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 use in theaters.)
The comparative lack of circulating game show episodes may also be due to the format's perceived inherent lack of rerun potential.
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.
Most of Pat Sajak's run on daytime (1981-89) 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 a few episodes circulating; the 1974-75 syndicated run and 1978-79 revival are intact, but only five episodes circulate of the latter. Subsequent eras are also intact, including both Trebek pilots.
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.
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's been removing most references to him. 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 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 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, there is a string of CBS episodes from 1979 that never aired until GSN finally showed them in 2001.
Almost all of Mindreaders (1979-80) is MIA. The pilot, two episodes (August 15 and December 13), and the opening of a third (December 31) exist, and that's it.
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.
Simillar 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 malfuctioned. 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 ultimatly 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.
What's 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.
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.
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 1973) is traded and has been posted on YouTube (another episode from June 13 also exists). 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 repeats during the 1985-86 season.
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). This includes his original Grand Finale in 1972, where he makes 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 series. 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 episode of the "Million-Dollar Mission" (where extra $1,000,000 cases were added) because the first contestant 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 through 6, however, remained unavailable by any legal means for nearly a decade after they were aired. Seasons 3 and 4 were finally released on DVD in 2010, and seasons 5 and 6 followed suit in 2011.
Additionally, one episode is still not available by any legal means. The DVD of season 8 (a season that is not available for digital download) does not include its mid-season recap episode, whereas all other seasons have their mid-season recap episode on the DVD.
Seasons 12 of The Amazing Race has not been rebroadcast since its initial airing and has not been made available on any home media format, although they are widely bootlegged. Given the DVD releases of Seasons 2 through 11 however, it is possible, though unconfirmed, that it is soon to come.
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.
Finders Keepers had the same problem, with around 80 episodes (out of 195) 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 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). 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.