was justly acclaimed as one of the funniest episodes he'd done. The aim of this one wasn't so much to save money (although that was no doubt a welcome side-effect for The BBC) as to prove that Hancock could carry a show on his own.
  • Many episodes of The Sandbaggers come close to this. The majority of each plot unfolds in the offices of SIS, with the occasional exterior shot set in London or a stand-in for an Eastern Bloc country.
  • One Foot in the Grave had these once per series (except for the first series) and all make use of different extremes and take place in real time:
    • "Timeless Time" (series 2, episode 6) is set entirely in Victor and Margaret's bedroom during a sleepless night.
    • "The Beast in the Cage" (series 3, episode 4) is set entirely on a motorway during a traffic jam and almost entirely in a single car stuck in said jam. It's the only Bottle Episode in the series to be shot entirely on-location; the rest are shot entirely in-studio (save for a few filmed inserts at the beginning and end of "The Trial").
    • "The Trial" (series 4, episode 5) is set entirely in the Meldrews' home and might be the most extreme example in the series as it features no actors other than Richard Wilson (though Doreen Mantle as Mrs. Warboys can faintly be heard over the phone at one point), much like the Hancock's Half-Hour example above.
    • "Rearranging the Dust" (series 5, episode 4) is set entirely in a solicitor's waiting room.
    • "Threatening Weather" (series 6, episode 4) is set entirely in the Meldrews' home during a power cut on the hottest day of the year.
  • The Only Fools and Horses episode "The Longest Night" takes place mostly in a supermarket manager's office during a raid which turns out to be a set-up.
  • Episode 4 of Psychoville features only David and his mother attempting to avoid getting caught by a police inspector in a flat in Hammersmith, London. It's an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (with nods to Psycho and Frenzy) and mostly consists of two long continuous shots joined by a concealed edit.
  • Mash:
    • "Hawkeye" has Hawkeye confined to a Korean family's hut after having crashed his jeep and gotten a concussion. Alan Alda is the only one of the main cast to appear in the episode.
    • "O.R." was shot entirely in the operating room. And since the Laugh Track wasn't used for any shot taking place in the O.R., this is the first M*A*S*H episode to omit the laugh track completely (although when M*A*S*H was shown in Britain initially the series omitted the laugh track - this is not the case nowadays).
    • "A Night at Rosie's" takes place entirely at Rosie's Bar.
    • "The Bus" takes place entirely on and around the title conveyance (which has broken down in the countryside behind enemy lines), and only five of the eight regular characters appear.
  • LOST: between the on-location filming and narrative structure that constantly calls for new sets, it's almost impossible to have an episode filmed on just one or two standing sets. But by having each episode focus on just one or two characters, some of the actors can disappear for weeks at a time, possibly saving the producers money over the season.
    • "The Constant" is one of the most widely loved episodes though only six (out of sixteen) regulars appear, with only two of them being original cast members.
    • An interview mentioned that the Hydra arc of season 3 was meant to be this due to the network's concerns about the show going over budget in season 2.
    • The season 6 episode Across The Sea is possibly. It features none of the regular cast whatsoever save a brief piece of archive footage from the first season, only prominently features 3 characters, 5 actors with big speaking parts (two of whom are child versions of two of the characters) and takes place entirely on the island.
  • Leverage's main premise are elaborate cons, but they manage to fit a few Bottle Episodes into the format.
  • The Porridge episode A Night In takes this concept to an extreme — it's 25 minutes of two men talking in a darkened room.
  • Seinfeld:
    • The episode "The Chinese Restaurant" took place entirely in a Chinese restaurant, in which the characters do nothing but hang around bitching about not being able to get a table and worrying about offscreen issues. The concept of an episode like that was so groundbreaking at the time that the network executives couldn't understand it, thinking that the only explanation was that production ran out of money. This wasn't the case; it was just an experiment by the writers, and "The Chinese Restaurant" became Seinfeld's Grow the Beard episode, introducing the unique plot and humor styles that made the show a hit later on.
    • Other bottle episodes include "The Parking Garage", which never leaves the titular location, and its second-to-last episode which takes place over a few hours. Like "The Chinese Restaurant" these had nothing to do with lack of funds by the production team; creating the titular set for "The Parking Garage" was extremely difficult and time-consuming before filming even started.
