Game Shows, more than any other genre, were prone to becoming either missing or lost. The practice of wiping (reusing videotapes) stopped as a whole around 1979, with the earlier years of television particularly affected. (The oldest televised game show episode known to exist is from 1947's Party Line, hosted by Bert Parks; the oldest game show footage known to exist is a 1940 episode of Information Please that was recorded for showing in theaters.)
The comparative lack of circulating game show episodes may also be due to the format's perceived inherent lack of rerun potential, due to the genre not really being episodic or having any plot to speak of.
On the other hand, more so than any other genre, collectors and traders of these taped shows proliferated early in the internet's life span, meaning that now when there's a search, there's a LOT of searching.
A lot of the original daytime NBCWheel of Fortune is erased (a somewhat more concise, although likely incomplete, list is here):
All three pilots exist: the first, hosted by Chuck Woolery in 1973 under the Working TitleShopper's Bazaar, the other two hosted by Edd Byrnes in 1974 (and much closer to the final product).
The first six years (1975-81), also hosted by Woolery, were largely wiped. Only a handful of episodes exist, as do some bits and pieces of others.
About the second half Pat Sajak's run on daytime (mid 1985-89) is intact, as are those of his daytime successors: Rolf Benirschke (1989) and, after a Channel Hop to CBSnote (followed by a return to NBC in January 1991), Bob Goen (1989-91).
The Sajak-hosted nighttime version (1983-present) is intact, but certain years are quite hard to find (most notably the 1985-86, 1986-87, and 1990-91 seasons), as well as 2000. The lack of episodes representing those eras is due at least in part to limited reruns on GSN and/or few big fans of Wheel in the game show tape trading community.
In a lesser example, three episodes had entire puzzles edited out for reasons other than technical errors:
The first (taped in San Francisco and aired November 2, 1992) removed a round with an answer of VANNA'S PREGNANT because she miscarried before the episode made it to air; in its place, viewers saw a three-minute spiel on San Francisco, followed by a post-production clip of Pat standing at the puzzle board and announcing who won that round.
Two New Orleans episodes aired in November 2005 right after Hurricane Katrina each had one puzzle removed before airing because it was believed the answers would be insensitive to victims; instead, they showed clips of Pat and Vanna asking viewers to donate to relief funds. Oddly, one round was restored when the episodes reran the next summer (the answer was THE LOUISIANA SUPERDOME), but the other puzzle is Lost Forever.
Also, because of Katrina-induced evacuations, a Family Week that was supposed to air in November 2005 never even got taped. However, the families that were supposed to appear on it did get to play later in the season.
Yet other episodes, including the 1975 premiere, had entire rounds edited out due to a blooper of some kind, usually a wrong letter being revealed.
The week of February 6, 2012 was originally going to have a theme of Wheel Goes Country. For some reason, an already-taped military week was moved up from March to that week, and the "Goes Country" theme just disappeared without a trace.
Sister show Jeopardy! is also missing almost all of the original Art Fleming era (1964-75), with only five full episodes circulating and a clip of another (although some others are held by UCLA and Paley Center); the 1974-75 syndicated run and 1978-79 revival are intact, but only seven episodes circulate of the latter. Subsequent eras are also intact, including both Trebek pilots.
On the current Trebek version (1984-present), the five-episode run where Barbara Lowe retired undefeated was supposedly taken out of rotation due to Lowe having lied about her prior game show commitments (there are limits as to how many game shows a contestant can be on, and she exceeded said limits), not to mention being a total Jerk Ass on air. Once the powers that be found out, she was barred from the Tournament of Champions, and her winnings were withheld until she threatened with a lawsuit.
Much later, a contestant named Jeff Kirby finished in third place in 1999, and somehow snuck back on the show a decade later, where he finished in third place again. Since you can't compete on the same game show twice (barring tournaments, or contestants who are invited back by the producers due to some event that significantly affected the outcome), he had his 2009 winnings withheld, and his 2009 episode was taken out of the rerun rotation.
