Follow TV Tropes

Following

Bottle Episode / Live-Action TV

Go To

Bottle Episodes of live-action TV.


  • The 4400: "No Exit" takes place almost entirely in the NTAC building, or at least the version of it that exists in the fantasy world created by P.J. The remaining scenes all feature existing sets such as Diana and Shawn's apartments and the underground bunker in Promise City.
  • 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.
  • Angel: "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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.
  • The Banshee episode "Tribal" takes place almost exclusively in the CADI, as it is under siege by Chayton and the Redbones.
  • 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 told 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. Of 175 episodes produced 1975-1982, only thirteen episodes showed scenes outside the station: "Ramon", "Graft", "The Stakeout", "Hair", "The Hero", "Grand Hotel", "Fish", "Wojo's Girl" part 2 (itself a Bottle Episode as the whole episode took place in Wojo's apartment), "Contempt" parts 1 & 2, "Chinatown" parts 1 & 2, and "Eviction" part 2.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): 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.
      Advertisement:
    • 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.
    • An 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.
  • Baywatch would do this occasionally and they'd often be among the show's better episodes. One in particular had no definite plotline, just depicted the typical chaos that a lifeguard might deal with on an average day.
  • 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, and another notable episode was set entirely in the Interview Room.
  • 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.
  • Black-ish: the season 2 finale "Hope", dealing with police brutality against blacks, takes place in the Johnsons' living room and kitchen, with only the final shot taking place outside.
  • Blake's 7:
    • "Breakdown" takes place on the Liberator and one other set, with a small guest cast that don't appear until the second half of the episode.
    • "Dawn of the Gods": A large portion of the episode takes place on the Liberator. The rest of it takes place on a series of basic sets, one of which is an empty black stage.
    • "Sarcophagus" takes place almost entirely on the Liberator and, apart from some non-speaking aliens at the start, contains no guest cast.
    • "Orbit" takes place on Scorpio, a mad scientist's base, and a shuttle travelling between those two locations, with the mad scientist and his assistant being the only guest characters.
  • "Sunday Best" from Boardwalk Empire, about little more than how various characters spend Easter.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, since the episode's initial, bizarre slapstick comedy gives way to some of the show's most tense dialogue - a Tear Jerker monologue from Walt that comes close to telling way too many secrets.
    • "...And the Bag's in the River" in season 1 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.
  • A Season 5 episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, "The Box", takes place almost entirely within the interrogation room (minus a few shots of the precinct and a shot of the outside) and has only four characters. (Jake, Holt, the suspect, and the suspect's lawyer, although Gina and Charles make minor appearances at the beginning and very end respectively) In a major Actor Allusion, Holt is played by Andre Braugher, who played Frank Pembleton in Homicide: Life on the Street and was one of the main actors in that show's famous episode dealing entirely with a single interrogation (see the entry elsewhere on this page).
  • 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.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Because Joss Whedon has to take this trope and mix it up with Angst Up to 11, there's 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.
    • Season 6's "Older And Far Away", where Halfrek tricks Dawn into wishing nobody can leave the Summers house. Hilarity and drama ensue.
  • In Car Share, every episode mainly consists of two people just sitting in a car and talking.
  • Castle:
    • The 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.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • "Sand Francisco 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.
  • Most episodes of the Mexican sitcom El Chavo del ocho are this, taking place in "La Vecindad" with occasional scenes inside Doña 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.
  • 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".
  • Class has the episode "Detained", which takes place entirely in one school classroom with only the regular characters (one of whom only appears briefly at the beginning and end) and one guest character who manifests only as a disembodied voice.
  • 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").
  • 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.)
    • 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.
    • Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts 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.
  • Combining this trope with Minimalist Cast, Coronation Street managed to have two episodes so far invoking this: the first was from New Year's Day 2000 with estranged married couple Curly and Raquel Watts having a heart to heart where she introduced his previously unknown three-year-old daughter to him (via pictures) and the latter asked for a divorce as she had fallen in love with another man and was pregnant with his child (which he granted as he had fallen in love with a local policewoman, who eventually became his second wife). The second was between well-known mother and daughter Deidre and Tracy Barlow from 2007, where the latter confessed to killing her boyfriend before turning herself in and they both reflecting on both her actions and their troubled relationship. The Other Wiki refers to this type of episode as a Two Hander, which is quite a feat in a series such as this.
  • Criminal Minds has the episode "Seven Seconds", which took place within the same shopping mall almost the entire time.
