I found this term particularly hard to Google for, even knowing pretty much exactly what it meant. So, I will blog it, and thus add it to my external brain.
A “Bottle Episode” is an episode in an episodic television series that is intended to save money, so that that money may be used for more expensive season openers or closers. Money is saved by:
- Using existing sets, not building anything new
- Using very few actors, likely just main characters
- Are heavy on dialog rather than action (or anything else)
A cliche version of the plot of a bottle episode would be where there is a tornado outside and the characters all have to sit in a dark gymnasium and tell stories. If it’s a good show with good actors, a bottle episode can be amazing and showcase the talent of the actors. If it’s a shitty show, well, yeah.
I first learned about this while watching Breaking Bad. There was an episode called “Fly” where the entire episode was inside while the main character tried to catch a fly that was pissing him off. I was trying to find the word this time because I was watching The Killing and there was an episode “Missing” which I’d definitely call a bottle episode.