8 important TV shows that were lost or destroyed

One TV network dumped its entire collection into the sea.

Image: NBC

It took a while for networks and studios to fine-tune how to preserve the television shows they produced. Before Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz introduced the idea of filming television shows on film, studios broadcast the episodes live or on low-quality kinescopes.

The primitive method for broadcasting meant a lot of early shows didn't make it past the 1950s. However, that wasn't the only reason certain shows were lost over time. 

Whether it was due to low-quality film, live broadcasts or negligence by the networks, these eight television shows have been lost or destroyed. Sadly, the only way they exist now is through the memories of the people who watched them.

Do you remember watching any of these shows?

1. Mary Kay and Johnny

The series broke ground as the first television show to feature a couple sharing the same bed, but it's also noticeable for only having one episode still in existence. Like most shows in the 1940s, Mary Kay and Johnny was broadcast live, meaning the earliest episodes were never even recorded. Even though later episodes were taped, they didn't survive. 

Image: NBC

2. The entire DuMont Network

Mary Kay and Johnny wasn't the only television program from the 1950s to go missing. In fact, most of the entire film archive of the DuMont Television Network was destroyed. That's about 175 television series and thousands of episodes. Of those series, only about 100 episodes remain.

Television actress Edie Adams testified at the Library of Congress that the episodes were dumped into Upper New York Bay during the 1970s because they were deemed insignificant. That's right — a lot of the country's earliest television shows are swimming with the fishes.

Image: DuMont

3. Search for Tomorrow

Search for Tomorrow ran for 35 seasons, but incredibly, there is hardly any evidence that it existed. The soap opera started as a 15-minute serial alongside Guiding Light in 1951. It was broadcast live until 1968, when the series began to pre-record episodes.

But in 1983, a real-life Tootsie took place. The network had lost all the pre-recorded episodes, so the actors had to perform live for the first time in 16 years! Some people think the network "lost" the episodes as a publicity stunt. Even if it was, the episodes still haven't been found. 

Image: NBC

4. The Edge of Night

Soap operas didn't receive the level of preservation that primetime shows did during the first 20 years of television, mainly because of the sheer quantity of shows that were produced. There's almost no record to many soap operas before 1978, with the exception of Dark Shadows

Most long-running soap operas ran well past the 1970s, but one in particular didn't make it. The Edge of Night ended its 7,420 episode run in 1984, meaning a vast majority of episodes no longer exist. 

5. The Shari Lewis Show

If you were Shari Lewis, would you be mad at this situation? The ventriloquist's self-titled show, best known for introducing the country to Lamb Chop, was broadcast Saturday mornings from 1960-1963. But in 1964, the network decided to use the tapes from the show to record the 1964 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. 

Image: NBC

6. The Tonight Show starring Jack Paar

It's understandable a show that's been running for over six decades would have some missing episodes. But The Tonight Show has the distinction of taping over its earliest episodes, erasing most episodes before 1972. That means few episodes remain from the entire tenure of Jack Paar as host — not to mention the first ten years Johnny Carson sat behind the desk. 

Image: NBC

7. Jeopardy!

Obviously the entirety of Jeopardy! isn't lost, but nearly all of the entire original version of the show that ran from 1964-1975 no longer exists. Out of the 2,753 shows broadcast during that era, only one percent remains.

Image: NBC

8. The Magnificent Marble Machine

One game show that is almost entirely lost is The Magnificent Marble Machine, which ran for a couple seasons in the mid 1970s. Only two episodes remain of the celebrity game show, but the outlandishly '70s set makes us think it wouldn't survive past that decade anyways.

Image: NBC

 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

9 Comments

Post a comment
forthekids 6 months ago
Winchell was so angry at their stupidly and selfishly destroying his work..that he took Mr.Kluge and Metromedia TV to court and sued them..he won an out of court settlement.
forthekids 6 months ago
Local tv stations also destroyed a large number of their shows..including the kids tv shows..Ventriloquist/entertainer and cartoon vo performer:Paul Winchell was trying to make a deal with the heads of Metromedia TV Inc. to rerelease the entire collection of prints of"Winchell/Mahoney Time"..when the station execs refused to comply with Winchell's request..he was going to buy them outright for the home video and cable tv markets..but? Mr.Kluge and his staff took all of the shows..except a few and destroyed them.
MarkMilano 6 months ago
Luckily, over 700 episodes of "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" from 1949-57 were preserved and are being released for free! https://www.youtube.com/kfodvd
Mrwhatsit MarkMilano 6 months ago
Good to know as I was in the studio audience during that time and folks at home recognized my laugh. But the shows were broadcast live, and I never got to hear myself. (I guess there's still hope.)
AaronHandyIII 6 months ago
Other daytime game shows aired prior to April 1978 were wiped to make room in their respective network's vaults. Those include the entire B&W CBS Daytime era od Password, a large portion of ABC Daytime's Password, Let's Make A Deal (NBC & ABC), Wheel of Fortune (Chuck & Susan years), The Hollywood Squares (NBC), and The $10,000/$20,000 Pyramid (CBS & ABC).
HerbF 7 months ago
The Shari Lewis Show actually still exists - as B&W kinescope recordings.

As for DuMONT - actually 100's of hours (reported to be at least 500 to 1000) of shows exist in various archives, with UCLA holding the largest collection.
forthekids HerbF 5 months ago
Reportedly? UCLA's TV archives also has Paul Tripp's very first educational kids tv series:"Mr.I Magination"(Which aired on CBS TV..Sunday evenings and Saturday mornings from 1949-1952)but? Nothing has been confirmed as to wether they have those shows..or not?
forthekids HerbF 5 months ago
There is one complete episode and a kinnie film clip of"Mr.I Magination"that can be seen on You Tube.
moax429 16 months ago
"The Doctors" is one soap opera that *still* has some episodes surviving (from approximately 1966 through when the series ended in 1982).

Those are syndicated by SFM Entertainment and Retro TV runs a 2-hour block of "The Doctors" (as of this posting) on Saturday afternoons at 3:00 - 5:P.M.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?