  • Criminal: All of the episodes qualify as one, set within a police interrogation room.
  • CSI 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.
  • 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.
  • Episode 8 of the second season of the Netflix show Dear White People follows two characters' conversation around the racial politics that surround them and their own personal relationship in a single set, the basement/recording studio of their school.
  • 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.)
  • Doctor Who:
    • Classic:
      • "The Edge of Destruction" was set entirely in the TARDIS, and features only the regular cast. 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.
      • "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 "Planet of Giants" was judged to be too long and edited down to three episodes rather than the planned four. 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' 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 realized 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.
      • Episode 4 of "The Evil of the Daleks" is Doctor-lite and (one) companion-lite as Patrick Troughton was on holiday. It mostly is about the primary companion, Jamie, running down corridors with one-shot ally Kemel, with the Doctor only appearing in a pre-recorded sequence where he describes Jamie's personality to the Dalek, and the other companion, Victoria, only appearing in a quick pre-recorded shot right at the end.
      • 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.
      • "Carnival of Monsters". The more elaborate set is a combination of Prop Recycling from the extensive BBC Costume Drama collection, some Backed by the Pentagon boat exteriors, a BBC Quarry and a dark sound stage. The less elaborate set is a small round area. About half of the plot is three Rubber-Forehead Aliens arguing with two Human Aliens in a small room. The monsters are latex puppets called Drashigs, a Significant Anagram of "dishrags", as Robert Holmes assumed that was what they'd end up being made out of considering that this was a cheap story.
      • The first episode of "The Ark in Space" features just the Doctor, Sarah, Harry and no other characters save for some cryogenically frozen extras. This was because the set had been extremely expensive to construct. The set reappears, with some light modifications, later on in "Revenge of the Cybermen" (as the same location, but many years in the future).
      • "The Sontaran Experiment". The incoming showrunning team (Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes) had decided to abolish the 6-parter format in favour of 4-parters while still being commissioned for the same number of episodes, leading to a remainder of two episodes which had to be produced for No Budget. The whole story, in addition to being two episodes long and shot on videotape to save money, takes place entirely on a hillside. There are four guest stars in recycled space suits, one of whom is even played by Tom Baker's Stunt Double Acting for Two, and two Sontarans (recycled costumes). There's a Tin-Can Robot and some props recycled from the Sontaran spaceship sets of previous Sontaran stories. It also has no scenes in the TARDIS. The most notable thing about it is that it was also Tom Baker's first story in which he could adjust to the role. The cost-saving genius was that is was made using the location filming allocated to the four-parter it was produced alongside, resulting in two stories shot for the price of one. This practice was later fine-tuned under the last producer of the classic series, John Nathan-Turner, and was the only method of production for the shortened, No Budget last three seasons under the Seventh Doctor.
      • 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. At least one of the monsters was a recycled monster costume from the Pertwee story "The Mutants". 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 disabled 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.
      • "The Horns of Nimon". Sets recycled from various other BBC productions and from previous stories, a bit of slowmo with some borrowed equipment from the sports department, some CSO, some fireworks, some teenage extras. The focus is on a small cast of ridiculously campy villains and a lot of Ham and Cheese. This was to save money for the next serial, "Shada", which unfortunately backfired when that serial was cancelled due to a BBC strike, leaving "Nimon" to serve as the season finale.
    • The new series initially did 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:
      • "The Unquiet Dead", a period piece set in the Victorian era, was shot on the same block as the hugely expensive "The End of the World", which was the most expensive episode of the season. As a period piece, it could use pre-existing sets and costumes, saving money.
      • "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.
      • "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 (it was a last-minute replacement for a script which had to be shelved when it was deemed to be too similar to another episode in the same series).
      • "Amy's Choice" uses only the TARDIS set and a sleepy country village.
      • "The Lodger": An episode set mostly in a Colchester flat. Amy's scenes are limited to a handful in the TARDIS control room.
      • 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" — a tiny cast (some extras, two guest stars, Samuel Anderson doublecast as an Identical Grandson of his usual character), no CGI, a bit of Screen Shake, space suits recycled from "The Impossible Planet", a focus on the Doctor having a tiny mental breakdown, a "monster" represented by a small figure moving under a blanket and never actually shown to us (and which might not actually be a monster).
