bottle episode


plural bottle episodes
: an inexpensively produced episode of a television series that is typically confined to one setting
After weeks spent in the field, The Last Ship got back to basics tonight by delivering a very satisfying bottle episode that kept everyone situated on the ship.Merrill Barr
The six-part series is made up of mostly "bottle episodes," meaning the action takes place in one location. While that situation is a facility of a small budget, it has turned out to be a bit of a creative windfall.Dana Gee

Examples of bottle episode in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Turns out, bottle episodes are challenging in a lot really cool ways, but there’s no room for error in terms of having anything to cut to in post. Brande Victorian, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Sep. 2023 Having weird bottle episodes like Episode 3 with the clone scientist or Episode 6 with the Scooby Doo stuff and the cameos just felt so tonally bizarre. Erik Kain, Forbes, 19 Apr. 2023 Logan’s wake was basically a bottle episode. Jackie Strause, The Hollywood Reporter, 1 May 2023 Yes, the series might be, on the surface, about characters trying to prevent World War III, but my favorite hour was a bottle episode, kinda, focusing on the ins and outs of a high-profile lunch at which everybody has a different agenda. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 Apr. 2023 This is a reminder from your friendly neighborhood TV critic: an episode that breaks the format of a show in some way, and/or is especially distinctive, is not automatically a bottle episode. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 11 Apr. 2023 The Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode where Jake and Captain Holt interrogate a suspect for the entire time is a bottle episode; The Last of Us episode about Bill and Frank is not. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 11 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bottle episode.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


earlier bottle show, of uncertain origin

Note: The notion that the phrase grew out of the television series Star Trek is contravened by Robert H. Justman, a coproducer of the original Star Trek. In discussing the alternation of "planet shows" with "ship shows" on the series, Justman mentions that "most other series called them [ship shows] 'bottle shows,' but regardless of what they were called, their purpose was the same: to save money by 'bottling up' the action … Our ship shows took place entirely on board the Enterprise and cost much less to produce" (Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, Inside Star Trek: the Real Story, Pocket Books, 1996, p. 253). In The Outer Limits: The Official Companion (New York: Ace Science Fiction Books, 1986) the book's authors David J. Schow and Jeffrey Frentzen attribute the coinage of bottle show to Leslie Stevens, producer of the series The Outer Limits (1963-65): "No one believed Leslie Stevens when he proposed to complete an Outer Limits episode in four days … until he went ahead and did it. The skeleton of 'Controlled Experiment' [broadcast 13 January 1964] was typed up by Stevens on a New York to LA flight, and the show took four and a half shooting days to complete. At $100,000, it was the cheapest Outer Limits ever. Stevens dubbed this last-minute lifesaving technique the 'bottle show'—as in pulling an episode right out of a bottle like a genie. 'When they know you can do it, and do it fast, you become the fire department, to bail the show out of trouble,' said Stevens" (p. 86). (Schow and Frentzen interviewed Leslie Stevens expressly for the book.)

First Known Use

2003, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bottle episode was in 2003

Dictionary Entries Near bottle episode

Cite this Entry

“Bottle episode.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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