A surprising number of TV shows have “lost episodes” – broadcasts that either never aired or were later misplaced after their initial broadcast.
In most instances, these episodes were lost due to the cost-cutting measures of TV studios who were less concerned with keeping a complete archive than they were with re-using available video tape.
Other times, it’s the case that an episode was actually aired, only to be later removed from future circulation due to viewer complaints and subsequently mislaid during the archiving process.
Then there are those occasions where an episode is filmed and has to be permanently shelved due to unintentional connections to real-world tragedies. In these scenarios, the episodes are not strictly speaking “lost” – but they’ll never see the light of day as originally planned.
And lastly, sometimes episodes are scripted but ultimately abandoned prior to filming. As they were never filmed, these are in some ways the most truly “lost episodes” – considering fans will never, ever get to see them!
Regardless the reason behind why an episode is lost, the end result is always the same: TV fans are left fascinated – or even frustrated – by the gaps left behind in their favorite shows.
In honor of these missing pieces of television history, we’ve pulled together this list of 16 TV Shows With Lost Episodes.
16. Doctor Who – 97 episodes
Doctor Who is a pop culture institution in the UK, and – thanks to the success of the revived TV series across the pond – its global popularity has never been greater.
Back when the show was first launched in 1963, however, it wasn’t considered anything special by the BBC, who viewed it for what it was: a cheaply-made distraction for kiddies.
As such, Doctor Who would fall victim to the Beeb’s notorious policy of routinely wiping their archives – leaving 97 episodes of the series unaccounted for.
Of these, the most sought after – perhaps the most coveted missing episode of any show, ever – is “The Tenth Planet”.
The reason why this entry in the series is so prized? It features the Doctor’s first ever regeneration – withthen-lead actor William Hartnell morphing into successor Patrick Troughton – a monumental moment in Who lore!
15. Friends – “The One Where Rachel…”
Friends episode “The One Where Rachel Tells…” is not, strictly speaking, a “lost” episode. After all, it definitely made its way onto TV screens back in October 2001.
That said, the version that aired was drastically different to what was first scripted and filmed, after a subplot deemed inappropriate in the wake of 9/11 was excised, and new replacement scenes shot.
Originally, Chandler was going to make a quip about explosives whilst boarding the plane bound for his honeymoon with Monica. This lands husband and wife in hot water with airport security, who detain the couple as potential terror threats.
The newlyweds eventually manage to secure their release, only for a poorly thought-out remark by Monica to land them right back where they started!
14. Sesame Street – “Wicked Witch of the West” & “Snuffy’s Parents Get a Divorce”
Children’s TV mainstay Sesame Street is missing numerous episodes from its lengthy run – but two in particular really stand out.
The first of these lost episodes is “The Wicked Witch Of The West”, which was essentially banned from re-syndication by the show’s producers after it freaked out a whole bunch of kids. Featuring a guest appearance by Margaret Hamilton, reprising her role as The Wizard Of Oz’s Wicked Witch, the episode was was supposed to teach tiny tots about fear. The only problem was, it did its job too well, and legions of parents complained!
The second lost episode has the distinction of having never been broadcast – although it still traumatised an entire test audience of children. Titled “Snuffy’s Parents Get A Divorce” (seriously!), it did basically what it says on the tin, depicting the marriage breakdown of Muppet Mr. Snuffleupagus’s parents! Unfortunately, whilst the episode was designed to teach kids important lessons about how divorce does (and doesn’t) affect parents and their children, it soon transpired that many young viewers came away with completely the wrong idea.
13. Heroes – “Exodus”
Was there ever a TV series that experienced a more dramatic rise and fall than Heroes?
After a barnstorming first season, the show’s subsequent seasons were met with increasingly harsh reviews by fans and critics alike.
Whilst much of this response can be attributed to misguided decisions by its creative team, Heroes also had to contend with artistic compromises made necessary by the 2007-2008 WGA writers strike. With the strike effectively halving the number of episodes allocated to the third season, the writers were forced to scrap an entire story arc’s worth of instalments.
