The very first adaptation of HG Wells' The Time Machine, a 1949 BBC teleplay, has been permanently lost, althought a script and a few production stills survive.
The Honeymooners: One of the most noteworthy sets of "Lost Episodes" belongs to the legendary Jackie Gleason series. Seventy-nine episodes were missing for several decades and thought to be lost ... until they were "recovered" in the mid-1980s (shortly before Gleason's death). (Other accounts hold that the episodes were never "lost" to begin with; they weren't self-contained sitcom episodes, but rather sketches from Gleason's variety show later cobbled together to fit into the standard 22-minute sitcom format. The kinescopes were sitting in Gleason's vault, long thought unmarketable, until Gleason saw an opportunity to capitalize on them.) Today, many (but not all) of the "Lost 79" have now been recovered.
Many of the "lost" episodes were produced by the Du Mont Network, which was on the air from 1946-56. Almost all of the Du Mont programming is long lost — in fact, most of the then-surviving reels were dumped into Upper New York Bay by three trucks in the mid-1970s. Only a handful of shows remain today — a sizable run of Life Is Worth Living (an early show featuring talks by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the films coming from his private collection), spotty selections of Captain Video (the first sci-fi television series), Rocky King, Inside Detective, and a few others.
Bonanza: When the long-running western entered syndication in 1973, it had 14½ years and 430 episodes under its belt. The episodes were split into two different syndication packages, one released before the other, on different networks. On any one network, an entire chunk of the series appears "lost," and the entire 430-episode run has never been aired as part of a single rerun package on any TV network.
Saturday Night Live has a few episodes that have only aired once and were either never seen at all (or in full) after that point:
The Season 4 episode hosted by Milton Berle was so fraught with cast tension over Berle overrunning the show (which he did, if the Texaco Playhouse cold open is indicative of anything) that Lorne Michaels barred the show from being rerun on TV. The full episode does appear, however, on the Season 4 DVD set and the "Saturday Night Live: The 1970s" collection on Netflix.
The Season 5 episode hosted by Strother Martin was scheduled to rerun during the summer of 1980, but then Martin died (the fact that the episode contained a sketch with him filming a video will didn't help matters). This episode, too, can be found on the Season 5 DVD set and the "Saturday Night Live: The 1970s" collection on Netflix.
Season 6 was so poorly received that the show considers it an Old Shame. Very few Season 6 episodes have ever aired on American TV since 1980-81, and there will likely never be a DVD release (partly due to music licensing issues). The versions of Season 6 you can see replace most of the sketches with other pretaped sketches (mostly helmed by Dick Ebersol after Jean Doumanian and most of her cast were fired). Clips from Season 6 tend to appear either as part of an Eddie Murphy retrospective or to highlight the show's rocky history and the controversy behind this particular season.
The Season 7 Halloween episode hosted by Donald Pleasence (with musical guest Fear) was banned after its first appearance due to Fear's raucous performance and the dark, disgusting humor of the sketches. They were rather tame compared to what was supposed to air — a sketch about Nazi soldiers thinking of "good reasons" for killing Jewish people, another sketch in which Donald Pleasence drains the his date's blood and serves it as wine note (yet the "Acupuncture" sketch from the Season 38 episode hosted by Kristen Wiig got away with Kate McKinnon's character tricking Jason Sudeikis' character into drinking the blood leaking from his back), and a third sketch featuring puppets cannibalizing Jane Fonda.
For reasons unknown, the Season 27 episode hosted by Alec Baldwin (with musical guest POD) never reran after its premiere, though some of the sketches featured can be found on the DVD release of the special Saturday Night Live: The Best of Alec Baldwin.
Many NBC affiliates refused to air the Season 29 episode hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton – at the time of airing, he was a U.S. Presidential candidate, and affiliates didn't want to break equal time laws. The episode itself lampooned this with frequent impersonations of other candidates and a "Weekend Update" segment entitled "Jimmy and Tina Make Fun of the Cities that Won't Be Airing SNL Tonight".
The Danny Thomas Show (aka Make Room for Daddy): With 11 years and 343 episodes, most TV stations only made room for the final seven seasons (1957-64) when the show entered syndication in the mid-1960s. GoodLife Television (now YouToo TV) has aired Season 4 (1956-57, the season featuring Thomas as a widower) in the past. The status of many of the 1953-56 shows — those starring Jean Hagen as Thomas' wife — is unknown, although reportedly several of those early episodes are available on budget DVD releases after entering into the public domain.
My Three Sons: Although the series is intact and all episodes have been aired, the CBS color episodes spanning the sixth through the first half of the 11th season (1965-early 1971) were for years the only episodes shown in syndication. The ABC black-and-white episodes from 1960-65, along with the final 1-1/2 color seasons (Spring 1971-1972) were included in a second syndication package that was not nearly as widely distributed.
I Love Lucy: The legendary CBS comedy starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had a Christmas episode in 1956, which was never seen again on terrestrial TV until December 1989 when it was rebroadcast. Although the episode is in TVLand's library, it is rarely shown.
YTV banned the episode "Divorce", though it has aired elsewhere on Canadian television.
Probably the most infamous example is Nickelodeon banning the episode "Adoption" after two airings out of fear that children from adopted families (or rather, their parents) wouldn't like the jokes about adoption, most of which center on adopted kids being used as slave labor and getting beaten up or killed off. In contrast, YTV did air the episode, but it bleeped out Senator Prevert calling someone a "damn bureaucrat".
A fire at the main CJOH production facility in February 2010 destroyed many of the master tapes of the earlier episodes.
Many, many, many early Soap Operas have episodes that are presumed lost , as their producers didn't bother preserving episodes until the late 1970s, thanks largely to the high cost of videotape. The episodes that did survive rarely re-aired anyway.
Despite widespread wiping, plenty episodes from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, were saved in one form or another and are available for viewing in museums and online. Still, this is a very small percentage of episodes that were produced.
Exceptions include Days of Our Lives (intact despite debuting in 1965) and Dark Shadows (only one episode missing out of 1,225, which could still be partially reconstructed out of a home audio recording). Dark Shadows is unique in being the only US soap opera to have its reruns sold into syndication – remarkable for a show that aired from 1966 to 1971.
Episodes from the first 15 years of the NBC soap The Doctors (1963-1982) were believed to have been wiped until Retro TV picked up the series in 2014, starting with its first color episodes from 1967.
Puttnam's Prairie Emporium has not been rebroadcast since its national run on YTV in the early 1990s, and the master tapes have been long since destroyed.
Perhaps the most famous example of a TV series with missing episodes is Doctor Who. In the 1970s, a large number of episodes from the show's early years were destroyed to clear out room in the BBC archives. Every so often, a syndication copy of one of the episodes turns up, but it is likely that many of these episodes are gone forever. Doctor Who fans have joked that, ironically, the only way to watch every episode of the series would be with a time machine. These purges resulted in the loss of episodes of other BBC series as well, but none seem to have similar notoriety.
The missing episodes (currently standing at 97) are all from the first six seasons from 1963-69, the eras of William Hartnell as the First Doctor and Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor. Of the first six seasons, the hardest hit by the mass erasure were the third (28/45 missing), fourth (33/43 missing), and fifth (18/40 missing) seasons (by contrast, the first is missing 9/42 episodes, the sixth 7/44 episodes, and the second 2/39 episodes). There are no complete serials from the fourth season, while the fifth season has only two complete serials. The missing episodes from this era include some significant firsts for the series:
The final episode of "The Tenth Planet", the only missing episode from the serial, features the Doctor's first-ever regeneration scene, from Hartnell to Troughton. Famously, a few seconds' footage of the regeneration exists because it was broadcast during an edition of the BBC children's show Blue Peter (at a time when one of its presenters was Peter Purves, who had played First Doctor companion Steven). This same feature that saved Hartnell's regeneration also preserved the most dramatic chunk of Katarina's death scene from "The Daleks' Master Plan", because Peter Purves was Chewing the Scenery in it and the other Blue Peter presenters make fun of him (and his haircut) after it plays.