  • In Babylon 5, the Season 4 episode "Intersections In Real Time", the main character (Sheridan) was in a cell, being psychologically tortured to make him break. It is widely regarded as the most emotionally-charged episode of all the series. It is also notable in having been done with one continuous take for each act of the show, and having only one main character (Sheridan) speak. The only other main character who appears is Delenn, who appears only as a non-speaking hallucination.
  • Breaking Bad
    • The season 3 episode "Fly" - with only Walt and Jesse appearing, and set almost entirely in one room, the lab. It saw Jesse and Walt chasing a fly for the full forty-something minutes. Better than it sounds, thanks to the extraordinary levels of tension present throughout, coming to a peak when Jesse is balanced precariously at the top of a ladder while at least three potentially relationship-destroying secrets are on the brink of being revealed during the course of an absolute Tear Jerker of a monologue by Walt.
    • To a lesser extent "...And the Bag's in the River" in season 1 which takes place mostly in Jesse's house.
    • Season 2's "4 Days Out" subverts the idea as far as cost lowering goes. It revolves around Walt and Jesse being stranded in the desert and was intended to take place entirely in the RV. But the plot ended up requiring more and more scenes outside and it eventually became one of the season's most expensive episodes.
  • The season six Christmas episode of The X-Files was this; the other episodes were getting so expensive that Fox was getting antsy. Therefore, "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" takes place almost entirely in one room and has only four cast members.
  • The aptly titled ReGenesis episode "Unbottled". The lab is deserted except for the main cast and the terrorists holding them captive, and the protagonists spend most of the episode locked in a storage room.
  • In the Adam-12 episode "Light Duty", the whole episode takes place entirely inside the police station, as Malloy (sporting an injured wrist) and Reed man the front desk and listen to the day's action through the radio while dealing with assorted people who come in for assistance.
  • The Dragnet episode "B.O.D.-DR-27" also had Friday and Gannon manning the front desk.
  • Community has a lot.
    • The most notable being the episode "Cooperative Calligraphy", which takes place entirely in the study room that the main characters meet for their study group. Abed and Jeff even refer to the "Bottle Episode" concept by name. (It's also the only one actually referred to as being "The Bottle Episode" by fans and crew alike.)
    • Also, the second season episode "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" took place almost entirely in the study room with the group playing D&D. Like, dice-rolls-and-described-actions D&D, not elaborate-dream-sequence D&D.
    • And Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts, the entire episode was shot in the anthropology room, due to the two/three expensive episodes it was between.
    • Season 3 has "Remedial Chaos Theory" which takes place entirely in Troy and Abed's apartment (save for one scene in the study room at the end) that involves Jeff rolling a die to decide who has to go downstairs to let the pizza delivery man in the building and each way that it lands creates an alternate timeline.
    • Season 5's "Cooperative Polygraphy," except for The Tag, takes place entirely in the study room as the group is interrogated as to whether they were responsible for Pierce's death.
  • "The Suitcase" from Mad Men, in which Don and Peggy spend a whole night trying to come up with an idea for a suitcase commercial. It was pretty much immediately hailed as one of the show's best single episodes.
  • "Just Act Normal", episode 5 of series 2 of Miranda, is set entirely in a psychiatrist's office.
  • In The Monkees:
    • "Monkee Mother" and "A Coffin Too Frequent" both take place entirely in the Monkees' apartment.
    • There's also the episode "Fairy Tale", which takes place on a minimalist cardboard set.
  • Bones:
    • The Season 6 episode "Blackout in the Blizzard" has an abridged cast of the main characters; 2 of which spend the majority episode stuck in an elevator with a 3rd overlooking. The remaining 4 characters in the episode solve the entire crime in the standard "Jeffersonian" set...in the dark.
    • The season 1 Christmas Episode had the cast quarantined at the Jeffersonian.
  • In one of the few childrens' show examples, season 1 Victorious episode "Wifi in the Sky" takes place entirely on an airplane—though subverts the idea a little with webcam interaction with her friends.
  • While ranging quite a bit through various Seattle locales, episode #11 "The Missing" from The Killing's first season strikes many as being a bottle episode in spirit. It features only the two main characters, with generous helpings of heretofore basically absent character development. While some dismissed the episode for venting whatever narrative urgency the main murder plotline still had going, others were grateful for a reprieve from those most frustrating elements of the show.