      • Subverted with "Heaven Sent", which was intended as this: The action is mostly limited to a mysterious clockwork castle. There are only four characters, two major (the Doctor and a mute monster) and two minor ( the Doctor's mental image of Clara and a Gallifreyan boy), and only two of them have any dialogue (mostly the Doctor). And the plot is simply the Doctor struggling to escape the castle while his anguish and rage over his capture and Clara's death in the previous episode fester within him. But the castle was such an elaborate, lavish, and special-effects heavy setting that the episode wound up being more expensive than anticipated; moreover, the episode runs 10 minutes longer than a standard NewWho episode.
  • The Dragnet episode "B.O.D.-DR-27" also had Friday and Gannon manning the front desk.
  • The Drake & Josh episode "Tree House" is a one of the Locked in a Room variety. The episode takes place almost entirely within the tree house Drake has inadvertently trapped him and Josh in, with only occasional outside shots of Megan doing everything in her power to make sure they stay there (not handing up the saw to let them cut a hole, disabling their power screwdriver, and even grilling burgers just to torture them with the smell of food).
  • 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.
  • Eerie, Indiana: "Scariest Home Videos" takes place entirely at Marshall's house except for a scene in a car.
  • 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.
    • "Secrets and Lies" is an even more extreme example, in that it doesn't even focus on any patients, only on several series regulars sitting in a room together and talking The Breakfast Club style.
  • 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.
    • The Season 3 episode "You Don't Know Jack" (people start to lose their memories) 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.
  • Farscape had a number of episodes set entirely aboard the spaceship with only one or two guest characters, especially in the first season. The first episode with no guest stars at all was "My Three Crichtons".
  • One from French TV. TF1's long-running popular sitcom Les Filles d'à côté ran on this trope, dealing with the lives of two sets of neighbours and the gym/health club they visited. This is pretty much a Bottle series in which the action took place in four sets, all indoor: the girls' apartment, the boys' apartment, the gym/health club they all visited, and the corridor/lift outside the apartments. The fact a whole country called France existed outside the indoor sets was an Informed Attribute; none of the characters was ever seen to go outside.
  • A couple of Firefly episodes, such as "Our Mrs. Reynolds" or "Objects in Space", took place almost entirely aboard the ship.
  • 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 Season 1 finale, "My Coffee With Niles", takes place entirely in Cafe Nervosa, and it also occurs in Real Time.
  • 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.
  • Game of Thrones: Subverted by "Blackwater", "The Watchers on the Wall", and "Battle of the Bastards", which were easily the most expensive episodes of the show, despite featuring far fewer locations than usual and discarding most of the show's Four Lines, All Waiting. Those cases are, more accurately, examples of Shoot the Money: when the production staff pulls out all the stops for a truly expensive action sequence like the siege of King's Landing, the defense of the Wall or the liberation of Winterfell, they make damn sure they get a whole episode's worth of material out of it.
    • In season eight it aired its version of a bottle episode, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms", that takes place entirely in Winterfell and is almost entirely dialogue, though at least one reviewer disagreed with using the term.
  • Girls had three bottle episodes, the Hannah-centric "One Man's Trash" and "American Bitch", and the final episode "Latching" which focused on Hannah, Marnie and Hannah's mother Loreen, all mostly shot with a few actors in one location. The series also used the single-character format with the Marnie-centric "The Panic in Central Park", though it featured far more on-location filming than normal episodes, and even an underwater scene.
  • 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.
  • Outside of a few flashbacks, the Season 1 finale of The Good Place takes place almost entirely in Eleanor's apartment.
  • The season 13 Grey's Anatomy episode "The Room Where It Happens" chronicles a single complicated surgery from start to finish, never leaving the titular OR except in characters' imaginary sequences where they each try to relate to the John Doe on the table by linking him to past experiences. Only four members of the main cast—Meredith, Webber, Owen, and Stephanie—appear.
  • H2O: Just Add Water has "The Siren Effect" in season 1. The episode takes place in both the Juice Café 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Henry Danger has had two so far.
    • The entirety of the events in "Cave In" take place in "Junk n' Stuff" and the Man Cave.
    • Nearly the entirety of "Car Trek" takes place in Schwoz's Recreational Vehicle where the Junk-N-Stuff people are and in the Hart Car with Piper and her father.
  • 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.
  • A couple of episodes of House take place entirely in the hospital. Sometimes there's an in-universe reason ("A Pox On Our House", "Lockdown", "Last Resort"), other times it's just the way things happen.
    • "One Day, One Room" has all but one scene take place in the hospital, and the one remaining scene is on a public park set that had been used before.
  • 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).
  • In the Flesh Season 2:
    • In the fifth episode, where Kieren is absent for most of the episode and the episode focuses mostly on Simon. Nearly the whole episode rakes place at Norfolk, with a few bits and pieces in Roarton.