Episode 3 of the Second Doctor serial "The Web of Fear", the only lost episode of the serial, includes the introduction of the series' longest-running recurring character, Colonel (later Brigadier) Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart. (Moreover, in something of a case of a missing scene within a missing episode, the first meeting between the Doctor and the future Brigadier takes place off screen.)
Episode 1 of the completely lost "Fury from the Deep" features the first use of the Sonic Screwdriver (which, in its first appearance, was just that — a screwdriver which operated using sound waves); indeed, in the absence of episodes indicating the contrary, Jon Pertwee said in an interview in the 1980s that he believed for many years that he had been the first Doctor to use the Sonic Screwdriver until being told that Troughton had been the first.
The two 'holy grail' missing episodes, "The Daleks' Master Plan" episode 7 ("The Feast of Steven"), and "Mission to the Unknown", are pretty much guaranteed to no longer exist. They are both extremely weird episodes that the BBC never sold abroad, the former for being a bizarre, non-essential, and incomprehensibly BritishChristmas Episode and the latter for being a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a Dalek television series and the first (and only) episode not to feature the Doctor or any of his Companions.note Restoration Team member Paul Venezis has theorized that "The Feast of Steven" might survive from a routine telerecording, but the odds of this are slim.
Furthermore, two episodes from the First Doctor era had alternate versions produced before their initial broadcast. Episode 1 of The Daleks ("The Dead Planet") had to be re-recorded after it was discovered the microphones had picked up backstage voices; the cliffhanger from the original version in which Barbara is menaced by a Dalek still forms the opening scene of Episode 2 ("The Survivors"). Episodes 3 and 4 of Planet of Giants ("Crisis" and "The Urge to Live") were edited down into a single Episode 3 after filming; the extra footage was discarded. note (The result was a one-episode slot opening up at the end of the second production block, which was eventually taken by Mission To The Unknown). For the serial's DVD release, the missing scenes were recreated using the original scripts and a voice cast including Carole Ann Ford as Susan, William Russell as Ian, and soundalikes as the other characters. The original versions of these episodes are lost.
Some of the First and Second Doctors' companions were hit particularly hard by the purges:
Only 18 of Steven's 45 appearances have survived, including three complete stories (four if The Chase is included).
Just one of Katarina's five appearances has survived ("Day of Armageddon", Episode 2 of The Daleks' Master Plan, which was lost until 2004).
Equally short-lived companion Sara Kingdom fares only slightly better, with two of nine appearances known to exist ("Counter Plot" and "Escape Switch", Episodes 5 and 10 of The Daleks' Master Plan).
Of Dodo's 19 appearances, only 11 survive, including three complete stories (in one of which she is absent for two episodes).
A mere 12 of Ben and Polly's 36 appearances have survived, including just one complete story (The War Machines, in which they were not yet considered "companions"; their most complete story as companions is The Tenth Planet).
Victoria fares a bit better, with 21 of 41 appearances known to exist, including two complete stories (The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Enemy of the World). note (Until 1990, Victoria was the least represented companion with just eight surviving episodes, but the recovery of Tomb in 1991 and a total of nine episodes from The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear in 2013 have made her one of the better represented mid-1960s companions.)
In absolute terms, Jamie was hit hardest of all, but only because he had the most to lose; of the 113 episodes in which he appeared in the Second Doctor era, only 66 have survived, including seven complete stories.
Fortunately, audio for all of the lost episodes and many telesnaps still exist (although quality varies wildly), which have made reconstructing episodes possible. Loose Cannon Productions offers most of them for free (VHS only), complete with bonus materials and interviews. Some of these have been released on CD, with linking narration by some of the surviving actors (William Russell, Frazer Hines, etc.). During the show's 30th anniversary, several reconstructions were even released with later Doctors - Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker and Colin Baker - providing the linking material in character as their Doctors, complete with funny comments in the style that their Doctor tends to make, Hand Wave attempts to explain how they know about scenes they were never present for, and plenty of I Hate Past Me.
The BBC initially planned the Fourth Doctor's reconstruction of "Power of the Daleks" to be rereleased on CD with some added extra narration (as it is missing from certain scenes where it is needed, making the story difficult to follow) and improved audio quality (as the story is sometimes unintelligible because of how bad the sound is), but in a staggering bit of Irony, the BBC threw out the master tapes, making this a case of a Missing Episode of a reconstruction of a Missing Episode.
Luckily, Australia's The ABC (equivalent of the BBC) kept its copies of a number of episodes – except Australians didn't have colour TV back then. Thankfully, modern colour recovery technology came to the rescue. The DVD releases of Planet of the Daleks in October 2009, Invasion of the Dinosaurs in January 2012, The Ambassadors of Death in October 2012, and The Mind of Evilnote (the first episode of which had to be recoloured manually owing to the lack of usable chroma dots in the black-and-white copy) in June 2013 mark the first time the full stories have been available in colour for over 35 years.
These missing episodes were mocked in Queer as Folk in which the token Doctor Who fan claims he has a mate that got him "Planet of the Daleks" in colour, and episode 4 of "The Tenth Planet".
Also, proving that God does have a sick sense of humor, a great many film segments from missing episodes come to us from the New Zealand censor board. Bits of episode unfit for daytime television were trimmed and saved - and now turn out to be the only footage in existence from those episodes.
Probably the second-most famous victim of the Great BBC Purge was Dad's Army. It's very surprising, given the BBC's criteria for dumping, that only five episodes — all from Series 2 — were lost in the first place; two were recovered, restored, and re-broadcast in 2001, leaving three ("The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker", "A Stripe for Frazer", and "Under Fire") still missing. At least some of the lost episodes exist in audio-only recordings. One other episode ("Absent Friends") is not rerun due to offensive portrayals of the Irish.
Though Dad's Army is perhaps the most high profile example due to its otherwise high survival rate and frequency of re-runs, many British sitcoms from the 1960s have numerous missing episodes:
Our House was written by then-Carry On scriptwriter Norman Hudis, with a cast including Carry On mainstays Hattie Jacques, Charles Hawtrey, and Joan Sims. It ran for two series, one of 13 episodes in 1960 and one of 26 episodes in 1962. Only three episodes survive, all from the 1960 series.
The 1963-66 sitcom Meet the Wife, perhaps best known for being namedropped in The Beatles' song "Good Morning Good Morning", ran for 38 episodes across five series. Only sixteen, plus the pilot, are known to survive.
The Likely Lads ran for 20 episodes across three series from 1964-66; twelve episodes are missing. Its 1970s sequel series, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, is intact.
Sixteen episodes from the 1965-68 black and white series of the hugely influential Till Death Us Do Part (the British forerunner of All in the Family) are either partially or completely lost, although complete audio-only recordings do exist of around half of the missing episodes. The colour episodes of the series are intact.
The first series of The Liver Birds ran for a pilot and four episodes in black and white in 1969.note The series went on hiatus as star Polly James found juggling The Liver Birds and a lead role in a West End production of Anne of Green Gables too stressful; by the time she was available again, her co-star Pauline Collins had joined the cast of Upstairs, Downstairs. The pilot and Episodes 2-4 are lost, while only the outdoor film segments remain from Episode 1, making them the only surviving scenes to feature Pauline Collins. The colour series from 1971 onward featuring Nerys Hughes as Collins' replacement are intact.
A notable aversion to this is Steptoe And Son, which has no completely lost episodes. However, the only surviving copies of the seven episodes from the first colour series from 1970 are in black and white.
BBC Television featured two long-running police dramas in the 1950s-70s — Dixon Of Dock Green (1955-76) and Z Cars (1962-78). The vast majority of episodes of both have been wiped. Dixon was hit hardest — out of 430-odd episodes, only 30 still survive, while around two-fifths of the 800-odd episodes of Z Cars still exist in some form. This, among other things, means the loss of early television appearances by the likes of Sean Connery and Michael Caine, both of whom appeared in guest roles in different episodes of Dixon of Dock Green in the 1950s before finding fame as film actors.
Another prominent victim of the BBC's practice of tape-wiping was Top of the Pops. Most early episodes were wiped by the BBC — only four complete episodes exist from the 1960s (one and most of another with the presenter's links mute), and the show's archive only exists in full from 1977 onwards.
