A bottle episode is a special kind of television show in which, for budgetary reasons, the production team decides to forgo the use of multiple locations. Instead, they stick to one prebuilt set and only film the main cast members – which makes for a much leaner, cheaper episode.
As such, they’re all the rage right now in the world of television, and it’s no surprise why. They’re the ideal way to get a full-length story on the air without spending too much time or money building sets and hiring crews to travel around to different locations.
The definition of a bottle episode is a bit looser than you might think, however, and can actually include any episode that doesn’t involve a significant amount of traveling or visual effects. However, most people who use the term mean a specific type of episode that’s filmed in just one location.
Essentially, the idea behind a bottle episode is that the producers can produce one at a fraction of the cost of a regular episode, so they’re great for a network desperate to fill time slots during a season or a series. But what exactly is a bottle episode, and how do you make one?
While a bottle episode sounds simple enough, the actual process of creating one is much more complicated. The biggest problem comes from the fact that many episodes that feature a single setting can be quite difficult to pull off, as there are so many ways to make a scene look more interesting than it would if you were to move the camera between various backgrounds.
Bottles made of glass are a great example of how complex nature can be, as even identically shaped bottles will often behave differently. This is due to the atomic structure of glass, which is always changing as it relaxes and solidifies on a cellular level. Unlike a solid such as a rock, this is not a spontaneous process, and glass is often found in a liquid or crystallized state, despite appearing to be solid on a human time scale.
While glass is relatively inert, it still needs plenty of energy to be formed into a bottle, and the resulting emissions from such operations are a huge problem for the environment. In addition to carbon dioxide equivalency, these emissions also contain sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, which can be harmful to human health and lead to respiratory problems.
Plastic bottles, on the other hand, can be made using a process that’s significantly less harmful to the environment. In addition to producing less greenhouse gasses, plastics require fewer resources to manufacture and can be recycled more easily. Those benefits are helping to reduce the massive amounts of plastics that end up in oceans, where they can be broken down into smaller microplastics by waves and ocean currents before eventually reaching one of the major oceanic garbage gyres like The Pacific Garbage Patch.