As a result, we never got to see the “Exodus” volume – intended to highlight the wider impact of strain 138 of the Shanti virus being released – which was dropped entirely in the subsequent narrative reshuffle.
12. Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo – All of season 5
Not every missing episode constitutes small screen gold – and this is certainly true of the entire unaired fifth season of Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo!
Perhaps the worst example of what reality TV has to offer, Honey Boo-Boo documented the lives of child beauty pageant hopeful Alana “Honey Boo-Boo” Thompson and her redneck family.
Needless to say, the entire production was wildly exploitative and tasteless in the extreme, even by the standards of a genre not known for its restraint.
But things really reached their nadir when the show was canceled amid allegations that Alana’s mother, June Shannon, was dating a convicted child sex offender.
11. The Avengers – Most of season 1
Not to be confused with Marvel Studio’s team of costumed superheroes, The Avengers was a British spy series popular in the UK during the 1960s.
As those of you unlucky enough to remember the film adaptation starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman will recall, The Avengers follows two secret agents: gentleman John Steed and numerous fiesty and fashionable female foils (the most famous is Emma Peel).
However, that wasn’t always the case, and this winning formula was only developed for the show’s second season!
Up until that point, Steed had been portrayed as a rugged adventurer, and it was his male partner, Doctor David Keel, who was the posh sophisticate!
Sadly for those curious to learn more about The Avengers’ evolution as a series, the original recordings for season one were deleted shortly after they were broadcast, with only three complete episodes still in existence.
10. Top Of The Pops – The Beatles’ Final Performance
It’s not just US variety shows that have launched the careers of music superstars – British singles chart TV show Top Of The Pops also gave several industry legends a leg-up!
Heavy hitters to appear on the show between 1964 and 2006 include Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Oasis, and Green Day.
Sadly, the BBC’s former policy of ruthless recycling rears its head once again with Top Of The Pops, and a massive chunk of the series’ backlog is missing, presumably forever.
This means that several high profile performances are now lost as well, with the most noteworthy of these being the final appearance by The Beatles on live TV.
9. At Last The 1948 Show – Two episodes
We know what you’re thinking: What on earth is At Last The 1948 Show? Well, despite being more than a little obscure, this British-made satirical outing actually boasts a pretty impressive pedigree.
Developed by the production company of David Frost (of Frost/Nixon fame), At Last The 1948 Show featured then up-and-comers John Cleese and Graham Chapham, who would go on to super-stardom as members of Monty Python!
Although a mere two episodes of the show were once thought to have survived, happily for comedy enthusiasts, several more have since been discovered. After extensive efforts to locate copies of the remaining 11 episodes, nine more have resurfaced. This has led to hopes that the two episodes still lost will also be tracked down, and the series will at last be available in its entirety.
8. Dark Shadows – #1219
Before it was a big budget horror-comedy film by Tim Burton, Dark Shadows started out as a campy, Gothic TV melodrama on ABC.
The series, which told the story of the paranormal affairs of the mega-rich Collins family, was an unlikely ratings success when it first aired in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Almost all of the episodes broadcast during this period are present and accounted for – which is somewhat unique for a long-running show produced at that time.
Still, one episode – known only by its production number, #1219 – is missing; a home audio recording all that remains of it.
The absence of #1219 creates a hole in the ongoing Dark Shadows narrative, which ABC has tried to fill by recreating the episode using the available audio, as well as still images and footage from episodes #1218 and #1220!
7. Binyah Binyah! – 5 episodes
Those of you who grew up in the ’90s may remember Gullah Gullah Island – a musical TV show that aired on Nickelodeon.
You’re probably much less likely to remember that show’s spin-off mini-series, Binyah Binyah! which only ran for five episodes and was never broadcast again.
Unsurprisingly, the show – which included new puppet characters, as well as appearances by Gullah Gullah Island regulars Ron and Natalie Daise – failed to make a splash.
What is unusual (certainly for a TV show in the modern era) is that all five episodes of Binyah Binyah! seem to have somehow mysteriously vanished! That’s right: you can’t find the series on DVD or streaming services – and even the network itself seems to be a little unsure as to where the original recordings are kept.