Many of The Beatles' (pre-recorded) performances on the programme in the 1960s are lost, as is their only live performance from 1966. Ironically, a 25-second clip of a 1965 performance of "Ticket to Ride" on an otherwise lost episode is preserved in the Doctor Who episode "The Executioners" (Episode 1 of The Chase). However, because of copyright issues, it is not possible for the BBC to distribute The Chase outside the United Kingdom with this segment included, making it an example of a doubly-lost item and destructive to the surviving episodes of both programs.
Among the many other mostly lost pop music showcases on 1960s British television is Juke Box Jury, which aired from 1959-67 and featured a panel of guests, often from the pop world themselves, voting on which of a series of new singles would be a "Hit" or a "Miss". One 1963 episode featured all four Beatles on the panel, while another from 1964 featured all five members of the Rolling Stones. These episodes were among those lost in the purges and are high on the BBC's recovery wish list for the programme.
BBC Television's commercial rival, ITV, did its own (less well-known) archives purge at roughly the same time as the BBC.note But at that time, ITV was a loose collection of regional broadcasters rather than a single organisation, and individual stations had widely varying attitudes toward programme preservation. It's quite possible that a few shows which might otherwise have been wiped have survived by being re-recorded down the line by regional stations for timeshifting purposes. The most notable victim of that purge was The Avengers, which is missing virtually all of Series 1 (to date, only two complete episodes and the first 15 minutes or so of the first episode have been recovered).
The six members of Monty Python all had considerable television comedy experience by the time Monty Python's Flying Circus began airing in 1969. Unfortunately, very little of their earlier work has survived.
The sketch series At Last The 1948 Show, regarded as one of the two "parent series" of Flying Circus, ran on ITV for 13 episodes across two series in 1967 and was the first TV series to star Graham Chapman as well as Tim Brooke-Taylor and Marty Feldman, and the second to star John Cleese (the first being The Frost Report). Aside from some sketches compiled into specials for Swedish and Australian television, the series was wiped and believed lost for many years. However, between 1994 and 2010, kinescopes and other recordings of six episodes were recovered, and a seventh was reconstructed from the specials. Various isolated sketches exist from each of the other six episodes, so that about 90 minutes' worth of material is still missing. Most of the missing material exists as audio recordings, except for part of the last episode of Series 2. note (Audio recordings of these episodes and many other programmes mentioned on this page were returned to the BBC in 2008 from the collection of BBC Radio WM employee Ed Doolan, who made audio tapes of many BBC programmes from 1967 onward.)
Marty (on the BBC from 1968-69, re-titled It's Marty for its second series) was one of several sketch programmes Marty Feldman would headline after At Last the 1948 Show in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The supporting cast featured Feldman's 1948 Show castmate Tim Brooke-Taylor, while the writing staff included Brooke-Taylor, Chapman, and Cleese as well as Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, and Feldman's frequent collaborator Barry Took. Four of the twelve episodes are missing, all from Series 1, while one Series 2 episode only exists in black and white.
Terry Jones and Michael Palin, and later Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam, are rather less fortunate where preservation of their early work is concerned.
Do Not Adjust Your Set, the other "parent series" to Flying Circus, was the first series to star Eric Idle as well as David Jason (later of Only Fools and Horses and Danger Mouse), and the second to star Terry Jones and Michael Palin (after Twice a Fortnight). The series ran on ITV for 27 episodes across two series in 1967-69; eleven are known to survive, including nine from Series 1, the Christmas 1968 special "Do Not Adjust Your Stocking", and one from Series 2. note The latter two are the only surviving episodes to feature animated segments by Terry Gilliam; the DVD release of the surviving Series 1 episodes nevertheless claims to feature Gilliam's animation. As with At Last the 1948 Show, audio recordings do exist for some, but not all, of the missing episodes.
Terry Jones and Michael Palin's follow-up series, The Complete and Utter History of Britain, ran for six episodes on London Weekend Television in 1969, with the first broadcast episode having been edited down from the first two production episodes. The series was believed completely lost until the discovery of both the first two broadcast episodes and the first two production episodes.note Director Maurice Murphy was so angry with LWT's insistence on editing down the first two episodes into just one that he personally kept copies of the master tapes. The film segments were also recovered from the other four episodes by Terry Jones (the videotape segments are still missing, but as the scripts have survived, Jones and Palin re-enacted some segments for the series' 2014 DVD release). Interestingly, the only reason the surviving episodes were not wiped was because they were filed in the archives as history programmes rather than as comedy programmes!
Even Monty Python's Flying Circus itself came very close to being completely wiped. According to the Monty Python documentary "Almost the Whole Truth (The Lawyer's Cut)", the BBC had designated the show for "wiping" after the first season aired, believing it had no shelf life for reruns. Terry Gilliam found out and cut a deal with the BBC; he would buy them new tapes to use in exchange for the master tapes of Season 1 and all future episodes.note This meant that when the show really took off and the BBC changed its mind about rerunning it, they had to go back to Gilliam to strike their own prints. Some episodes, however, are incomplete, having been trimmed before broadcast:
Episode 24, "How Not to Be Seen", had two such cuts made. The first was to John Cleese's line about "tactless references to leprosy and terminal cancer",note Episode 19, "It's a Living", very conspicuously dubbed over a similar line with a reference to gangrene. while the second was to a brief animated segment at the end of the "Crackpot Religions" sketch featuring Jesus and two thieves nailed to telegraph poles, followed by the ground opening to reveal an Alter Kocker Satan (the broadcast and home video versions instead cut straight from the "Cartoon Religions" vicar to the beginning of "How Not to Be Seen", although a few frames of it appear in the "recap" at the end of the episode). The footage of both cut segments has been found, but it only exists in low-quality black and white.
Episode 38, "A Book at Bedtime", is trimmed at both ends in most versions of the show. The episode originally opened with a spoof of a Party Political Broadcast with the speaker doing elaborate dance moves directed by a choreographer. The sketch has since been found but is still missing from broadcast and home video prints. The closing sketch, a series of spoof adverts skewering contemporary sitcoms, is also missing from most prints. (Both sketches appear in the All the Words transcript book.)
The Goodies' early television careers are similarly poorly served by surviving recordings.
After appearing in a few episodes of That Was The Week That Was, Bill Oddie got his first regular television engagement on TW3's Spiritual SuccessorBBC-3, which ran for 24 episodes in 1965-66. The vast majority of the series has since been wiped; one lost episode featured theatre critic Kenneth Tynan dropping the first F-bomb heard on British television, ironically while commenting during a debate on censorship that the word no longer shocked people, and so neither should depictions of the act it describes.
The sketch series Twice a Fortnight, which ran for ten episodes in 1967, was the first TV series to star Graeme Garden, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, as well as Bill Oddie and future Yes, Minister co-writer Jonathan Lynn. The videotape segments from the series have been completely wiped, leaving only the outdoor film segments. As the programme featured regular musical guests, this also means the loss of appearances by The Who, Cream, Cat Stevens, The Small Faces, and The Moody Blues.
Only about ten or twenty minutes survive of the follow-up series Broaden Your Mind, which ran for thirteen episodes across two seasons in 1968-69 and was the first TV series to cast Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie together, though Oddie only jumped on board for the second season, and does not feature in any of the surviving footage. (Audio recordings exist for all thirteen episodes.)
Two episodes only exist in black and white editions for export, and a third only existed in this form until a tape surfaced at BBC Scotland in the late 1990s and was restored to broadcast quality. One of them, the first-season episode "Caught in the Act" (aka "The Playgirl Club"), only exists as a low quality studio master. The other, the second season episode "Commonwealth Games", had had a scene cut by the censors (involving administering a "sex test" to the potential Commonwealth Games athletes) and the only existing version of the episode featured a noticeable jump cut. Video of the scene was recovered in 2009 from the National Archives of Australia. note (In 2010, a missing spoof advertisement for "Dreaded Wheat" from the otherwise-complete second season episode "The Lost Tribe" was also recovered from the NAA.)
The original version of the classic episode "Kitten Kong" was wiped when the episode was re-edited for submission to the 1972 Montreux TV Festival (at which it won the Silver Rose); only the Montreux edit exists now.
