bottle episode

noun
plural bottle episodes

Definition of bottle episode

: 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

First Known Use of bottle episode

2003, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bottle episode

earlier bottle show, of uncertain origin

Note: The notion that the phrase grew out of the television series Star Trek, expounded in the Wikipedia article for "bottle episode" (as of 3/14/2019), 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.)

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