Bob Barker maintains a ban on The Price Is Right episodes that have fur coats as prizes despite offers by BCI to use disclaimers and/or donate to his favorite charities if he'd just allow the first three tapings from 1972 on the DVD set. Barker has also tried other arbitrary kinds of whitewashing, most notably to show model Holly Hallstrom and 1972-77 nighttime host Dennis James; while the Hallstrom ban is due to ill will instigated by Barker and the fact that Holly won her lawsuit against him, the ban on James would appear to be more about the frequent instances of furs as prizes...although Bob wasn't involved with that version until James was dismissed, and certainly doesn't explain why GSN avoided the non-fur episodes as well.
Five were just plain never aired: one from the show's first week in 1972 (due to a contestant being ineligible), one from James' nighttime show (#003N, due to the set of special calculators that were used during to determine the Showcase winner at the very end of the show getting broken and nobody knowing how to fix them), one in September 1978, one in September 1985, and one in 2001 (due to the contestants changing places in Contestant's Row but no one noticing). All but the 1978 episode were replaced with newly-shot episodes, although the replacement #003N wasn't taped until after #039N (the season finale).
Since Drew Carey became host, and especially since Roger Dobkowitz was fired, Bob's grip has been weakening — and Laser-Guided Karma has finally arrived since the show was removing most references to him over time. And, despite Barker casting a pall on much of his run on Price, clips and entire episodes are liberally found on YouTube (including Barker episodes with furs).
For the original Bill Cullen era, many early daytime episodes were erased while the nighttime shows that survive are presented as black-and-white kinescopes; the NBC nighttime run (and later NBC daytime episodes) aired in color, but none are known to exist in that form today.
Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions usually managed to preserve at least one episode from most of their shows...but even with them, there's a couple of exceptions.
The Better Sex (1977-78): Only four episodes are known to exist — the pilot and Grand Finale have circulated for years, while two general episodes were aired by GSN.
The Match Game (1962-69) is almost completely lost minus 11-12 episodes. Virtually all of these episodes are black-and-white kinescopes.
Some episodes of the far more familiar 1973-82 era are absent from the GSN rota due to racial slurs or homophobic slurs that are now seen as unacceptable, although one supposedly has a malfunctioning tape.
On the other hand, a string of CBS episodes that never aired in 1979 (including the final two weeks) eventually were aired by GSN in 2001.
Almost all of Mindreaders (1979-80) is MIA; no one's seems to know if it was wiped or not. The premiere (August 13) exists as audio only. The pilot (taped August 3), two episodes (August 15 and December 13), and the opening of a third (December 31) exist on video.
Number Please (1961) has only one episode existing, although said episode has been seen on GSN.
Most of the original 1961-67 daytime run of Password was wiped, although most nighttime episodes remain. Some 1966-67 daytime shows only survive in their Edited for Syndication forms, including the Grand Finale.
Almost the entire run of the ABC Password (1971-75) was later taped over (reportedly with Family Feud), and less than 20 episodes of 1,099 are known to survive.
Password Plus was hit with this in two unusual ways:
1979: One episode went unaired during the show's original run because George Peppard started a rant about NBC's standards and practices. It has since aired on GSN.
1981: A round with Wink Martindale and Gene Rayburn was erased after recording but before airing due to a technician's error. Some time later, once the error was realized, the duo and host Tom Kennedy recorded a new segment to verbally describe the round; luckily, the puzzle card was still available to help fill in the gap.
Similar to the '81 Password Plus example above, one episode of the syndicated To Tell the Truth had a round lost forever when it was discovered that the tape had malfunctioned. Host Gary Moore introduced the contestant and challengers as normal then explained the situation to the home audience, saying that while it was briefly considered to have the panel try to recreate their questions it was ultimately decided to just apologize and have an extended interview with the contestant.