David Frost had been a household name in Britain for a decade and a half by the time he interviewed Richard Nixon. Unfortunately, much of his early work is lost to the ages.
Frost got his start in television by fronting a trio of satirical sketch series — That Was The Week That Was (aka TW3; 1962-63), Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life (1964-65), and The Frost Report (1966-67) — which launched or boosted the comedy writing and performing careers of many British comedians, including all five British Pythons, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie, Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, Antony Jay, Jonathan Lynn, Barry Cryer, and Willie Rushton. The broadcast runs of the first two series are mostly complete (TW3 is missing just one episode of 37, while only two of the 62 episodes of Not So Much a Programme are known to be lost; each series is also missing one pilot episode), but The Frost Report (which featured John Cleese, Ronnie Corbett, and Ronnie Barker as regular sketch performers) is missing 14 out of 29 episodes, all but one from Series 2. Fortunately, audio recordings exist for every missing episode.
Frost went on to present three concurrent variety/interview programmes on ITV between 1968 and 1970 — Frost on Friday, Frost on Saturday (on which the Beatles' promotional film for "Hey Jude" premiered on British television), and Frost on Sunday. A combined total of over 100 episodes were recorded for these programmes, of which only 23 survive (six of Friday, seven of Saturday, and ten of Sunday).
A number of the series that formed part of Ronnie Barker's rise to 1970s television comedy mainstay are wholly or partially lost.
Following Barker and Ronnie Corbett's rise in prominence on The Frost Report, David Frost executive produced a series of vignettes under the title Ronnie Barker's Playhouse, which ran for six episodes on ITV in 1968 and was intended to test possible sitcom pilots starring Barker. Only one episode, "Alexander", still exists in the ITV archives.
Among the missing episodes of Ronnie Barker's Playhouse is "Ah, There You Are", the only one to get a spinoff series in the form of Hark at Barker, in which Barker played bumbling aristocrat Lord Rustless, presenting a sitcom/sketch show from his ancestral home of Chrome Hall. The series ran for 15 episodes across two series in 1969-70 and featured writing from Eric Idle, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie as well as Alan Ayckbourn and Barker himself writing under assumed names. Though the entire run survives, the Series 2 episode "Rustless at Law" only exists as a low-quality, off-air black and white recording (ITV had made the transition to colour in late 1969).
Following the two Ronnies' return to the BBC in 1971, Barker revived the character of Lord Rustless for His Lordship Entertains, a sitcom which ran for six episodes on BBC2 in 1972 and in which Chrome Hall had been converted into a hotel (prompting Barker to describe the series as "Fawlty Towers Mk-1" in later years). All six episodes were wiped and thought permanently lost until the recovery of the first episode in 2009. Barker was the sole writer for the series, again using a pseudonym, and published the scripts for the series in book form; some of them have occasionally been re-enacted on stage.
Though Spike Milligan is widely acknowledged as having influenced a whole generation of television comedians, his own television work is patchily represented by surviving recordings.
The Q sketch series is often cited by the Pythons themselves as having had a significant influence on Monty Python's Flying Circus, due to its often anarchic style, swipes at the BBC, and avoiding ending sketches with anticlimactic punchlines in favour of simply rushing into the next sketch. The first series, Q5, consisted of seven episodes which aired in Spring 1969 (Python debuted the following Autumn). Only three episodes have survived, and only one is in the original colour (and is not present in any fan collections). Audio recordings exist for at least three of the missing episodes. The remaining five series have survived intact but have not been rerun in decades. note (The most readily available fan copies of Q6, Q7, and Q8 were recorded from Australian broadcasts in 1979 and 1986.)
Between Q5 and Q6, Milligan wrote and starred in the sketch series Oh In Colour, which aired for six episodes in 1970. Copies exist of all six episodes but, ironically, only in black and white.
Milligan's former co-writer on The Goon Show, Eric Sykes, wrote and appeared in a number of comedy programmes in the 1960s-70s, such as Sykes and a... (1960-65), Sykes and a Big Big Show (1971), and Sykes (1972-79), in all of which he co-starred with Carry On "grande dame" Hattie Jacques. Only 25 of the 59 episodes of Sykes and a... are known to exist, while only two of the six episodes of Sykes and a Big Big Show have survived (one in black and white only). Sykes survives in its entirety, though the Series 1 episode "Journey" only exists in black and white.
Beyond The Fringe stars Peter Cook and Dudley Moore made a successful, but sadly now mostly lost, transition to television in the 1960s.
All of the videotape footage from the 1970 colour series of Not Only... But Also was wiped despite Cook and Moore offering the BBC replacement tapes on their own dime. The exterior film footage has survived, as have eight of the 16 black and white shows from 1965-66 (including the pilot but not the 1966 Christmas special), shows which were transferred to film. Audio recordings exist of at least half a dozen of the wiped episodes of Not Only... But Also, as do the scripts of Series 2 and 3.
Their 1968 ITV series Goodbye Again didn't fare much better - although all episodes have survived, some of the interior footage only survives as black and white copies.
Cook and Moore's Beyond The Fringe castmate Alan Bennett appeared in an acclaimed sketch variety series called On the Margin, which ran for six episodes in 1966 and featured future political commentator John Sergeant alongside Bennett, as well as guest appearances from Fringe cast member Jonathan Miller, readings by poets John Betjeman and Philip Larkin, and clips of old music hall routines by such performers as Arthur Askey and Max Miller. The tapes were wiped in the 1970s, although the music hall clips survive (in their original contexts), as do the scripts. Audio clips exist of some episodes, and an audio compilation was released by the BBC in 2009.
The British series Adam Adamant Lives, about an adventurer in Edwardian England who is cryogenically frozen and wakes up in the 1960s, ran for 29 episodes across two seasons in 1966-67 and was one of the inspirations for the Austin Powers movies. Only 17 episodes survive, all but two from the first season. The scripts of the missing episodes have survived, however, and were included as a bonus on the DVD release along with a four-minute audio clip of the first episode from the second season.
United! was a BBC soap opera about the fortunes of fictitious struggling Second Division football team Brentwich United. It ran for 147 episodes from 1965-67 and featured many writers and producers who were concurrently working on Doctor Who (such as Gerry Davis, Derek Hayles, John Lucarotti, and Innes Lloyd). After the series was axed, the episodes were wiped, and not a single one has survived.
The BBC were still conducting purges as recently as 1993, when then Archive Selector Adam Lee ordered the wiping of numerous videotaped children's series from the 1970s and 1980s, believing they were of no further use and not bothering to consult the Children's Television division first. Just to name a few of the series thus affected:
Play School ran five days a week from 1964-88 and racked up over 5500 episodes; just under 2000 are known to survive, most from later in the run.
Play Away, a sister show to Play School aimed at slightly older audiences and renowned for including future Oscar winner Jeremy Irons in its regular cast, aired for 191 episodes from 1971-84. Only 69 are known to have survived the purges.
Storytelling showcase Jackanory featured readings by various actors and other celebrities of children's books, sometimes accompanied by illustrations. It ran five days a week from 1965-68 for 566 episodes, of which just eight survive in their entirety, and then again from 1972-85 as Jackanory Playhouse for 59 episodes, of which 47 survive.
Art programme Vision On was geared toward deaf or hard of hearing audiences, with minimal dialogue and heavy emphasis on visuals (as well as early career appearances by Sylvester McCoy). It ran from 1964-76 for 189 episodes, of which only 115 survive complete.
Supernatural sitcom Rentaghost was a victim of the 1993 children's television purge, but as the series had been sold for re-broadcast on UK Gold, copies of the missing episodes were later returned to the BBC. However, it has not been rerun in many years and, apart from the first season, is unlikely to see a DVD release any time soon due to contractual disputes with the surviving cast members and rights problems with music clips used in the programme.
Tiswas aired on ITV from 1974-82 and launched the television careers of Chris Tarrant and Lenny Henry, but although the episodes were taped in case of investigation by the Independent Broadcasting Association, most of the tapes were eventually wiped on the assumption they would have no future value, and many of the episodes which were not wiped were stored in conditions which led to deterioration below broadcast quality. Of over 300 episodes, only 22 are known to exist in their entirety in watchable quality, mostly from domestic recordings.
Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (later simply called Swap Shop) was The BBC equivalent of Tiswas, airing from 1976-82 and either launching or boosting the television careers of Noel Edmonds, John Craven, Keith Chegwin, and Maggie Philbin. Believed for many years to be a victim of the 1993 purge, it was instead wiped in the late 1980s as the Quad tapes onto which the series was recorded were no longer the standard in Britain but were still widely used in Australia, and so Roy Thompson, then-Deputy Head of Children's Television, ordered the tapes wiped and sold to Australian broadcasters. Most surviving episodes only exist as off-air domestic recordings.
In 1973, the BBC produced an extremely gritty hard-science fiction program called Moonbase 3, which was canceled the same year. All the tapes of it were destroyed, and the program became semi-mythical to Science Fiction fans. Twenty years later, NTSC copies of the program were found at an American PBS affiliate and made available in DVD format.
The original Pilot for Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was advertised as a Lost Episode. Notable differences include Audri DuBois as the Yellow Ranger as opposed to Thuy Trang, Zordon being known as "Zoltar", and the Zords being referred to as "Droids".
The various Star Trek series had episodes pulled from circulation in certain markets.
The episode "Miri" was only shown once by the BBC (at least until the 2000s). Three other episodes, "Plato's Stepchildren", "The Empath" and "Whom Gods Destroy" were also omitted. It was not until the advent of home video that British viewers were able to see these episodes - they weren't shown on UK TV until the 1990s!
"Patterns of Force" wasn't shown on German television for decades, as it featured a planet run by Nazi soldiers.
A color copy of the original series pilot, "The Cage", was lost; the complete episode only existed in black-and-white, except for segments that had been chopped up and reused in the Season 1 two-parter "The Menagerie". When "The Cage" was first released on videocassette in 1986, it combined color segments from "The Menagerie" with black-and-white segments. A complete color copy was eventually discovered and released in 1990.
The episode "The High Ground" wasn't screened by the BBC until 2007 (and satellite channel Sky One edited their showings until 2006) because of references to terrorism in Northern Ireland.
"Conspiracy" was similarly delayed due to the (rather uncharacteristically) graphic depiction of a man pretty much exploding, guts and all.
"Masterpiece Society" was not rebroadcast for many years in the United States, just because it wasn't very good.
While not an entire episode, a scene from one episode of Three's Company disappeared in 2001 when, after 17 years, someone noticed that John Ritter inadvertently exposed his scrotum while changing position.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 has several Missing Episodes, either from the show's "Season Zero" on local Minneapolis television station KTMA (considered not up to the show's standard) or riffing movies for which Best Brains no longer has the rights. (Toho, for example, denied them the rights to the Godzilla franchise.) As if in anticipation of this problem, MST3K became the Trope Namer for Keep Circulating the Tapes, which still applies for episodes which have not been legally released. The unaired pilot and the first three "Season Zero" episodes, however, do not exist in any private fan collections, whereas 50 out of 176 Comedy Central era episodes have not been released on DVD (including the series finale).
The lost episodes still exist in some form or another, though. Jim Mallon, MST3K's producer, said in an interview that he still has the master tapes of the lost episodes, but this effectively means that no one other than him can actually watch them. In practice, though, high-quality footage of some of the host segments from these episodes has appeared on the Best Brains website, the unaired pilot has been shown at the odd convention during MST3K or Cinematic Titanic panels (and bootlegs have shown up on the Internet), and many of the episodes turn up on YouTube anyway in ten-minute chunks (not legally, but admins never really pull more than one video at a time).
The DVD rights have since switched to Shout! Factory, which has greatly softened Best Brains' stance toward "Season Zero", which was effectively to never let the episodes re-air again.note It's widely stated that one reason MST3K got bounced from Comedy Central was Best Brains' insistence that "Season Zero" never be seen on the network. In particular, the Volume XV boxset includes about half an hour of host segments from "Season Zero", including clips from the pilot and the first three episodes. The creators were also willing to recycle the season's host segments and re-riff some of its films.
Two notable specific examples are the Season 9 episode with Gorgo (aired only once before rights issues forced Sci-Fi to take it out of rotation) and the original version of the episode with Night of the Blood Beast (a Thanksgiving episode designed to have its host segments replaced for reruns). These are both available on DVD.
FiveUS in the UK aired, without fanfare, a handful of never-before-seen episodes mixed in with their usual reruns several years after the show was canceled. (They're mostly notable because one of them is a Greg/Denny episode one of the only American episodes without Wayne.) Since there was only one actual "missing" episode, it's assumed that FiveUS somehow got a hold of the original taping footage and used it to cobble together their own episodes (which was how nearly all of the episodes from the later seasons were created).
The X-Files episode "Home" was so disturbing (containing references to inbreeding and a lot of Body Horror) that executives vowed never to air it again, not even in syndication. An Internet campaign led to it earning the top spot in a viewer-selected marathon on FX some years later, and the episode has since been added to the regular rotation.
Pressure from Moral Guardian Terry Rakolta over crude and sexual humor in Married... with Children resulted in the ban of the third season episode "I'll See You In Court" (which had the Bundys and the Rhoades suing a motel for videotaping couples having sex and using the videos as porno movies for other couples who check in). The ban would later be lifted, but that didn't stop DVD releases from advertising this episode as "never before shown."
The third-season The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Pieces of Fate Affair", written by Harlan Ellison, was hardly ever seen in syndication for many years because of concerns about possible lawsuits over unflattering parodies of various literary figures in that episode.
George Lucas has said that he would do his best to make sure The Star Wars Holiday Special is never seen again, anywhere, and that he would happily destroy every last copy if he could. But while the special was never likely to have an "official" Lucasfilm re-release, it is very widely available from unofficial sources. In addition, the matter's likely out of his hands now that he sold his company to Disney.
An episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation, in which female student Manny goes to have an abortion at the end of an episode after discussing it with her boyfriend and parents, was not shown on the 'N' Channel during its original broadcast run (on CTV in Canada). It was only due to fan pressure that the episode was added to the channel's rotation, and it's only shown late at night in the US.
In a similar vein, a sequence from the premiere of the original Degrassi High, in which student Erica goes to have an abortion and pushes through angry protesters at an abortion clinic with her sister, was not shown after its original airing on television.
The first season finale, in which Ashley takes ecstasy and kisses Sean, was skipped over in Australia and the US. This caused confusion the following season.
Two episodes of Seinfeld were lost from the show's syndication run until 2002.
"The Invitations", featuring Susan's death from licking cheap toxic envelope glue, was pulled for being too close to the anthrax scare shortly after 9/11.
"The Puerto Rican Day" was pulled because of a scene where Kramer accidentally burns the Puerto Rican flag. The episode aired once on NBC and was not seen again on television for four years. Since then, it seems to jump in and out of the rerun rotation based on the whims of the syndicator. (Michael Richards' racist rant at the Laugh Factory in 2006 didn't help matters here.)
Another episode was never filmed: Season 2's "The Bet," involving Elaine buying a gun. Most of the cast objected to the script during rehearsals, saying it was too dark and not very funny; production was halted despite the episode being ready for filming. To fill the vacant slot, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David hammered out "The Phone Message" in two days from a rejected sketch David wrote for Saturday Night Live.
"The Protector" was originally supposed to air in the middle of Season 3, but was banned because the episode dealt with child molestation and ended up airing as the series finale, even though the true last episode is the two-parter "Insanity Genetic". References to the molestation in "The Session" and the aforementioned "Insanity Genetic" don't make a lot of sense when viewed out of order.
The two-part series finale "Insanity Genetic" was temporarily pulled due to the 9/11 attacks (the plot focused on Titus having a mental breakdown on an airplane following his mom's suicide and, through many misunderstandings, the FBI suspecting Titus and his friends of being terrorists). The episodes eventually aired in August 2002.
Max Headroom was cancelled with three completed episodes left unaired. Two were shown six months later when a writers' strike left a shortage of new programming, while the last episode had to wait until the Sci-Fi Channel showed the series 8 years later. As with many short-lived US series, however, all 14 episodes aired first-run in overseas markets (such as Channel Four in the UK).
