Listing the Status of Existing Episodes

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
1 Forbidden Area 10/04/1956
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
8 Eloise 11/22/1956 Exists, UCLA
9 Confession 11/29/1956 Exists, UCLA/LoC
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
14 Snowshoes 01/03/1957
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.

One Reply to “Listing the Status of Existing Episodes”

  1. It is my understanding that the full run of Playhouse 90 exists in the CBS vaults and that from somewhere in the middle of the second season on, most if not all are preserved on 2-inch tape and have actually been transferred to a more modern format.

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