Snap Judgment (1967-69) is a rare example from Goodson-Todman, because it's completely gone. The only audiovisual proof we can provide that it even happened is a low-quality mic-to-TV audio recording of an intro with Phyllis Newman and Paul Anka. Although the August 19, 1968 show is known to exist on audio tape, it doesn't appear to have been leaked and the episode's holder (Archival Television Audio, Inc.) doesn't have any way to listen to its recordings online.
The Barry-Enright version on NBC (Hugh Downs/Jack Barry/Ed McMahon/Bob Clayton, 1958-73) is largely lost, according to producer Norm Blumenthal. So private tape collections to the rescue, right? Well...not really, since NBC still owns the rights to all versions and has not allowed any series to be rerun. Here's what's known to exist and circulate:
1958-73: About a dozen or so episodes in private collections (individuals and media collections such as the Paley Center). Nearly all of these shows — scattered throughout the run — have been posted on YouTube, including the Grand Finale. A Jack Barry episode (from the brief 1958 nighttime run) exists, while none of the Ed McMahon-hosted shows has so much as an audio clip.
1973-78: Although believed to exist in its entirety, only one complete episode (spring 1978) circulates among traders, with said episode posted on YouTube; clips from other episodes also have been posted on the video-sharing service.
1987-91: Exists in its entirety, with dozens of episodes circulating among collectors and posted on YouTube. The 1985 pilot with Orson Bean is also around.
Many of the game shows that aired alongside Concentration and Jeopardy! on NBC no longer exist either, aside from tapes at the Paley Center. These shows include The Who, What, or Where Game, Three On A Match, and the original Sale Of The Century.
The entire NBC run of Dream House (1983-84) was destroyed in a flood.
Whats My Line: Most of the first two years of the CBS run (February 1950 through roughly June 1952) are gone forever, the network having recycled the silver in their kinescopes. Goodson-Todman put a stop to it in Summer 1952, and all episodes from then onward exist today as black-and-white kinescopes (including the 1966-67 season, the only CBS season to air in color). The syndicated series (1968-75) exists in its entirety and (minus the 1971-72 season, which has seen only scattered airings of select episodes) has been liberally rerun on GSN.
The Adventure Game was one of the victims of the BBC children's television purge of 1993 (see Live-Action TV for details). Each of the first two series (May-June 1980 and November 1981) includes one lost episode note (although it is speculated that Episode 2 from Series 1 might exist in a private collection somewhere, as the show's Wikipedia article features an unusually detailed summary for an episode that has supposedly been lost since 1993) and one episode which only exists as a low-quality home recording (prompting the BBC to continue to regard the episodes as "missing"). Moreover, apart from the fourth and final season (which has occasionally aired on Challenge TV), none of the surviving episodes have been rerun since the 1980s, and only eight episodes (of sixteen) from the first three seasons are known to be in private collections.
The Big Showdown has only two surviving episodes — the pilot (called Showdown) and the 67th episode. The latter is a mostly-regular episode that likely survived due to a certain blooper known to have been referenced since at least mid-1986: namely, host Jim Peck tripping down the stairs while making his entry.
The vast majority of NBC's daytime run of The Hollywood Squares has been wiped, and both the 1968 nighttime run and 1971-81 syndicated version were thought lost until somewhere between 650 and 3,000 episodes were discovered some years ago. About 150 episodes were seen in its brief run on GSN — including, oddly, a single daytime episode from December 19, 1977.
It has never been established exactly what was on the 3,000 episodes that were re-discovered. They may have been just copies of the Syndicated episodes. In the days before satellite broadcasting, Syndicated programs were biycycled; after one station aired an episode, a copy would be made and shipped to another, and so on, and so on, and so on.
Press Your Luck: The episodes with Michael Larson (actually one game split over two episodes because Round 2 ran abnormally long) never aired in syndication, out of sheer embarrassment that Larson memorized the game board and took them for $110,237. In 2003, it aired as part of a GSN retrospective on Larson's stunt, which analyzed his methodology and even included footage that CBS had originally excised. There's also a sixth episode from Back-To-School Week (August 1985) which never aired in the original CBS run or the repeats on USA, but has also appeared on GSN.