Heroes had an arc aborted before it could start due to the writers' strike. The first episode of the originally-planned third volume would have built on that arc; it was filmed and is presumably still around somewhere, but it has never been seen.
Friends had an episode that had to be scrapped and reshot after 9/11 — about to leave on their honeymoon, Chandler and Monica get stopped in airport security when Chandler jokes that he has a bomb in his luggage. The two are dragged off to have their luggage searched, jokes about underwear ensue. The episode was reshot with Chander and Monica trying to sneak into the superior private lounge at the airport. The original storyline never aired, though the original scenes from the subplot did eventually turn up on YouTube, and the original cut of the episode is available on the DVD set of the series.
Virtually all episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson prior to the show's move to NBC's Burbank studios, including his first episode as host, were lost due to tape reuse.
The Tonight Show was originally hosted by Steve Allen from 1954-57 and was titled Tonight Starring Steve Allen; the episodes which he presented have long since been wiped, as have most of the other series Allen presented during the early years of television.
Due to changeovers in the front office of TNT, eleven episodes of the Wall Street show Bull have never been shown in the United States. These changes delayed the showing of the series Breaking News until Bravo picked it up in 2002.
The Prisoner episode "Living in Harmony" was not broadcast in its original American run on CBS for featuring Six rejecting a call to arms, not a message the network wanted to send during an active draft. (The official explanation at the time characterized the call to arms as a "walking hallucination" – read: mind-altering drugs.) All later runs show this episode in its correct place.
The Twilight Zone episodes "Miniatures", "Sounds and Silences", and "A Small Drink From a Certain Fountain" were caught up in litigation over possible plagiarism when the series was first put into syndication. The lawsuits were eventually settled, but the episodes vanished for decades.
"The Encounter", which starred Neville Brand and George Takei, went missing for a different reason: Takei played a Japanese-American man whose father had been a traitor to the U.S. during World War II. It provoked an angry reaction from the Japanese-American community and was not rebroadcast or included in syndication.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Earshot", about Buffy trying to find out who's behind a plan to kill every Sunnydale High student and climaxing with Jonathan taking a rifle to the school clocktower, was quite understandably pulled when the Columbine Massacre happened four days before it was to air. Somewhat less justifiable is the season's finale delay for the same reason, this time featuring high schoolers rigging their school with explosives to blow up an evil snake demon. That one ended up leaking on Canadian TV in some places anyway, resulting in tape trains from Canadian fans to other countries.
"Once More with Feeling" was not aired in syndication (e.g. on FX) for a while because of its longer than usual run-time. (It, along with many other episodes, is occasionally shown in trimmed-down form.)
Are You Being Served? ran for ten years and produced 69 episodes. It's been shown regularly on public television in the US, but two episodes are missing. One, "Top Hat and Tails" was simply misplaced; the other involved an elaborate blackface number.
The pilot was (like other shows) originally recorded in colour but wiped, with only black-and-white copies surviving. However, in 2009, this became one of the first shows to have its colour restored with the new colour recovery technique.
Red Dwarf played with this concept a little bit in the special "Back to Earth" by explicitly stating that there are two more seasons to the show, and that the special takes place after Series 10. It's an interesting twist, either as a campaign to the network for a full series order (perhaps even successful) or a Lampshade Hanging on the shows that could have been made had the creator not been focusing on The Movie.
The finale of Tru Calling wasn't aired on the original broadcast, but was shown when the series was being rebroadcast on Sci-Fi.
JAG has a unique example of this in "Skeleton Crew", the last episode produced for the show's first season and a Cliff Hanger. While the episode was completed, NBC didn't air it and ultimately cancelled the series. CBS picked it up again, but opted not to finish the story. The episode eventually did air via syndication on USA, was included in the DVD release, and was re-edited into an episode from the series' third season, "Death Watch". Weirdly, Catharine Bell, who joined the cast as Major Sarah Mackenzie in season 2, played the dead victim in "Skeleton Crew", a resemblance the show would even reference in "Death Watch".
The final episode of Dollhouse's first season, "Epitaph One", was not aired on TV during the initial run. FOX paid for 13 episodes but counted the original pilot (which has never been aired) as one of them; they didn't want to show a 14th episode. Joss Whedon created this episode to satisfy the producers' requirements for DVD. Oddly, it's considered one of the best episodes in the series and even the reason the show got a second season. It was eventually aired between the seasons and shown as the season one finale internationally.
VR 5 had three: "Sisters", "Send Me An Angel" and "Parallel Lives". One was dropped because of preemption, another due to sexual content, and the third because it didn't make any sense without the first two. They were aired in Canada, but never in the United States.
Thirteen episodes of Wonderfalls were produced, but the show was cancelled after four episodes. All thirteen are on the DVD release.
The 1964 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest from Copenhagen is a strange example. Depnding on whom you ask, it's lost either due to the Danish broadcaster's archive mishap or missing because of a Spanish anti-Franco protester showing up near the end. Bits of it are still shown, including the winner's reprise by Gigliola Cinquetti.
Parodied in Mr. Show with Bob And David; at the beginning of the episode, the hosts declare to the audience that the episode being filmed is intended to be the "lost episode" of the series, which will be trotted out years later to much fanfare. At the end of the episode, Bob and David give the only tape of the episode to a uniformed security guard, who walks outside and tosses the tape into outer space in a 2001 parody.
Some MythBusters episodes are missing or otherwise not shown because of testing mishaps:
The episode where they see if the cereal box itself really is more nutritious than the sugary cereal inside was supposed to be a mouse test, one cage of mice getting cereal and one getting cardboard pellets. One of the blooper videos that Adam and Jamie show at lectures has the unairable result — one of the "cardboard" mice decided its cagemates were much more appetizing, so it killed and ate them. Adam holds a partly-eaten mouse up to the camera for the producer's benefit.
Another episode saw a cannonball fly through a family's house. The myth itself was shown, but the footage of the cannonball going past the water barrels was cut off per the family's request. They also explained what went wrong, apologized on air, and finished the testing at a different site.
Ace of Wands was a fantasy-based children's series which ran for 46 episodes across three series from 1970-72 on Thames Television. The first two series (13 episodes each) are completely lost, although audio recordings exist of many episodes from the second series. The third series (20 episodes) survives intact.
At least two episodes of Home and Away have never been seen in the UK. One involved the students of Summer Bay High being confronted by gunmen; ITV felt it was Too Soon after a similar incident in Ireland. Another banned episode involved Duncan making a bomb.
Hardly anyone has seen the earliest episodes of the wildly popular Mexican sitcom El Chavo del ocho because it originated as a sketch on an hour-long variety show "Chespirito", named for Chavo's creator. The better sketches were edited together into half-hour episodes (resulting in a short season zero), but they're an Old Shame; the earliest Chavo sketches haven't been seen in decades.
When rerunning Cagney & Lacey, Lifetime omitted the first season episodes featuring Meg Foster as Cagney. The first DVD release does likewise, labeling the second season (featuring Sharon Gless as Cagney) as the first season.
A lot of early Japanese television shows from NHK are lost.
Chirorin Mura to Kurumi no Ki (Chirorin Village and the Walnut Tree) was a popular children's stop-motion puppet animation show that ran from 1956-64 for 812 episodes. Only four episodes survive, all from the show's final year. In 1992, NHK produced a cartoon version entitled Chirorin Mura Monogatari which ran for 170 episodes and survives in its entirety.
Another puppet show, Hyokkori Hyotanjima, ran daily from 1964-69 for 1,224 episodes, of which only eight survive. Years later, in the early 1990s, they tried remaking the missing episodes using the original puppets and any actors still alive at the time.
A strange example is the infamous (and quasi-mythical) recurring segment Crack Master, a cartoon segment about a wall crack that comes to life. While apparently a whimsical story about using your imagination, it was only shown eleven times, the last instance being in May 1980. It was banned for being too scary for younger viewers. After months of rigorous searching, the founder of Lost Media Wiki, Dycaite, obtained a copy and uploaded it to YouTube.
The 1983 "Conflict" episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood were originally created to help children cope with the war-related themes of The Day After miniseries, but were deemed inappropriate to air after 1996 due to real-life wars happening. This set of episodes has not been released on Amazon.com, unlike most of the 1979-2001 episodes. Interestingly, it did re-air once, following 9/11 (with much attendant debate over whether it was Too Soon).
