Tales of Lost TV: Alan King’s Pleasures of Rome

I was contacted earlier this month by Ranjit, who is trying to find a copy of a 1977 ABC television special titled “Alan King’s Pleasures of Rome,” in which actor/comedian Alan King took viewers on a trip to the capital of Italy, touring the Vatican and visiting St. Peter’s Basilica. He also stopped by the set of Caligula to talk with actor Malcolm McDowell, director Tinto Brass and writer Gore Vidal, which is what Ranjit is most interested in.

He has pulled together an impressive amount of information about the special from newspapers and television listings, which you can find at his website. “Alan King’s Pleasures of Rome” was first broadcast on Thursday, March 24th, 1977 from 11:30PM to 1AM, referred to as either an “ABC Wide World Special” or a “Thursday Night Special.” It was rebroadcast on Thursday, December 8th, 1977 and then promptly disappeared forever.

Ranjit has searched high and low for a copy of the special. ABC has no record of the special and none of the big television archives/libraries–the Paley Center for Media, UCLA’s Film & Television Archive, the Library of Congress and others–have copies. The special was produced by Alan King Productions; Ranjit was able to get in touch with a member of Alan King’s family but they were unable to help find a copy. It is possible, if unlikely, that the special was recorded by a member of the viewing public. I suggested that perhaps the special was aired internationally but Ranjit does not believe this was the case.

So, does “Alan King’s Pleasures of Rome” exist anywhere? Or were the master tapes (or films) destroyed or misplaced over the years? Unfortunately, for many television programs, there isn’t an easy answer. Production companies come and go, changing names, merging or closing up shop, and things get lost in the shuffle. Or if not lost, they’re forgotten. Somewhere out there, “Alan King’s Pleasures of Rome” could be safely tucked away in an archive or vault (or a dusty warehouse, for that matter) waiting for someone to stumble upon it.

Often, after checking with institutions like The Paley Center for Media and The Library of Congress for copies of television programs, the next step is to try to track down the production company behind the program or the current copyright holder. That can be difficult. I assume Alan King Productions doesn’t exist anymore. If it dissolved, were its assets purchased by another company or an individual? I can’t say.

Maybe somebody out there does know what happened or happens to have a Betamax tape with “Alan King’s Pleasures of Rome” on it. If so, please let me know or contact Ranjit through his website.

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