  • The classic sitcom Barney Miller was nothing BUT bottle episodes. Every episode took place in the same squad office at the police station, which consisted of three small rooms: the main office, the holding cell, and Barney's office. That's it. Characters would come and go, but their interactions with the world outside the office were almost always implied and not shown. About once a year they would do an episode where characters actually went outside, but after a few seasons, even this was dropped. The show was never a big ratings hit but managed to last eight seasons because it was incredibly inexpensive to make. Word of God says that the whole philosophy behind Barney Miller was to make a show that resembled a classic stage play. The economic benefits were just a happy side effect.
  • Most episodes of the Mexican sitcom El Chavo del ocho are this, taking place in "La Vecindad" with occasional scenes inside Dońa Florinda's or Don Ramón's apartments. There were also occasional episodes (or in some cases, single scenes) set in the school that El Chavo, Quico (before Carlos Villagrán left the show), and La Chilindrina attend. There was however, one two-part location episode where the characters are on location in Acapulco.
  • The Brit Com dinnerladies. Every episode took place entirely on a single set. (The only time a character appeared elsewhere was in two short inserts of film (one a home video, one an in-universe TV show) that the other characters were watching)
  • The eighth season of Scrubs had to bring down its budget, in part by setting most of its 18 episodes in the hospital, and giving each cast member (including the main character, Zach Braff's J.D.) at least two episodes off. Thus, a lot of the episodes come off a little bottle-y, but a few episodes especially so. "My Full Moon", for example, only features cast members Sarah Chalke & Donald Faison, as well as a few recurring characters, and takes place over one night on one floor of the hospital.
  • Police, Camera, Action!:
    • The Liver Run, which was a Very Special Episode featuring the Metropolitan Police, Eli Kernkraut, Aliza Hillel - filmed in one room, and entirely footage-based (apart from interviews with officers).
    • Helicops (1995 episode) - only filmed at a police airfield in London - with the Metropolitan Police - and around Surrey (mainly Sunbury-on-Thames, Hersham and surrounding streets), but nowhere else.
    • The episodes Don't Look Back In Anger (aired 13 November 1997) and Learning the Hard Way (March 1999) zig-zag this trope; the first one is almost a Clip Show with some new footage added, whilst the second one is an entire Clip Show / Recap Episode. Both are Very Special Episode episodes
    • Less Lethal Weapons - set almost entirely in one room with police weaponry.
    • Death Wish Drivers (which has 2 edited versions) - this episode has no Stock Footage, and does not go out "on report" with the police unlike the rest of the 2007 - 2010 series.
  • The NCIS episode "Trojan Horse" mostly takes place within NCIS headquarters. Another example would be season 7's "Good Cop, Bad Cop", which aside from the opening scene, had all the present-day scenes occur inside NCIS.
  • Criminal Minds has the episode "Seven Seconds", which took place within the same shopping mall almost the entire time.
  • A handful of Cold Case episodes did this, with the flashbacks that filled in the blank between when the audience meets the victim and his/her murder taking place only over a matter of hours and/or in the same location ("Blood On The Tracks", "Blackout")
  • Any episode of Merlin that centres on Gaius will be that season's Bottle Episode.
  • Charmed:
    • "Sand Franscisco Dreamin" takes place almost entirely inside the Manor and features a plot about the sisters' dreams coming to life. None of the lavish special effects the show normally used were required (Piper's dream was a man romancing her, Paige's was her clown doll coming to life, Phoebe's was being chased by a masked chainsaw killer and Leo's was being pregnant himself) and hardly any other cast members were used.
    • "Cat House" from season 5 is another contender. The majority of the episode is Piper and Leo at a marriage counsellor where they have cast a spell to relive their memories that ends up sending Phoebe and Paige into the past to relive them. Most of the episode has clips of Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan superimposed over clips from previous episodes.
  • H2O: Just Add Water has "The Siren Effect" in season 1. The episode takes place in both the Juice Cafe and Cleo's house, two regular sets on the show. None of the girls use their powers and it's the only episode of the series not to feature a mermaid transformation.
  • "Sunday Best" from Boardwalk Empire, about little more than how various characters spend Easter.
