An episode of a regular series which, for some reason, is not included when the series is shown in syndication (or is sometimes pulled when the series is first run and then
shown in syndication or is never shown in syndication at all — and, in some cases, not included when the show is put on home video, DVD, or online streaming websites). The circumstances are usually one, all, or any of the following:
- Offensive content: An episode may be too violent, sexually charged, racist, sexist, or just plain profane to be shown to the public — sometimes in general, but mostly for the sensibilities of the time. A lot of times, it's from Moral Guardians and fans who complain, but mostly a network head or censor (or a dubbing company who imports foreign shows and localizes them) will look at the show, realize that editing it down will result in a mess, and decide that it's just easier to shelve it and maybe release it on video, DVD, or online (barring that there's no big lawsuit or controversy attached to it [especially if the episode pushed an idiot viewer into copying a dangerous stunt from said missing episode and is either hurt, in jail, or dead as a result], or that the episode isn't destroyed in a fire or from broadcasting imcompetence).
- Legal issues over copyright (specifically using existing characters or adapting/parodying/paying homage to a film, book, or TV show without permission from the original creators)
- A tragedy just happened that is similar to the episode's story. Thanks to such tragedies as the Columbine High school shooting, 9/11, the Virginia Tech shooting, the myriad of celebrity deaths in 2008 and 2009, the 2011 tsunami in Japan, the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting in July 2012, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a lot of past movies and episodes of TV shows that have stories centered on terrorist attacks, youth violence, natural disasters, or the mortality of a celebrity will be pulled as someone will cry, "Too Soon" and raise a shitstorm about it.
- The creator realizes that the work isn't as good as he or she thought it was and wants nothing to do with it (cf. Old Shame).
- A short-lived show is cancelled (whetheror not viewers thought it deserved to be canceled) and has a bunch of episodes that are either done, but have never aired, or were being produced, but never got completed. note
- The network may not like some episodes for various reasons (personal preference, orders of the programming team, cost issues, etc.) In this case, an episode isn't really "missing" per se, but the term still applies.
- The episode is literally missing, with no surviving copies in existence. This is often the case for shows from the early days of television, when recording media were bulky, expensive, and prone to decay, and networks had no idea that the episodes would be worth keeping once the show went off the air.
The terms "Missing Episode" and "Lost Episode" are not
synonymous, but which term refers to which phenomenon varies. It can also be an abused term, such as the case of Entertainment Tonight
finding "lost footage" for their shows which is already properly cataloged and digitized
, but uses the "lost" term instead of "old footage" as the latter doesn't work to pull in viewers.
Can sometimes result from Old Shame
. Frequently confused with Lost Forever
, which is a Video Game Items and Inventory
Trope despite having a name that sounds like this
Trope. For an episode that never actually existed in the first place, see UnInstallment
. See also Canon Discontinuity
, for something that isn't recognized as part of the series, usually due to how out of place it is. See also Banned Episode
, which is a Missing Episode
that already aired at least once or twice, but was pulled due to complaints over content, legal issues, or a bad case of being "Too Soon