10 thoughts on “What’s the All-Time Best ‘Bottle Episode’ of a TV Sitcom?

  1. The first one that comes to mind is that episode of Friends where everyone was supposed to be getting ready for Ross’s award dinner (I think that’s what it was) but instead they’re just sitting around Rachael and Monica’s apartment for 22 minutes. It was the one with the line about not going commando in another man’s fatigues.

  2. Woody’s wedding in Cheers comes to mind which, apart from an opening scene at the bar, takes place entirely in the kitchen of Woody’s in-laws’ mansion where the wedding takes place.

  3. Brooklyn 99 where Holt is interrogating a suspect. And it calls back to Andre Braughers work on Homicide

  4. echoing Sara, The Box from season 5 of Brooklyn 99, with a pared down cast and mostly set in the interrogation room, is the gold standard.

    also, the Ski Lodge from Frasier ranks highly for this

  5. I used to like a lot (let’s put aside present afterthoughts) that episode of The Bill Cosby Show where Mr. Kincaid is locked in an elevator with a guy and a lady. It had continuous reruns on a local TV when I was a kid and I think I’ve watched it a zillion times. I learnt about the twenty-question game from it.

    Add-on: I checked, it’s called “The Elevator Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” (1×16) and it guest-stars Henry Fonda!

  6. For me, it’s an episode of a show nobody remembers, except me and, possibly, Mr. Cronin. Hennesey (1959-62, CBS) starred Jackie Cooper as Lieutenant Charles “Chick” Hennesey, a Navy physician assigned to the San Diego naval base. Included in the regular cast were Abby Dalton and Roscoe Karns and Henry Kulky.

    The episode “Professional Sailor”, first airing on 20 November 1961, probably had this synopsis under its TV Guide listing: “Dr. Hennesey gives a sailor a physical.” Because that’s all that happens.
    But much more.

    None of the regular cast appears, except for Cooper as Hennesey. Only one other performer appears—Don Rickles, portraying a career sailor, a chief petty officer. The show often went outside the bounds of the base dispensary, but this episode takes place entirely in the examination room.

    No supporting cast, only two actors, only one set—yet, you don’t realise it until the episode is almost over, so caught up you get in the interplay between Hennesey and the C.P.O. The chief is in the twilight of his Navy career. During his physical, he questions whether his career has had any real meaning and he’s even more dubious about his usefulness as a civilian, once he retires. Dr. Hennesey, of course, has some solid thought on that. And like many of this series’ best episodes, everything turns on Hennesey’s parting thought that reaches back to something mentioned early in the episode.

    For those of you who knew Rickles only as a brash insult comedian, you’d be surprised at his performance here. It’s expertly underplayed, conveying pathos, undercurrent, and the experience of age. The chemistry between Rickles and Cooper is remarkable. As I said, you get so caught up in their discussion, you forget that nothing else happens and nobody else appears.

    Lastly, the final scene is a confidence-restored chief petty officer leaving the exam room and striding down the corridor, toward the camera. In that shot, Rickles looked and moved like every veteran C.P.O. I ever knew.

  7. I doubt many people on here would cite it, but my vote goes to the Red Dwarf episode “Marooned”, which almost entirely takes place in one room and mostly features just two of the cast (Chris Barrie and Craig Charles) in a prolonged and hilarious conversation.

  8. hard to pick one as there are so many

    Before I was born, Tony Hancock (in Hancock’s Half Hour) had one episode on a train irritating the other passengers. In the 1961 follow-up series, Hancock, he improved on this while stuck in a lift (the 9th person on a lift with maximum capacity 8), while he spent the classic episode the Radio Ham in his own bedsit though probably peaked the “bottle show” format with “Hancock Alone” AKA “the bedsitter” by himself trying to read Bertand Russell, tries to get his TV working but does not manage to do anything.

    Within my lifetime, in 1973, there was Porridge set in a prison – episode 3 “A Night In” was set entirely in a cell with old-hand Fletcher helping first-timer Godber on his first night inside – 2 people in one location talking and developing a friendship which would last the series.

    90s series One Foot in the Grave was all about angrily facing the frustrations of life and this resulted in the occasional great bottle show episode. “Timeless Time” was set in a bedroom concerning difficulties trying to sleep. “The Beast in the Cage” in a car stuck in a traffic jam (behind a horse box).
    But, my number one pick is “the trial” in which Victor Meldrew waits in his living room by himself in case he gets a telephone call for jury service and struggles to cope with the boredom (and a yucca plant in his toilet)

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