Second Chance, the predecessor to Press Your Luck, was thought for years to be completely lost, save for the third pilot. In April 2012, a regular episode (June 27, 1977) suddenly turned up on YouTube. Around the same time, an audio-only copy of the finale surfaced.
Most of $10,000 and the first two years of $20,000 have been lost; among other things, although clips exist of William Shatner playing the Winner's Circle round solo (June 27, 1975) and Billy Crystal leading his partner to the top in 26 seconds (December 1, 1977, and a Pyramid record that stands to this day), most of the episodes in question are lost. The final two years of $20,000 (1978-80) are intact, as are the subsequent revivals.
It is possible, though by no means certain, that the CBS run of $10,000 is intact, as CBS stopped wiping in September 1972 (which is how The Joker's Wild and Spin-Off survive, having been found at WCBS in 2000); 14 episodes of $10,000, all from November 1973, aired on GSN in 2001, while a black-and-white video of the fifth episode (March 29, 1973) was posted on YouTube (the June 13 episode also exists, having been traded around since about the mid-1990s). However, if the tapes still exist they're gathering dust in a warehouse, and at best qualify as missing rather than lost.
The original $25,000 (Bill Cullen, 1974-79) is intact, along with $50,000 (1981) and New $100,000 (John Davidson, 1991), but haven't been seen in years due to rights issues.
$50,000 was last seen on CBN in mid-1982, ending shortly after New $25,000 debuted.
A few stations aired $25,000 in the 1980s, hence the name change on the CBS version to New $25,000. In fact, most of the circulating episodes are from WLIG (Long Island, New York) repeats in 1985-86.
The Davidson $100,000 hasn't been seen since the last repeat aired on March 6, 1992.
Host Geoff Edwards has confirmed that every episode of the NBC Jackpot, which he hosted, was destroyed.
Several episodes of the UK classic The Golden Shot from Bob Monkhouse's tenure only survive because he, being a compulsive collector, kept copies (production company ATV was notorious for wiping and reusing videotapes to save money). The staff gave him his original Grand Finale from 1972, where he made some rather dark comments during the live broadcast about his ousting and replacement Norman Vaughan (whose debut was quite odd — during the credit roll, an assistant took a drink from the staff party and brought it to Vaughan, standing off to the side, who took a sip and immediately began shouting as if drunk). Monkhouse was reinstated in July 1974 after Vaughan and Charlie Williams failed, but the show was canned a year later in favor of Bob's Celebrity Squares.
Celebrity Squares was also largely wiped, but Monkhouse was again responsible for preserving about 40% of the run. Monkhouse also saved dozens of other entertainment shows, not just those in which he appeared.
Deal or No Deal didn't air two episodes of the U.S. version, including the first game of the first "Million-Dollar Mission" (where extra $1,000,000 cases were added) because the player knocked out both millions right off the bat, and another random episode just because NBC didn't think it was exciting enough.
A set of Lingo episodes with a Hawaiian trip up for grabs were supposed to air in 2005, but canned because the sponsor backed out at the last second. After some finagling, they finally aired in 2007.
Episodes of the show are not typically broadcast after their initial airing, but complete seasons are usually made available on DVD or via digital download, such as iTunes. Seasons 3-6, however, remained unavailable by any legal means for nearly a decade after they were aired. Seasons 3-4 were finally released on DVD in 2010, and Seasons 5-6 followed suit in 2011.
Additionally, one episode is still not available by any legal means. Because Season 8 ran for sixteen episodes instead of the normal fourteen, its DVD does not include its mid-season recap episode, whereas all other recap episodes are included on their DVDs.
40 episodes of the first variation of Super Sloppy Double Dare, which aired on weekends, and was more or less a carbon copy of the regular weekday edition, were taped in July 1987. 21 of these aired on Nick GaS, and one that didn't air there circulates, with only the main game intact. Allegedly, the reason the other 19 did not get shown on Nick GaS was due to a water leakage that severely damaged some of the Double Dare tapes in Nickelodeon's video archives.