  • Power Rangers Samurai
    • Did this with "Trickster Treat", which may have been a contractual obligation; shot well after production had wrapped and not long before Power Rangers Megaforce started shooting. The episode uses almost no original footage ( save for a couple of shots), recycling stuff from other episodes of Samurai, even recycling stuff from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger that normally would've been edited out, such as the Kuroko. It even features Mako standing in for Mia at one point, with only clever editing attempting to hide it (and not that well; even someone who hadn't seen Shinkenger could see that the woman singing wasn't Mia). Only the main 6 Rangers were in this with no supporting characters.
    • "Stuck on Christmas" did it as well, though it actually used original footage, mainly the Megazord cockpit and the Shiba house intertwined into a Clip Show. Also of note this episode used very little Shinkenger footage and the main unmorphed fight scene was recycled from an earlier episode. Plus none of the actors minus those for Ji, Bulk and Spike appeared in this with the ranger actors once again confined to the audio booth with Antonio mysteriously missing most likely due to the Shinkenger footage not featuring Shinken Gold.
  • The Castle episode "Cuffed" takes place almost entirely in a little room where Castle and Beckett are handcuffed to each other, with a few flashbacks as they tried to remember how they'd gotten there. In the DVD commentary, writers Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller acknowledged that they'd deliberately planned a bottle episode because they needed it to be under-budget after the last few episodes had gone over-budget.
    • The episode "Still" revolves around Beckett standing on the trigger plate for a bomb while she and Castle discuss their relationship and adventures over the years interspersed with flashbacks to previous episodes.
  • The vast majority of ER episodes took place over the course of one day and had the majority of its action set in the titular hospital. Several (among them the show's best known episodes—"Love's Labor Lost", "Hell & High Water", etc) even focused only on one story and one even took place in real time, with the patient's admission, treatment, and death, taking all of 45 minutes.
  • Heartbeat had one episode consisting of all the regular characters gathering to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing on TV. The entire episode took place on the regular sets, with the only outdoors "scene" being a single stock shot, and uniquely there was no period music on the soundtrack, just the show's standard cues.
  • The season 9 Supernatural episode "Slumber Party" takes place entirely in the Men of Letters bunker where Sam and Dean live, although Oz is glimpsed through a door near the end.

    Video Games 
  • Ocarina of Time: The Water Temple, as theorized here.
  • In the latter half of Devil May Cry 4, since you are replaying the same levels/bosses as the first half, the level structure is just reversed.
  • The Inverted Castle in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The level layout is exactly the same as the normal castle, just flipped upside down (though at least there's different bosses and enemies).
  • The remakes of Final Fantasy II have included post-game bonus content in which 2 of 3 dungeons are mirror images of the levels at the end of the regular game.
  • Sonic Generations resolves about Sonic and his friends being caught in a simplistic white world reliving memories of past games, using designs and concepts that were already there years before.
  • This Is The Only Level could possibly fit this trope, as the game revolves around escaping the same room over and over, with different variations each time.
  • Odin Sphere has only 8 locations, with 5 characters having to go through 7 of them each. Each location has the same set of enemies with the occasional bit of variation (like Velvet's run through Winterhorn Ridge where she's being chased by goblins along with the standard enemies) and generally has the same map layout throughout, just with rooms switched around for each character. Bosses are fought repeatedly by the characters (especially Belial, who's fought by every character, though with one of them it's part of a Dual Boss fight) with unique bosses only coming rarely.
  • The original Earthworm Jim's secret level, Who Turned Out the Lights, is an entire level that the player may never stumble upon. How could the time and effort needed to make such a level be justifiable? Easy. It consists of the player running around in the dark with the only new graphics being spotlights, a silhouetted Jim, menacing orange enemy eyes, superimposed regular and AWOO-GA eyes for Jim, and giant menacing orange eyes. The level's music didn't even need composing, as it's the public domain Maple Leaf Rag. The level is fun and interesting and even has items hidden in hard-to-reach sections.

    Web Original 
  • Unless you count the Machinima aspects of the show, the entirety of Arby 'n' the Chief mainly consists of two talking action figures that live alone in an apartment and are unable to venture out of it in fear of causing panic to the outside world.
  • Echo Chamber, the TV Tropes webseries, had an episode on Walk and Talk which was substantially shorter and simpler than a normal episode. Tropers were divided on whether its brevity was an asset or a liability, compared to the previous episode.