    • Episode 3 does the same thing, focusing on a minor character with nothing major happening until the final scene.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
    • The show features a number of episodes that take place entirely within the bar. Perhaps the most popular is "Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games," in which the gang simply plays a board game for the entire episode.
    • "The Gang Does a Clip Show" is a subversion. At first it appears as if the gang will spend the entire episode in the bar setting up clip montages from past episodes, but eventually they start to remember things that never happened and take a digression into a recreation of the Seinfeld set.
  • In Justified episode Blowback, nearly the entire episode takes place in the Marshal's office after a prisoner who is being transported uses a hidden shiv to take his jailers hostage. Raylan spends the episode trying to talk the man down to prove that he can deescalate situations without shooting anyone.
  • 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.
  • Leverage's main premise are elaborate cons, but they manage to fit a few Bottle Episodes into the format:
  • 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.
    • The Hydra arc of early season 3, where 3 principal actors were stuck in cages for several episodes in a row resulted from the network's concerns about the show going over budget in season 2 finale.
    • An infamous example of Tropes Are Tools with regards to bottle episodes, showing the negative effects they could have is the notorious season 3 episode "Stranger in a Strange Land", which decided to explore the origins of, of all things... Jack's tattoos. As one would expect from such a flimsy concept for an episode, the episode was padded to all hell with no major action happening in either the flashbacks or the island scenes, and no further development of the story or characters. The episode is often seen as one of the worst episodes of the series, if not the worst, and the writers hated it so much that they used it, when approaching the network for an end date, as proof that there's only so far an already restrictive story set entirely on an island can be stretched.
    • The season 6 episode Across The Sea is possibly this. 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.
  • Lost Girl: "Original Skin" takes place almost exclusively in The Dal when a serum causes the spirits of the main characters to swap bodies. They spend the rest of the episode trying to get back into their original bodies.
  • MacGyver (1985): When Mac and Harry drop by the Phoenix Foundation to pick up some hockey tickets in "Phoenix Under Siege", they find themselves in the middle of a terrorist attack and the terrorists seal the building.
  • 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. This is in addition to plenty of "traditional" Bottle Episodes that never leave the couple's apartment.
  • "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.
  • 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".
  • M*A*S*H:
    • "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.
  • The Britcom Men Behaving Badly had a bottle episode that took place in a single room — indeed, very nearly a single camera shot.
  • Any episode of Merlin that centres on Gaius will be that season's Bottle Episode.
  • "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.
    • The episode "Fairy Tale" takes place on a minimalist cardboard set.
  • The entire run of Mrs. Brown's Boys takes place on just three sets, or two if you count Mrs Brown's kitchen and living room as a single set.
  • In the "Driving Miss Crazy" (Season 3, Episode 20) episode of Murphy Brown, much of the episode takes place in Corky's car as the main cast carpools to work.
  • My Name Is Earl typically does a lot of location work, along with a lot of flashbacks and Cutaway Gags making the episodes constantly expensive. To offset this they had a number of episodes focus on keeping the action comparatively in one location, usually at the Local Hangout the Crab Shack. But especially notable was the second season episode where they watch an episode of Cops taking place in their city, the mockumentary style streamlined the filming such that despite taking place in several dozen locations they had light filming days and even finished early. It's also considered one of the funniest episodes of the series. The third season had a Sequel Episode Cops two-parter and the fourth season had a similar two-parter with a fictional news program called "Inside Probe."
  • 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. There's also the episode "Detour", which, despite its multiple locations, took place over the course of only one day.
  • 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.
  • There are a few episodes of or bordering on this type in NUMB3RS Season 4, largely owing to the fact that Tony Scott blew a large portion of the entire season's budget just on the season premiere.
    • The most notable example is "Chinese Box". As the episode takes place inside FBI headquarters, most of the sets were pre-existing, and the few that weren't were very simple (a sparsely-furnished apartment, a storage unit). It did feature a few guest stars (Chris Bruno, Enrico Colantoni), but no huge names.
    • "End Game" was also shot largely on existing and/or simple sets and had very little in the way of special effects.
  • The Office has many episodes that only took place in the office, especially the UK version.
  • 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"). In Bottle Episode terms, this one rather backfired as the setting made it considerably more difficult to film than a regular episode.
    • "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.
