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

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BruceBeckwith 29 months ago
The late Steve Allen wanted to put together a montage of his time on The Tonight Show.(He preceded Jack Paar above). He ws told NBC executives that tapes had been burned to make space for new shows' tapes.
JayHarvanek 30 months ago
When I was a little kid I had a big crush on Shari Lewis.
LarryAJacobsen 30 months ago
I've never seen reruns of Captain Kangaroo anywhere.
AlfonzoSmith 30 months ago
No, "The Magnificent Marble Machine" did not run a couple of seasons. It was cancelled after thirteen weeks but was rerun immediately because of a writers' strike.
GordARebelato 30 months ago
Now with digital age this would not be a big deal to save this but in the day it was costly to store this stuff and so the decision was made to destroy them.
Gary 30 months ago
Just proves Hollywood and the Hollywood suits were absolutely stupid. And the new crop of Hollywood bosses are just as stupid!!!
ronald Gary 30 months ago
Lawyers made the decision to dump all of the shows from Dumont. Always comes down to money. Costs to store film and they decided no one would watch these shows. Boy were they wrong. Lots of good shows were lost due to their greed.
GordARebelato ronald 30 months ago
If they were stored on old video tape, if they were not stored properly, they would have deteriorated anyway.
collene Gary 29 months ago
The suits in Hollywood have no brains. All they do is remake shows or put on shows that totally suck. I have not watched not one of the comedy shows that have been on since Cheers went off the air. lol. There's not one comedy show worth watching because they are either not funny or stupid.
joevideo66 42 months ago
I can say with certainty that the "Search for Tomorrow" debacle of 1983 was a one show situation done as a publicity stunt to try to revive ratings for the show by a new Executive Producer. I know because I was working on the show at the time. Here is a video memory I made at the time.....
KevinButler 42 months ago
There are also alot of local kids tv shows that were rerecorded and then chuck out with the trash and tv shows from CBS and ABC TV that were destroyed.The Network and local tv station execs have no respect for their own past.
GeorgeHunt 42 months ago
how about truth or consenquences with bob barker
moax429 GeorgeHunt 36 months ago
I think some episodes of the syndicated nighttime version exist, although they are now owned by Disney/ABC's 20th Television division. (Metromedia, the show's original producer, was purchased by 21st Century Fox, Inc. in 1985. Disney bought out Fox's film division in late 2019 and the TV division was renamed 20th Television).
JaymarWest 42 months ago
I thought that the Eddie Fisher "Coke Time Show" that was made in the 1950's were not around but I understand they are in some film vault in the NBC Library. I have about 12 of these wonderful shows. I had some transferred from 16mm film to DVD. Eddie had such a great voice and many guest stars on his show. Wish the complete series would be broadcast on TV or made available for purchase. Eddie has a lot of fans on Facebook. The site is called Wish You Were Here.
SteveTant 42 months ago
Lots of Saturday shows are gone. One in particular is "The Curiosity Shop" with Pamelyn Ferdin. Guest staring Great Actors like Vincent Price. Only bits and pieces survive on YouTube. Also, almost ALL of the local programming is gone. Local stations did not have lots of money for tape. Houston had some amazing shows in the 60s but they are all gone now. Cadet Don, Kitirik, and many others are forever lost. Wont be long until the people who watched those 1950s and 60s shows will be gone too.
RB 42 months ago
Queen For a Day is another game show with few surviving episodes. Which is a personal shame because my grandmother was on it (she lost) and I'll never be able to see it.
forthekids 52 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 52 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.
moax429 forthekids 36 months ago
I wish Winchell's other Saturday morning show, "Runaround," would have still survived. NBC blihely wiped those tapes clean circa 1976; a few years ago, I contacted MGM (who now owns the rights to the show and the title; "Runaround" was produced by Orion - affiliated Heatter-Quigley Productions, who also made "Hollywood Squares"), but the studio sadly confirmed they have *no* extant videotapes of that show in their archives. Sad!

I wish Winchell would have also sued NBC for that!
MarkMilano 52 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 52 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 52 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).
AarHandy3 AaronHandyIII 36 months ago
Sorrier to say, the entire 308-episode era of the 1967-69 Goodson-Todman game show Snap Judgment, emcees by Ed McMahon, has been obliterated, inexplicably taped over by its network, NBC. A plethora of color and B&W photo stills and a few homemade audio recordings of SJ remain.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you... 😒

moax429 AaronHandyIII 36 months ago
And "Split Second" (1972-1975) with Tom Kennedy on ABC. That was my favorite show when I was home from school or summer vacation.

I already saw the scant 6 or so surviving episodes on You Tube. I wish there were more!
AggieLady moax429 29 months ago
I remember Split second as a favorite of mine in the sunmers, too. As I recall, I was pretty good at it from our living room. But I cannot, for the life if me, remember anything about the way it was played. It seems the final segmebtbof each episode involved the winner trying a key in one of 5 cars. If it stared, he win the car. Or was that a different show? I watched several back then.
moax429 AggieLady 29 months ago
The contestant had to *pick* the car of his/her choice, then had to turn the key and if the engine started, he/she won the car. If it didn't start, they were invited to return on the following day's show - up to four times - and at the end of the fifth day's show, the champion could pick out the car of his/her choice without turning the key, and it was theirs. (Back in those days, the networks had a $25,000 limit on what a contestant could win.)
HerbF 54 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 52 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 52 months ago
There is one complete episode and a kinnie film clip of"Mr.I Magination"that can be seen on You Tube.
moax429 62 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.
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