Thanks to ever-increasing budgets, television is becoming increasingly cinematic these days: high production values, beautiful location filming, dozens upon dozens of bespoke sets. And that's fantastic... until the money runs dry. But the TV industry has long had a solution to this problem, and it's affectionately known as a "bottle episode".
Bottle episodes are less like cinema, more like theatre. Taking place almost entirely within a single room or location, these episodes strip out sweeping vistas and ambitious action sequences in favour of introspective dialogue and character development. Despite being initially envisioned as a cost-saving measure, this format has been the catalyst for some of the best TV episodes ever, often making for a memorable standalone story that also weaves into wider character arcs.
The greatest writers, directors, and actors know how to use the format to its fullest potential, sometimes even creating bottle episodes for their own sake thanks to the unique challenge they provide and the storytelling opportunities they present, rather than merely to be thrifty. These episodes may seem limited, but they demonstrate boundless talent and creativity.
Patch is a pop culture enthusiast and purveyor of puns. He writes about media in a vague attempt to justify the alarming amount of time he spends consuming it. Nobody's convinced... but nobody's told him that yet. He spends his spare time working on Portal 2: Desolation, an ambitious fan-made sequel to Valve's beloved puzzle games.