  • The Outer Limits (1963) is another contender for possible Trope Namer, and many TOS episodes were written specifically to be produced cheaply. In particular, "Controlled Experiment" was made at a time when the first season's production budget was going out of control and "The Probe" was written and filmed after the series was canceled to fulfill the show's commitment to ABC.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • The series had had quite a few over the years, several of which were written by Brad Wright, 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 they 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 vast majority of "The Conversion" takes place in a small roadside diner.
    • "Quality of Mercy" takes place almost entirely in a prison cell.
    • The Frame Stories of all of the series' Clip Shows (bar "Better Luck Next Time") take place predominantly in one location.
    • After the teaser, "Trial by Fire" takes place entirely in the control room of a nuclear bunker.
    • Almost all of "The Heist" takes place in a warehouse.
    • All but two scenes of "The Deprogrammers" took place in the abandoned KBDL 13 television studio.
    • "The Light Brigade" takes place entirely onboard the titular spaceship.
    • Almost all of "Dead Man's Switch" takes place in an underground bunker.
    • "The Vaccine" takes place entirely in and around a hospital.
    • All but two scenes of "Mary 25" take place in and around the Bouton household.
    • With the exception of three scenes above ground, all of "Monster" takes place in an underground bunker.
    • Almost all of "The Humans Operators" takes place onboard Starfighter 31.
    • "Summit" takes place almost entirely in a small base on a barren planetoid.
    • Almost all of "Decompression" takes place on a plane.
    • "Abduction" takes place entirely in a high school history classroom and the corridor leading to it (or alien copies thereof).
  • Oz may very well be Bottle Episode: The Show, in terms of settings at least. Throughout the entire run, the only settings used were Emerald City, the cafeteria, the library, the gym, the medical wing, one of the cell blocks, death row, solitary confinement, the staff break room, and the offices of Leo Glynn, Sister Peter Marie and Father Makuda. The outside world was only seen through the television, very brief crime flashbacks, conferences Governor Devlin held, an episode where a bus transported family members of prisoners, once in a flashback and then a last time in the finale. That may seem like a lot, but keep in mind these were the only settings used for fifty six episodes.
  • The season 1 Penny Dreadful episode "Possession" takes place entirely in Sir Malcolm's home, as the protagonists attempt to exorcise Vanessa.
  • 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" was 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 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 unlike the rest of the 2007 - 2010 series, it doesn't go out "on report" with the police.
  • The Porridge episode "A Night In" takes this concept to an extreme — it's 25 minutes of two men talking in a darkened room.
  • 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.
  • You can tell when Power Rangers in general (Barring Samurai and Megaforce, which primarily take fights from the Sentai anyway) is saving up for a large, original fight-scenes-and-effects-heavy set of episodes when they rely a lot on the Super Sentai source material and/or only the primary recurring characters appear alongside the Rangers.
  • The Press Gang episode "A Night In" features only the regular newsroom set and the main characters, and was partly inspired by a need to save money (the series was entirely shot on film and entirely on location, making it very expensive for a children's drama series).
  • 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.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Series 1 was predominantly set in the bunk room or the engine room, and usually one or two other rooms, all aboard the ship Red Dwarf itself. Most scenes focused on the two main characters Lister and Rimmer, and subplots focused on The Cat, with guest roles usually being flashbacks or voiceover parts. 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 had a higher budget which permitted some location filming and also added the sub-craft Blue Midget to allow the characters to go off-ship, but still featured several episodes which were entirely confined to the studio.
    • 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 VI's finale, "Out of Time", which was written at the last minute,note  features no guest sets or characters, although it manages to cover it up with some creative writing.
    • Series VII's "Duct Soup" was almost entirely set in the air ducts of the ship and only features the four regulars. They put the episode together at the last minute to replace the unproduced episode "Identity Within", which was too expensive to film, 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, and the series in general was a Troubled Production; the obvious Bottle Episode of what has been called the Bottle Series is "Dear Dave", which features no guest sets and no guest stars apart from one minor voiceover part, and was a last minute replacement for an episode which had to be cancelled when the location filming fell through.
    • Series XII's "Mechocracy" is the only episode of its run to take place entirely aboard Red Dwarf (notable because of how little of the rest of XI & XII took place there, to the point that another episode in the run was an unprecedented example of an episode to have no scenes on board that series' main ship at all), and all of the guest parts are voiceovers.
  • 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.
  • The Royle Family. There are only two sets, the living room/dining room (with attached hallway that is occasionally seen) and the kitchen. In the show's original three series they'd at most go upstairs for a scene once a season. This is averted with the one off specials, which tend to spend very little time in the Royle household. It is often regarded as a startlingly funny and well observed portrait of (a now slightly dated version of) British domesticity.
