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 incompetence).
- For those who are curious: the difference between this and a Banned Episode is that a banned episode is usually run once or twice before the censors intervene. On top of that, a banned episode has a better chance of being put in syndication, on DVD, or in streaming. A missing episode (when it's missing due to offensive content) implies that the censors and/or executives have done everything in their part to make sure viewers never see the episode again (such as destroying the master copies or locking it away in a vault).
- Legal issues (usually over copyright infringement, libel, defamation of character, or a class-action suit).
- Related to this, some episodes are pulled due to insurmountable licensing issues relating to music used in the episode, or perhaps imagery, that render the episode no longer viable if edited out.
- A tragedy makes the episode's story or jokes come off as being in bad taste. Too Soon if the event precedes the fiction's publishing, "Funny Aneurysm" Moment if the fiction's "ruined" in retrospect by later events.
- Old Shame or Creator Backlash: the people involved realize that the episode isn't as good as they thought it was (whether the audience agrees with them or not) and decide to pull it from reruns. The episode may come back on DVD, but only with commentary about how awful the episode was and how it could have been so much better.
- A show is canceled (be it short-lived or long-running) and has some episodes that have never been aired (cf. Dinosaurs and King of the Hill) or, in the case of Mission Hill, the episodes are in pre-production and incomplete.
- It's literally missing. There are no surviving copies left. This applies to a lot of old films, radio shows (the BBC is particularly blameworthy for erasing and re-using tapes of classic shows to save money), and TV shows, as few people knew about preserving the works for future audiences at the time.
- The executives have lost the rights to air the episode in rotation during repeat runs (ITV is one such example of this, cf. Minder, Police, Camera, Action! and Police Stop! as examples)
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 catalogued 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
There is now an entire wiki devoted to lost media.
Check it out for more details behind some of the listed examples here.