Monday, January 23, 2012

1.23.12 Bee-otch of the Day: broadcasters that erased anything over 30 years ago

Names: various
Ages: various
Occupations: broadcasters
Last Seen: all around the world
Bee-otched For: erasing history
The video I have posted above was the first TV appearance of the legendary rock band AC/DC.

In the video from a 1974 episode of the Australian TV series Countdown - kinda like our American Bandstand - the late Bon Scott is dressed like Zorro. The group made many more appearances on the show throughout the 70's - one rememberable appearance had Scott dressed like a sexy schoolgirl, singing "Please Don't Go" - until Scott's untimely death in 1980.

OK, so now, you're wondering, why is this video just a mere two seconds? The answer is a sad one: presumably, the rest is lost. As a matter of fact, 100 episodes ofCountdown from 1974 to 1978 have been erased off the tape, per the network that aired the show, ABC, or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

What you see is what you're gonna get. Sorry, folks.

Last week, one of my Facebook friends, Steve Mindykowski posted this trailer for a documentary for Wiped: The Destruction of Australia's Television History. The four-minute 17-second clip talked about several Australian shows that met the fate of erasure to cut costs and create new shows. Countdown wasn't the only show with an incomplete library; many soap operas also got wiped as well, such as the steamy Number 96. If you saw the clip, yes, that was a naked woman sitting with her breasts exposed. And yes, that was from the 1970's, which proved that even 40 years ago, the Australians were edgier than the still-tame fare that over-the-air networks have to offer.

And yes, a lot of boobies were probably erased off the tape, too.

Of course, the Australians weren't the only broadcasters who erased their broadcasts. Virtually every nation in the world's broadcasters erased their shows up until the late 70's because videotape was too darned expensive. It was two-inch quadraplex tape, which ran on huge reel-to-reel tape machines and the tape itself costed $500 per reel. However, the programs that were on those tapes were more expensive to produce themselves, plus it has been discovered that the programs themselves that still exist still make their authors millions per year.

Look at the BBC. Throughout the early years of television, they wiped thousands of their old programs: Dr. WhoThe Likely LadsDad's Army and another rock program,Top of the Pops were erased over. It's believed that of all the episodes of TOTP from the 60's, only four complete shows survive, and that their 1970's archive is spotty until 1978, the final year of that show's erasure.

Thankfully, the BBC has recovered many of their lost programs thanks to private collectors who somehow got their hands on these shows. Recently, an appearance from David Bowie on TOTP from 1973 performing "The Jean Genie" resurfaced in a former cameraman John Henshall's attic. He specialized in trick photography and bummed a copy from the now-erased master to show prospective clients and employers his work. He claims that he has over 100 clips in his attic, and many of them may have came from now-lost episodes of TOTP and other shows. After rediscovering the tape, the BBC did show the lost Bowie clip as part of a Christmas special last month.

Intrestingly enough, the BBC was thisclose to wiping Monty Python's Flying Circus! Members of the troupe even took the masters of the show from the vault - slated for wiping - and bummed their own copies in case it was going to happen. Thankfully, since the show was a worldwide success, Auntie Beeb recanted and today, we still have Dead Parrots, Funny Walks and Spam.

It can be kinda funny considering that the Australians wiped AC/DC and the Brits gave The Beatles and Bowie the same treatment. But, we still have Elvis from the waist up and The Beatles beginning the British invasion on The Ed Sullivan Show, plus The Who's Keith Moon blowing up his drumkit on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Yet, the first ten years of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, the first few Super Bowls and countless game shows and soap operas in America prior to 1980 are long gone. Yes, even rock moments are gone, too; out of 3,000 episodes of American Bandstand, only 883 survive. It's believed that most of the lost episodes are from the 1950's and 60's, especially when the show was live and daily. Amongst the lost include Buddy Holly's last TV appearance before hid untimely death in 1959. From the early 60's onward, it was weekly. According to somebody who worked at ABC, the network needed the shelf space and tapes for Wide World of Sports, so Dick Clark took the tapes, made 16mm copies of them and called it good. Some tapes did survive from the 60's, however, such as the episode of Van Morrison miming his iconic "Brown Eyed Girl" (and his second song, where he misses his beginning harmonica cue).

Even though classic moments like those still exist, and there's a lot that has been recovered over the years, there's still a lot to find. After all, the early 70's episodes of The Joker's Wild and many long-lost Hollywood Squares tapes have been redsicvered. Heck, somebody might have all of the original episodes of the 1960's Match Game in his or her basement. How about the seven missing episodes of The David Letterman Show from 1980? Where's Chuck Woolery's hosting of Wheel of Fortune?

They're out there somewhere. Please check your attic.

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