6. The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson – 10 whole seasons!
The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson is an undeniable pop culture milestone – even decades later, its influence on current late night talk shows is still apparent.
That’s what makes it all the more disappointing that almost the entire first 10 years worth of episodes of the show – including the first ever episode – have been lost!
As mentioned previously, it was standard practice for networks to erase TV programs that had already aired, to recycle the videotapes for future shoots – and that’s exactly what NBC did here.
Interestingly, Carson not only acquiesced to his broadcasts being deleted, he actively promoted it! Although later generations would come to view his work as a watershed moment in television history, Johnny himself had a low regard for it – once joking the tapes should be made into guitar picks.
5. A For Andromeda – All but 1 episode
Another lesser-known TV series responsible for launching very well-known talent, the BBC’s sci-fi drama miniseries A For Andromeda gave Oscar-winning actress Julie Christie her big break.
The show received mixed reviews at the time, although several critics and viewers praised it for its intelligent take on the genre, which attempted to incorporate actual scientific concepts into its narrative.
Of course, since this is the Beeb in the 1960s we’re talking about, you’re right in thinking that none of the episodes were archived by the corporation – meaning only one episode has survived!
4. The Vampira Show – All live episodes
The original incarnation of The Vampira Show is a world-wide cult classic – which is amazing, considering it never aired outside of Los Angeles!
An even greater testament to the inexplicable reach of the show – which saw Maila Nurmi’s seductive hostess introduce horror movies – is that the original live broadcasts have all been lost.
The show would later be canceled after a disagreement between Nurmi and ABC over ownership of the rights to the Vampira character, cutting it short at the height of its popularity.
Decades later, Nurmi would reprise the role for a revival series, although she would later quit the show and be replaced by copycat creation Elvira, portrayed by Cassandra Peterson.
3. Dad’s Army – Three episodes
Like Doctor Who and The Avengers, BBC sitcom Dad’s Army was a mega-hit in Britain during the ’60s and ’70s – and like those shows, it’s also missing several episodes!
Whilst Dad’s Army fared better overall when it came to archive wiping, three adventures featuring Captain Mainwaring and his largely hapless crew of volunteer soldiers remain unaccounted for.
To be frank, copies of these episodes from the show’s second season – “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker”, “A Stripe for Frazer”, and “Under Fire” – seem unlikely to ever turn up.
On the plus side, fans of vintage comedy lucky enough to attend one of the recent Dad’s Army stage shows were treated to a performance of scripts for two these episodes, at least partially filling the void!
2. The Ed Sullivan Show – First episode
If there’s any talk show that can lay claim to being more influential than The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, it must surely be The Ed Sullivan Show.
If Carson perfected the variety talk show formula, it was Sullivan who practically invented it – and this can be seen in just how insanely popular the show was during the 1950s and 60s.
The cultural footprint left by the series – originally titled Toast Of The Town – is vast, given how it boosted the careers of huge musical acts like The Beatles, Elvis, and The Supremes.
Frustratingly, the first ever broadcast of The Ed Sullivan Show remains missing to this day, especially considering it represents something of a pop culture milestone. Filmed way back in 1948, the episode is notable for featuring the first ever TV appearance of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis’s comedy act!
1. Mary Kay And Johnny
Another entry that might leave you scratching your head, Mary Kay And Johnny is nonetheless a hugely important part of television history – it was arguably the first ever US sitcom. Not only that: Mary Kay And Johnny has the rare distinction of starring a real-life married couple, and was the first ever show to feature a couple in bed together, as well as to depict a pregnant woman!
The series began life as a live broadcast on the DuMont Television Network, before transitioning to a more conventional pre-recorded format when it moved to CBS and then NBC. Unfortunately, despite its status as a pioneering TV series, no complete episodes of Mary Kay And Johnny are known to exist.
It’s entirely possible that those filmed for CBS and NBC might still be archived somewhere, however the footage recorded by DuMont was infamously dumped into the East River.
What are some other TV shows with missing episodes? Let us know in the comments!
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