The television version of Hancock's Half Hour ran for seven series from 1956-61 for a total of 63 episodes, of which 26 are lost. The first four series were broadcast live and only occasionally captured on telerecordings if a technician or actor wanted a viewable copy; the first series is completely lost, while only one episode from the second seriesnote the only surviving television episode to feature Kenneth Williams and five each from the third and fourth were preserved. Off-air audio recordings exist of a further six episodes from the fourth series. The remaining three series were pre-recorded on videotape and survive in their entirety. See Radio for the radio episodes lost.
TBS stopped airing the Mamas Family episode "Gert Rides Again" sometime in the early 2000s, apparently because their master tape of it was somehow destroyed. Fans were able to see the episode again when ION began airing the show in 2006.
The Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (featuring a mentally disabled man who believes himself to have the power of the magician he works for, who ends up cutting a woman in half during a poorly prepared trick) was skipped during its original run, as the sponsor found it too dark. It was later seen unedited in syndication.
Several episodes of WCW Monday Nitro have not been rebroadcast on WWE Classics when they would have otherwise been shown. At least one episode (originally aired June 9, 1997) was unfit for broadcast due to audio problems on the master tape. Other episodes have been heavily edited or omitted entirely due to Chris Benoit's prominent appearance; WWE essentially made Benoit a non-person after his murder-suicide. WWE has since announced that it will include Benoit footage on its Web-based WWE Network when it launches in February 2014, but with a prominent viewer advisory before each streaming.
The My Family episode where Susan is temporarily blinded from the shock of catching Michael in bed with a girlfriend and struggles to hide her condition from the rest of the family has been banned on British TV for being offensive to blind people (despite reportedly receiving only four viewer complaints). It can, however, be found on the Series 4 DVD.
Neighbours episode 4175 was accidentally skipped over when aired in Australia. It was later shown in New Zealand and the UK.
A number of Iron Chef episodes are missing, namely the Ishinabe and Nakamura era battles, due to Food Network not dubbing those episodes after getting the go-ahead to air Iron Chef America. Sadly, this includes the Beijing Special, where four chefs of different Chinese cuisines go head-to-head in the Forbidden City. There's a website dedicated to finding VCR copies of these missing episodes.
The Masters Of Horror episode "Imprint" was never aired in the U.S. for dealing with subject matter American TV censors would find abhorrent (incest, prostitution, birth defects, child molestation, and abortion). It would be released on DVD (sparking rumors that this was done deliberately to publicize the DVD set as containing an episode "too Squicky for Showtime").
After NBC canceled the last season of Get Smart and CBS picked it up, the ensuing copyright dispute ensured that the season was pulled from most TV circulations.
Twelve live-action segments for The Super Mario Bros. Super Show went missing from DVD releases, apparently for legal reasons. Several of the missing segments ("9001: A Mario Odyssey", "Baby Mario Love", and "Texas Tea") were later put online.
When the show entered its second run in 1990, the live-action segments were cut and replaced by a more modernized, less sitcom-ish series with a group of teenagers titled "Club Mario". It was very poorly received, and DIC would later order almost all of them destroyed. (except for "The Unzappables", which was later picked up by Netflix, Hulu, and the iTunes store). The segments survive through home recordings; you can see one here.
When Japan aired The Monkees TV show, they made two additional special episodes appropriately titled "The Monkees In Japan" (parts 1 and 2), which highlighted the Monkees' visit and concert in their country. The episodes aired once in Japan (October 11 and 18, 1968) and have never been aired since. The video footage from both parts is thought to be lost, but a low-quality recorded audio track from portions of the episodes still survives; it's known among fans as the bootleg CD Made In Japan.
Due to its 6:00 PM Wednesday slot, Channel Four did not screen the My So-Called Life "Weekend" (in which Rayanne handcuffs herself to the Chases' bed). The series was only repeated once (in an even earlier slot, again omitting "Weekend") and has never been shown on British television since.
A majority of episodes from The Jack Benny Program are missing. Out of 257 episodes (by the IMDb's count), about 30 have survived and slipped into the public domain (and thus released often from multiple home-video sources). CBS owns the masters for about 25 additional episodes (also believed to have lapsed into the public domain), but thus far has refused to release them or to allow access to third parties.
The Eerie Indiana episode "Heart On A Chain" was never rerun when the show was syndicated on Fox Kids (it's unclear whether it was ever run when syndicated on the Disney Channel) due to the plot being about a dead boy who speaks to Marshall from beyond the grave when his heart gets implanted in a girl who needs a transplant. It is, however, available on DVD.
An episode of Bones was pulled because the plot included a boy being killed on a college campus; it was set to air right after a similar, high-profile event in real life. It was eventually aired later in the season, but some of the side plots, such as Hodgins proposing to Angela and being rejected, were cut because they didn't fit the show's established timeline.
Leverage pulled "The Mile High Job", which was set on a plane and devoted much of its comedy to making fun of the improbability of water landings; it was set to air right after the "Miracle on the Hudson" proved them wrong. The episode was later aired in its original form after the media frenzy had died down.
The Law & Order season 11 episode "Sunday In The Park With Jorge" was never rerun on NBC after complaints about the very negative portrayal of the Puerto Rican community, though it was later shown on TNT.
At least two episodes of Quincy were never repeated on NBC (although they were, and are, still shown in syndication), as both episodes were about child sexual abuse and child exploitation:
"Nowhere To Run" centered on a murdered pregnant teen whose unborn child was actually the product of an incestuous relationship with her father (now a suspect in her murder).
"Never A Child" centered on a runaway teen becoming a sex slave to a child pornographer.
The Dutch TV series Pension Hommeles and Ja Zuster Nee Zuster from the late 1950s launched or bolstered the career of many Dutch singers and actors. The songs were written by Annie M.G. Schmidt and several amongst them are considered to be classics. Unfortunately most of the original tapes of the series were lost in the intervening decades, and the first episodes of Pension Hommeles were broadcast live, so there were never tapes of it in the first place.
The Miami Vice episode "Too Much Too Late" didn't air in its first run on NBC due to a subplot involving child molestation. It would be included later on USA.
The Disney Channel's reruns of Boy Meets World omitted or edited many later episodes dealing with less-family friendly issues such as alcohol abuse and sexuality. MTV 2 now airs the later episodes uncut and uncensored.
The Shake It Up episode "Party It Up" was banned a year after its premiere when Demi Lovatoobjected on her Twitter page to scenes and dialogue that encouraged or made light of eating disorders (anorexia, specifically). The So Random! episode featuring Colbie Caillat was also banned for its tasteless jokes on eating disorders. "Party It Up" returned to rotation with all scenes and references removed. However, there's still no word on whether or not Colbie Caillat's So Random! episode will be rebroadcast, especially since the series got cancelled after a season (Not to mention that the show doesn't show up in the Disney Replay block). Both banned episodes are available online uncut and uncensored.
The Drew Carey Show had an unusual example in the episode "Two Drews and the Queen of Poland Walk into a Bar". The episode itself wasn't banned, but the entire subplot with Mimi becoming the Duchess of Krakow and meeting the King of Poland was removed from the episode and hasn't been seen on TV since its original airing due to complaints from the Polish community. Every other airing of this episode (even in overseas airings) uses the opening from the episode "It's Your Party and I'll Crash If I Want To" to make up for the removed subplot. The original version of the episode finally surfaced online in 2012.
The A-Team episode "Without Reservations" was was meant to be the second-to-last episode of the series, but was lost and never aired in syndication. It was found a few years later and aired as the last episode during reruns. It continues to be listed (on the DVD sets, Netflix, etc.) as the last episode, but it is canonically the second-to-last. Murdock's t-shirts (which read "Almost Fini" in this one and "Fini" in "The Grey Team"), as well as their conversation at the end of "The Grey Team", both make it pretty clear that "The Grey Team" takes place after "Without Reservations".
The local versions of Romper Room have mostly disappeared due to station managers erasing the master tapes and reusing them for other programming.