Highlights from these missing 19 episodes include host Marc Summers losing it over a toy boat (as shown in the 1988 Direct-to-Video special Double Dare: The Inside Slop), and one team in particular winning the main game with a record-breaking $750 ($375 split between the two teammates), as described in 1988's The Double Dare Game Book. While no more episodes from the 1987 era have turned up yet, one Orlando episode from 1989 has: Seattle Slug Squishers vs. Disco Dynamos.
Finders Keepers had the same problem, with at least 80 episodes missing from the Nick GaS rota. The Eure era was more severely affected than the Toffler era (from which only the two celebrity weeks were missing; three of the episodes in question are known to exist on the trade circuit), particularly the 1987 season with Harvey as announcer, from which only a dozen episodes aired on Nick GaS. Though a further dozen episodes are known to exist on the trade circuit, the rest have not been seen in over 25 years.
The FOX version of Family Double Dare was MIA on Nick GaS (rumors persist that one episode aired in its early days, but any evidence of this has yet to turn up). Those 13 episodes may not have aired on television since 1990, but luckily they have since become available through other means. Ten of the episodes turned up on the trading circuit, and iTunes started selling the remaining three in 2013.
All episodes of the Nickelodeon version of FDD aired on GaS...except for one random 1990 episode. That episode eventually turned up on YouTube in December 2011.
84 episodes of Nick Arcade were produced. Strangely, despite airing on Nick GaS from its inception to its ending, a whopping 20 of those episodes never aired on the channel. Even more strangely, one of those 20 were posted to Turbonick for a time in the late 2000s. There's the possibility that they may have been left out, due to rights clearance issues with some of the copyrighted material.
The pan-European game show Jeux sans frontières (Games Without Borders) and the various national "qualifying shows" from among the participating countries (including Intervilles in France, Spiel ohne Grenzen in (West) Germany, It's a Knockout in Britain, and Zeskamp in Belgium and the Netherlands) have variable preservation rates depending on the attitudes of the individual broadcasters to keeping the tapes.
Almost the entire run of Jeux sans frontières itself has survived, although there is some doubt over the survival of the 1969 grand final in Blackpool, won jointly by the British team from Shrewsbury and the West German team from Wolfsburgnote the latter actually won a tie-breaker, but offered to share first place with the Shrewsbury team in a gesture of sportsmanship, and the 1971 grand final in Essen, won by the British team from Blackpool.note The West German team from Offenburg won by a country mile during the trial run, but this was partly because the Blackpool team coach's tactics included using different players for the various games to the ones he planned to use on the night. The furious home audience rioted and destroyed eight colour television cameras.
A number of the regional commentaries for Jeux sans frontières are lost; the BBC archives are only complete from 1975 onward, though they do include the 1973 grand final in Paris, won by the British team from Ely, and a compilation of clips from the 1974 series. Perhaps the most famous clip to British viewers, the "Penguins on the iceberg" game from the 1974 heat in Aix-les-Bains during which commentator Stuart Hall cannot speak for laughing, is one of the few clips of that episode for which Hall's commentary survives. The original French broadcast of the heat survives in its entirety, and is commercially available on various websites.note Unsurprisingly, French presenter Guy Lux is similarly semi-paralysed by laughter while trying to deliver commentary for the penguin game.
The archives of It's a Knockout are also only complete from 1975 onwards, with only a handful of episodes from the first nine seasons (including Blackpool's 1971 qualifier against Colwyn Bay and Ely's 1973 qualifier against Hertford) even partially surviving. However, in the wake of Stuart Hall's 2013 conviction and imprisonment for sexual offences against underage girls, the odds of the surviving episodes being re-run or released on DVD are next to nil.
The BBC's sport-themed quiz A Question of Sport has been running since 1970, and crossed the 1000 episode threshold in March 2013. Of the more than 1000 episodes produced, 74 are missing, all from the first eight series between 1970 and 1979 (and including almost the entirety of the first three series).