  • 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.
  • Sapphire and Steel consisted entirely of bottle episodes. Each story arc took place in a single location, and usually featured a small number of sets and actors. The only location filming in the entire series was done on the roof of the production office.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Spooks did something very close to one in its second series (The VX one) and it was one of the best of that series.
  • 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.
    • According to the DVD commentary, Atlantis's "Trio" was supposed to be this. The original idea behind it was to save a lot of money by putting three characters into a small room with minimal prop-requirements, and have them fill 40 minutes with dialogue and some climbing in their attempts to get out of there. However, due to a rather complicated set required for most of the stunts and the earthquake effect they needed, it would eventually turn into the most expensive episode of the entire 4th season.
    • One of the bottle episodes from the second season has an apt title: "Message in a Bottle".
  • 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), with a complete list available at Memory Alpha. 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. This is one reason why all the front-line starships are Constitution-class like the Enterprise — they could reuse both the exterior model and the interior sets.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In a perfect example of how Tropes Are Not Bad, the first season episode "Duet" is 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, and ultimately costing less than half of what an episode would normally run them. 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.
    • This would also apply to Empok Nor, in which the eponymous station is the sister station of Deep Space Nine.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • Subverted with "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 effect sequences required to depict Geordi and Ro becoming intangible, which made it one of the most expensive episodes of the season. The same thing happened to "Power Play" from the same season.
    • "Remember Me" does this on two levels — not only does the entire episode take place aboard the Enterprise, but Doctor Crusher gets trapped in her own "bottle universe".
    • "The Drumhead" from the fourth season: it takes place entirely on the Enterprise's existing sets, uses nothing but existing f/x (the instigating event, a warp engine explosion, is only referred to) and deals with a philosophical issue (the morality of political witch-hunts) rather than an action-oriented one. The sole major expense is special guest star Jean Simmons, who as a fan of the show likely didn't demand a huge fee (and even if she had, the other cost savings would've helped paid for it).
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: "Shuttlepod One" plays it straight, taking place almost entirely in the titular shuttlepod, with a few short scenes taking place on Enterprise herself, and only featuring the main characters. (And a bottle of Kentucky bourbon, making it a literal "bottle episode".) On the other hand, breaking the usual pattern of Trek bottle shows, "A Night in Sickbay" took place almost entirely in sickbay and frequently appears on "Worst Ever" lists.
  • Star Trek: Voyager had a particularly impressive line in them, since the USS Voyager was far more active at putting itself in harm's way than the Enterprise; it ran into enough anomalies, obstacles, and negative space wedgies that at times it could feel like they were trying to film half the season without actually setting foot on a planet.
  • Star Trek: Discovery season 1 had "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad", a "Groundhog Day" Loop plot which takes place entirely on the USS Discovery.
  • Steptoe and Son pretty much IS this trope.
  • Supernatural
    • The season 9 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.
    • The season 11 episode "Baby" takes places in several locations but is seen entirely from the point of view of the Impala.
  • The Switch (1975) episode "The Siege at the Bouziki Bar" is a Clip Show featuring only three guest actors, with all but two scenes set in the titular bar.
  • Teen Wolf:
    • The episode "Night School" 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.
    • The fourth season episode "Weaponized" is a recreation of it, with the cast being trapped inside the school, this time due to a virus. Curiously, many guest stars are present in the episode.
  • 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.
  • Top Gear occasionally has an episode where the presenters tell the viewers 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 gratuitous 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]
  • This Is Us had "The Waiting Room", which spent the entire episode focus on the Pearson family in the present day in the waiting room waiting for Kate's baby to be born. There is no music, and no flashbacks, and worst of all, no Jack.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • The Walking Dead utilizes this trope somewhat frequently, dedicating entire episodes to one character's storyline. The most straightforward bottles episodes are season four's "The Grove", set entirely on a farm with only four characters, and season six's "Here's Not Here", mostly set inside a cabin with only two characters.
    • Season 2 was effectively a bottle season, as the show's budget was cut 20% compared to the first season, while having over double the amount of episodes as the first season (13 episodes, compared to season one which only had six). Almost all the episodes were set in and around a farm as a result.
  • 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 abiliuy 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".
  • A good chunk of Without a Trace episodes, despite multiple locations, took place over only one day.
    • A great deal of the episode "Doppelganger" was an intense mind game interrogation scene.
    • The same could be said of "Malone vs. Malone", which focused mostly on Jack's deposition for his parental custody dispute.
  • 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.


Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report