In a particularly sad example, the series Winchell-Mahoney Time (1965–68), featuring what was regarded as some of the best work of the famed ventriloquist and comedian Paul Winchell, is lost entirely; a dispute between Winchell and Metromedia about the syndication rights in 1988 led to the studio vindictively erasing all the tapes. Winchell won $17.8 million after suing them, but that's small consolation.
The "Klansmen" episode of The Professionals has never been screened on British television in either the show's original or subsequent runs due to the references to racism (with the exception of a 1997 airing on the now-defunct Superchannel). However, this episode has aired overseas.
Ernie Kovacs' untimely death in a January 13, 1962 car accident led to a few of these:
A TV Pilot for a comedy Western show called Medicine Man (co-starring Buster Keaton) never aired, though it is part of the Paley Center for Media's public collection.
In 1961, Kovacs recorded an album "starring" his lisping Camp Gay poet character, titled Ernie Kovacs Presents Percy Dovetonsils Thpeaks. The album was never released until 50 years later, when archivist Ben Model discovered the original studio tapes. Adding his own piano score, Model released the album in 2012 (on digital formats, CD, and vinyl).
The Office episode "Koi Pond" had to edit the cold opening showing Michael pretending to hang himself in the haunted warehouse in front of children due to complaints from the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, who protested over the Suicide as Comedy undertones of the sequence. The scene is available on NBC's official site and is also included in the iTunes release of the episode, but it is not in the DVD cut of this episode.
After Jessie's Halloween Episode "The Whining" aired, a nanny in New York killed two of her kids like the Ross children thought Jessie wanted to do. Disney pulled all reruns of the episode from its channel and from iTunes, though it is still available online elsewhere.
The George Lopez Show episode "George Goes to Disneyland" is the only episode left out of most syndication packages due it being part of a "Win a Trip to Disneyland" contest that was around at the time of the show's premiere. The few local stations (including Chicago's WCIU) that did air the episode removed the opening scene and explained the contest.
After the upset caused by reairing a 2001 episode of Tweenies that featured a parody of Jimmy Savile in January 2013 — just months after his crimes became known to the public — the BBC has promised to pull the episode and never show it again. (See also the entry for Top of the Pops.)
The Lieutenant, the first show produced by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, ran into frequent problems with cooperation from the US Marines over what they felt was a less than flattering portrayal of the Marine Corps. One episode dealing with racial issues was produced but never aired (apparently, the Marines believed there were no racial issues in the military, and they pulled their backing from the show). The episode (featuring Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols as a guest star) was never broadcast, but was released with the rest of the series on DVD in 2012.
The seventh episode of The Tick never made it to air because FOX's disturbingly frequent practice of airing series out of order resulted in the series being too hard to follow when placed out of original continuity.
The 2012 season finale of The Biography Channel series I Survived was to feature the stories of those who escaped the mass shootings in Utoya, Norway. The episode was set to air December 16, 2012, but then an eerily similar mass shooting at Sandy Hook took place on the 14th. The episode was immediately yanked from the schedule and replaced with a repeat, not airing until nearly a year later in October 2013. Episodes that focused on other infamous mass shootings (Virginia Tech, Columbine, etc.) have not been rerun in a long time, either.
The Hannibal episode "Oeuf" was pulled from the show's initial rotation as both creator Bryan Fuller and NBC thought that, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting and the then-recent Boston Marathon bombing, it would be in bad taste to show an episode about kids being brainwashed to kill their families. However, the pieces relevant to the running plot involving Abigail Hobbs were posted as "minisodes" on Youtube and Hulu, and the whole episode eventually appeared on iTunes.
The UK version of Fraggle Rock, with the Captain and his lighthouse instead of Doc and his workshop, has only 12 episodes known to still exist. Because the production company has changed hands several times and production rights can't be sorted out, they cannot be broadcast or released again anyway. That's why when Fraggle Rock was rerun in the UK, the episodes featured Doc rather than the Captain.
The 1987 ITV sitcom Hardwicke House, which starred Roy Kinnear as the headmaster of a comprehensive school where the students and teachers are equally criminally depraved, took British Brevity to its logical extreme when, after just two episodes (of seven), it was pulled from the airwaves after press and public outcry over its perceived tasteless humour. The other five episodes have never aired, the first two episodes have never re-aired, and a DVD release is unlikely at best. However, contrary to rumour, the tapes were not wiped and are still in the ITV archives; a select few have managed to access them and view all seven episodes.
The BBC and ITV's various televised comedy and drama anthology programmes tend to have a high level of missing episodes, either because they were broadcast live or because their heyday was during the era that was hit hardest by the various archive purges. Just to name a few examples:
Comedy Playhouse ran on BBC Television from 1961 to 1975 for 130 episodes, which included the pilots for Steptoe And Son, Till Death Us Do Part, The Liver Birds, Are You Being Served?, and Last of the Summer Wine. Only 32 episodes survive, including five which were originally broadcast in colour but now only exist in black and white or low-quality off-air recordings. Some of the aforementioned pilots are among the lost episodes.
Drama anthology series The Wednesday Play ran for 170 episodes from 1964 to 1970 on BBC Television; its most well-remembered episode is Ken Loach's Cathy Come Home, a depiction of the growing problem of urban homelessness in Britain. Only 76 episodes are known to survive; three have only partially survived, while another three from the 1969-70 colour series only exist in black and white.
ITV's drama anthology, Playhouse, ran for 137 episodes from 1967 to 1974, then as ITV Playhouse for 66 episodes from 1977 to 1982. Although all episodes of ITV Playhouse survive, one is in black and white only; Playhouse was hit a bit harder, with 34 lost episodes, one incomplete episode, eleven episodes in black and white only, and two episodes with no soundtrack.
The Wednesday Play's successor series, Play For Today, ran on BBC1 for 304 episodes from 1970 to 1984, with episodes including the Mike Leigh-penned Abigail's Party and Nuts in May and the pilot of the TV adaptation of Rumpole of the Bailey (pre-Channel Hop to ITV). Thirty episodes are completely lost, two are partially lost, seven only exist in black and white, and one only exists as an off-air home recording.
Played with on Community: One clip show episode contains references to several apparently-missing episodes. The episodes were, in fact, never filmed.
When the Disney Channel aired Dinosaurs, the episodes "Baby Talk" (where Earl and Fran start a campaign against indecency on television after Baby begins repeating the word "smoo", which in the dinosaur world is an Informed Obscenity for gunk that collects under a dinosaur's feet) and "Dirty Dancing" (where Fran teaches sex ed at Robbie's high school after Robbie begins spontaneously doing the mating dancenote which, in the dinosaur world, means he's getting erections) were not shown. The latter episode to be banned is odd, as Disney aired the episode where Charlene's tail grows in and Earl worries that Charlene will become a "tomato." Meanwhile, the trope is inverted with the leftover episodes that ABC didn't air, but did air in syndication and on the Disney Channel.
The Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "The Glory That Was" has been excluded from the Season 8 DVD set for "content" reasons. Presumably, this is because of the lesbian scene that appears in the opener.
The Soviet/Russian series Tale after tale (Сказка за сказкой) ran for twenty years, with the Russian Wikipedia listing nearly 200 episodes and stating there were more. Wikipedia lists six as surviving; another site states there are twenty available with more in private collections.
British character actor Derek Nimmo, well-known to radio audiences as a panellist for thirty years on Just a Minute, made a name for himself on television in a number of sitcoms in which he played well-meaning but bumbling clergymen. However, very little of his work in these series has survived.
All Gas and Gaiters, in which Nimmo played the naive chaplain to a bishop played by William Mervyn, ran for 33 episodes across five series from 1967-71. Just eleven episodes survive, including the pilot (a Comedy Playhouse episode which was thought lost until 2001), two episodes each from Series 1 and 4, and all six episodes from Series 5 (however, two episodes exist in black and white film copies only). The 1971-72 radio adaptation exists in its entirety.
Nimmo played accident-prone monk Brother Dominic in Oh Brother!, which ran for 19 episodes across three series from 1968-70. Only eight episodes are known to survive, including the first episode of Series 1 and all seven episodes from Series 3. The 1973 sequel series, Oh Father!, survives complete.