An episode of a regular series which, for some reason, is not included when the series is shown in syndication (or is sometimes pulled when the series is first run and then shown in syndication or is never shown in syndication at all — and, in some cases, not included when the show is put on home video, DVD, or online streaming websites). A missing episode is (almost always) an episode that plans to air, but something later comes up to prevent it. The circumstances are usually one, all, or any of the following:
- Offensive content: An episode may be too violent, profane, sexual, or controversial to be shown. Similarly, a tragedy makes the episode's story or jokes come off as being in bad taste.note This overlaps with Banned Episode, though the difference between a Missing Episode and a Banned Episode is that a banned episode is often an episode that used to have no censorial problems until complaints from Moral Guardians or a tragic real-world event drives it to being shelved.
- Legal issues (usually over copyright infringement, libel, defamation of character, or a class-action suit). Related to this, some episodes are pulled due to insurmountable licensing issues relating to music used in the episode, or perhaps imagery, that render the episode no longer viable if edited out.
- Old Shame or Creator Backlash: the people involved realize that the episode isn't as good as they thought it was (whether the audience agrees with them or not) and decide to pull it from reruns. The episode may come back on DVD, but either with no commentary or commentary about how audiences didn't like it or the creators didn't like it.
- A show is canceled (be it short-lived or long-running) and has some episodes that have never been aired (cf. Dinosaurs and King of the Hill) or, in the case of Mission Hill, the episodes were in pre-production and incomplete and had to be scrapped when news hit that the show has been canceled.
- It's literally missing. There are no surviving copies left. This applies to a lot of old films, radio shows and TV shows, as few people actually cared about preserving the works for future audiences at the time - often due to the high costs of magnetic tape and film at the time - which led to copies being either destroyed by the ravages of time, junked or taped over. This also tends to happen a lot with internet content, as most things in the Internet exist in only one copy and many internet users don't bother to archive content, hence why intiatives such as Archive Team and the Internet Archive exist.
- The executives have lost the rights to air the episode (or, in some cases, the entire show).
- If it's an episode of an anime or an overseas import, usually it's skipped over due to translation issues, the aforementioned content issues (often due to Values Dissonance as something benign in one country can be offensive in another), or the fact that it's filler and, therefore, considered a waste of time to show since it has nothing to do with the running story arc.
The terms "Missing Episode" and "Lost Episode" are not synonymous, but which term refers to which phenomenon varies. It can also be an abused term, such as the case of Entertainment Tonight finding "lost footage" for their shows which is already properly catalogued and digitized, but uses the "lost" term instead of "old footage" as the latter doesn't work to pull in viewers.
Can sometimes result from Old Shame. Often overlaps with Keep Circulating the Tapes, which is when a work cannot obtained easily and/or legally (and that's if it can be obtained at all). For an episode that never actually existed in the first place, see UnInstallment. See also Canon Discontinuity, for something that isn't recognized as part of the series, usually due to how out of place it is. See also Banned Episode, which is a Missing Episode that already aired at least once or twice, but was pulled due to complaints over content, legal issues, or a bad case of being "Too Soon." See also Unfinished Episode, which is a Missing Episode that was in the middle of production, but for various reasons was never completed.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Comic Strips
- Fan Fic
- Game Shows
- Live-Action TV
- New Media
- Professional Wrestling
- Video Games
- Web Animation
- Web Comics
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- Real Life