  • KateModern tended to follow a schedule of one episode every weekday, with Bottle Episodes on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and a more special effects-heavy episode on Friday. This was sometimes subverted, either by having the bigger budget episode earlier in the week or by showing an additional, often more dramatic episode at the weekend.

    Western Animation 
  • Clerks: The Animated Series:
    • In one episode they made a point of keeping Dante and Randal inside the store while incredible happenings occurred just outside, with the whole purpose being to hang a lampshade on how dissimilar the series was to the original movie.
    • The very second episode, "The Clipshow Wherein Dante and Randal are Locked in the Freezer and Remember Some of the Great Moments in Their Lives", was both this trope and a fake Clip Show.
  • The Invader Zim episode "Zim Eats Waffles", with the exception of the first minute and about twenty seconds at the end, consisted entirely of two camera angles. May have been due to a relatively large portion of the budget allocated to the second season finale (which was never made due to the series being canceled), although that remains unclear. The commentary actually states that this was the writer's intention.
  • By the same token, the episode "A Third Dad Cartoon" from Dexter's Laboratory uses a single camera angle, and consists entirely of Dad setting up a golf shot while the kids watch. Luckily, this was one of the shorts.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Look Before You Sleep" fits this trope and may have been intended to conserve the budget, since it has only three speaking parts and is set mostly inside Twilight's treehouse. It's rumored they originally were well into another episode which had to be scrapped, and what we got was what they made in about a third of the time they'd normally have to make an episode.
  • The Ren and Stimpy DVD commentary says that "Rubber Nipple Salesmen" was a Bottle Episode. The only fully-animated scenes were Ren and Stimpy driving the truck and standing outside someone's house whenever they had to sell rubber nipples. The animation budget they had for the episode was really tight, so John K. and the good people at Spumco couldn't animate Ren and Stimpy actually getting out of the truck or driving away.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants's "Gary Takes A Bath". 8-minute season 2 finale with one voice actor, only three characters (Mr. Krabs doesn't even talk) and a simple plot.
  • The Sealab 2021 episode "Fusebox" consists almost entirely of one exterior shot of Sealab while the power is out.
  • According to Word of God, The Venture Bros. episode "Tag Sale...You're It!" was meant to be one of these by keeping the action on the Venture compound. Then the plot of the episode called for Loads and Loads of Background Characters, and the amount of work for the animators didn't really diminish.
  • The 150th Family Guy episode "Brian & Stewie", which is about Brian and Stewie coming to terms with each other while locked in a bank vault. The entire episode was free of the show's normal conventions (cutaway gags, recurring characters, burns against celebrities, flashbacks). It's basically just Seth MacFarlane Talking to Himself — no Alex Borstein playing Lois, no Seth Green as Chris, not even Mila Kunis as the Designated Monkey Meg — for 22 minutes. It's about as minimal as an episode can get.
  • Adventure Time has several.
    • "Marceline's Closet", where Finn and Jake spend the majority of the episode trapped in Marceline's closet.
    • "Still" is also one, as evident by the fact that Finn and Jake are frozen the entire episode. One of the workers on the show even called it a Bottle Episode.
  • The Fairly OddParents had "Lights Out", following action mostly by sound-effects and following the characters By the Lights of Their Eyes.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012) has at least two such episodes, though in different senses:
    • "Frenemies" is set almost entirely in the day camp room, with a handful of short scenes in Blythe's room and at the storefront. Nevertheless, the episode is indoors from beginning to end, and only the main characters are present.
    • "Eight Arms to Hold You" shows a lot of locations, more so than most other episodes, but only six characters have screentime longer than five seconds. These six are also the only characters in the episode with speaking roles and thus half of the voice actors for this show sat this episode out. To save on animation, a power outage means a few scenes are also set in total darkness.
  • The Powerpuff Girls has the appropriately titled "The Powerpuff Girls' Best Rainy Day Adventure Ever," which as the title suggests features the girls stuck inside the house because of the rain, so they in turn act out one of their own adventures. It's generally regarded as one of the funniest episodes in the series.
  • VeggieTales has the special known as "Dave and the Giant Pickle", which is a simple retelling of the story of David Versus Goliath. According to the crew, they had spent so much money putting together their previous special "Rack, Shack, and Benny" that they had to make this particular special very simple, otherwise Big Idea Inc. would've gone bankrupt.
  • The Angry Beavers' unaired and unanimated series finale "Bye Bye Beavers" would have been this.

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