This is something I’ve been wanting to do with for some time now and I have started tinkering at it. With the information available online at various television archives and museums (I’ve listed four of the largest here) it is possible to put together a list of existing episodes for many obscure shows. Episodes may be held at the Library of Congress while others may be found at UCLA’s Film & Television Archive. Perhaps some exist at both institutions.
If episodes can’t be found at any of these archives (or at least their online databases) that doesn’t mean the episodes are lost or no longer exist. They may be stored in a network or production company’s vault, forgotten but safely secured. I’m just not privy to that sort of information. I’d like to be but I wouldn’t even know where to begin finding contact information for such places. In any event, there are still many shows for which “status guides” can be compiled. The hard part is putting them together.
I’ve made a few test guides to see how they turn out. Here is a list of episodes from the first season of Playhouse 90 and their current status. I’ve abbreviated the Library of Congress as LoC and use UCLA as shorthand for UCLA’s Film & Television Archive. This doesn’t include episodes that may exist at the Museum of Broadcast Communication or the Paley Center for Media (which until recently didn’t have its collection available online).
|Season One: 1956-1957|
|Ep. #||Episode Title||Airdate||Status|
|2||Requiem for a Heavyweight||10/11/1956||Exists, UCLA|
|3||Sizeman and Son||10/18/1956||Exists, UCLA|
|4||Rendezvous in Black||10/25/1956|
|5||The Country Husband||11/01/1956||Exists, UCLA/LoC|
|6||The Big Slide||11/08/1956|
|7||Heritage of Anger||11/15/1956|
|10||Made in Heaven||12/06/1956|
|11||Sincerely, Willis Wade||12/13/1956||Exists, UCLA|
|12||The Family Nobody Wanted||12/20/1956||Exists, UCLA|
|13||Massacre at Sand Creek||12/27/1956||Exists, UCLA/LoC|
|15||The Ninth Day||01/10/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|16||So Soon to Die||01/17/1957|
|17||The Star Wagon||01/24/1957|
|18||The Greer Case||01/31/1957|
|19||The Miracle Worker||02/07/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|20||The Comedian||02/14/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|21||One Coat of White||02/21/1957|
|22||The Blackwell STory||02/28/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|23||Invitation to a Gunfighter||03/07/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|24||The Last Tycoon||03/14/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|25||The Hostess with the Mostest||03/21/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|26||Charley’s Aunt||03/28/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|27||Clipper Ship||04/04/1957||Exists, UCLA/LoC|
|28||If You Knew Elizabeth||04/11/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|29||Three Men on a Horse||04/18/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|30||Four Women in Black||04/25/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|31||Child of Trouble||05/02/1957|
|32||Homeward Borne||05/09/1957||Exists, LoC|
|33||The Helen Morgan Story||05/16/1957|
|34||Winter Dreams||05/23/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|35||Circle of the Day||05/30/1957|
|36||Without Incident||06/06/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|37||Clash by Night||06/13/1957||Exists, UCLA|
|38||Ain’t No Time for Glory||06/20/1957||Exists, LoC|
|39||The Fabulous Irishman||06/27/1957|
Simply stating that an episode does exist and where a print can be located is helpful but there is more information available in many cases. The format of the episode (16mm or 35mm film, VHS, etc.), whether or not the print is in color (even if the original broadcast was in color the only existing print may be in black and white), whether original network commercials are included or what, if any, damage or cuts to the print are present.
However, including that sort of information could prove difficult. For example, UCLA’s Film & Television Archive has three listings for “Reqiuem for a Heavyweight,” the second episode of Playhouse 90. One listing is for the version of the episode shown on KCET in 1980 as part of its “Golden Age of Television” series. That version includes a new introduction plus interviews but doesn’t have the original commercials or host segments. UCLA also has the videodisc release of the KCET broadcast with a commentary track by the episode’s director as well as the introduction. And finally, UCLA also has the original 90-minute broadcast complete with commercials, host segments and network promos.
But there are seven different copies of the original broadcast on VHS, 3/4″ tape, 2″ tape and 16mm “safety kinescope” listed at UCLA’s catalog/database. Some lack the original commercials and one is marked warped. Which of these seven copies should be included in my “status guide” for Playhouse 90? Is it even necessary to add details such as format or condition? In my opinion, if I’m simply listing which episodes are known to exist, it should be enough to indicate which archive has a copy of the episode. If, however, the only existing copy is edited or a black and white print of a color broadcast, I think that’s important enough to be noted. Exactly what sort of notation I’ve yet to determine.
Ideally, I’d like to come up with a template and then start putting together these “status guides” for all sorts of shows. They won’t be the final word on the existence of episodes — as I mentioned before, I’m only using four archives at the moment — but they’ll be a start.