The British TV Missing Episodes Index

  the bbc treasure hunt - mark brown
On the 14th of May (2001) The BBC announced to the world's media that a previously lost episode of "The Likely Lads" had been recovered, and that they would undertake a campaign to find further "TV Gems".

The episode in question was "Last Of The Big Spenders" the very first episode of the show broadcast on 7th July 1965 and features a young Wendy Richard (Eastenders) as a guest star.Last of The Big Spenders

The film print was recently purchased (although its existence had been known about for some time) by Kaleidoscope, a team of keen amateur collectors who have returned it to the BBC archive.

Star Rodney Bewes commenting on the find said: “I am chuffed to bits that this has turned up and will be shown again. It will be a bit of nostalgia for some and a new experience for a whole new generation. I wish we could find some of the other programmes that are lost, but this is a start.”

The BBC kicked off the Treasure Hunt, by showing the recoveredepisode of ‘The Likely Lads’ for the first time in 35 years on May 30 on BBC-2, an on screen appeal followed it.

The BBC also launched a website at featuring clips from recently recovered shows and details of who to contact should you own something the BBC might be interested in.

It wasn't long until the campaign struck gold as on the 1st of June, something that missing episodes hunters had said for years "A bit of publicity and stuff will turn up" was proved right when the first two episodes of the second series of "Dad's Army" "The Battle For Godfrey's Cottage" and "Operation Kilt" were announced as the first big success of the campaignOperation Kilt

The episodes had turned up in a heap of 19 rusting film cans given to the BBC by a Hertfordshire man in his 80's who's friend had pulled them from a skip at Elstree Studios and had kept them , until his daughter insisted he get rid of the old cans.

They were passed on to him and kept safe until he saw the BBC's recent appeal for the return of old material and contacted the BBC.

David Croft, who produced and co-wrote the show, said "It's been a long time, but I always knew they would turn up some day. Dad's Army is still finding new fans among younger viewers, and I think the public will be as happy as I am if they get a chance to see these two episodes."

David Croft speaking to Dave Homewood said that the studio where the film cans were chucked out of was the EMI studio at Elstree. He also said despite what the media has reported, he understands the films were only thrown out and retrieved from the skip some five years ago!!! He is certain that the two Dad's Army episodes are those copied by Jimmy Perry in 1969 and given to Columbia pictures to assist in selling the idea of the Dad's Army film to the film company. This is why they have survived.One of the missing Dad's Army cans even contained a card which read: “Return to David Croft.”

Head of BBC Information and Archives, Paul Fiander, said: "This is a smashing discovery - it's all we hoped for and more."

On June the 5th it was announced on that the second Australian (and last overall) episode of Not Only...But Also (starring Peter Cook & Dudley Moore) had been returned to the BBC by the site's very own Nick Manganas who had acquired the film print about 2 years ago off a film collector as a trade for an episode of On the Buses.

The print has now been telecined at the BBC but is unfortunately incomplete as the last segment is absent.

On the 11th of August A missing 1962 Benny Hill Show, "Portrait of a Bridegroom" was recovered, the episode had been sat in BBC employee Steve Roberts' locker for a year waiting for funding to allow it to be transferred.

The next recovery was on the 16th September, the beeb announced the retrieval of an audio recording of The Beatles appearing on Juke Box Jury in 1963.

The show featured the band giving their opinion as to whether they thought new singles by artists including Elvis Presley, the Swinging Blue Jeans and The Chance would be hits.
"The recording is not of broadcast quality," a BBC spokeswoman said. "But it's marvellous to have it." it is hoped that the tape can be matched up with a silent film of the programme, which is also thought to exist.

The years annual Missing Believed Wiped event at the BFI on the 20th of October, was fans first chance to view some of the Treasure Hunt's finds, with screenings of The Benny Hill Show, the Dad's Army episode "Battle For Godfrey's Cottage" and the All Gas And Gaiters pilot, along with some `Till Death Us Do Part footage.

With the Treasure Hunt starting to wind down on November the 24th the BBC announced to the press that over 100 lost programmes had been recovered as a result of the campaign so far, the vast majority of which were Radio shows, including four editions of Hancock's Half Hour and the very first episode of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

On the 28th of December the Hunt closed (although the web site will remain open as a point of contact) with a mini Treasure Hunt Night on BBC2. A half hour documentary entitled "Dad's Army:Missing Presumed Wiped" began proceedings by looking at the recovery of the Dad's Army shows in particular but also other Treasure Hunt finds and a brief mention of other shows still missing.

Then the Nation finally got their chance to see the Treasure Hunt's top prize, with the long awaited screening after extensive restoration of the two recovered Dad's Army episodes themselves.

It had been a good yearn overall for missing episodes with a decent number of recoveries and an unprecedented amount of publicity for the cause, but most importantly in the Dads' Army shows a find that was high profile enough to repeat and release on video, in turn earning the beeb revenue, and perhaps enough to persuade them to repeat the exercise in the future.

We'll end with the words of Dick Fiddy of the British Film Institute and author of `Missing Believed Wiped` who spoke to on the 6th of June about the circumstances that lead to the Treasure Hunt campaign and it's operation up to that date.

"When the BFI launched its Missing Believed Wiped initiative in 1993 we helped to recover missing material from all the UK channels. Legally it had been somewhat difficult for the Beeb and other broadcasters to be negotiating with collectors who -ostensibly -were holding stuff that belonged to the BBC.

However there was an overriding willingness to get the stuff back so I think the BBC and the other broadcasters were glad to have the BFI as a neutral 'middle-man'. I knew however it was important to involve the BBC and I could understand a certain wariness on the part of some BBC people there who were fed up for being criticized for the initial losses, when those decisions had been made by their predecessors or their predecessors predecessors. To that end I coined the phrase that MBW was 'a treasure hunt, not a witch hunt'. The point being it was useless to dwell on past mistakes, better to try and put things right.

The Beeb especially liked the idea of a treasure hunt and thus named their amnesty after it. The Beeb is a huge organization and it is difficult to get all the various bits working together as one, but they did manage to persuade broadcasting (BBC2) to air the Likely Lads and kick start the appeal. The on-screen plea was very helpful.The BBC archive co-ordinated the whole thing and they got the press department involved and managed to raise funds to set up a dedicated phone line and dedicated phone answerer.

Of course its not perfect. In an ideal (hugely funded) world we would have whole teams in situ at the broadcasters trawling the world's archives for scraps. We would have on screen appeals after EastEnders and Coronation Street. We would pay huge sums to get the material back. Sadly its not like that and considering how difficult it is to get such things done at all, I must say I think Treasure Hunt has got off to an extremely good start, we thought if just one good item came back it would be worthwhile but the two Dads Army's alone means it's been a great success. There have been lots of calls and leads and some other returns (or promised returns) but some of the collectors who've phoned in are very cagey and seem anxious for their material not to be named until it's all done and dusted. I know this is frustrating but we have to do things their way.

The main problem still seems to be the one of people not knowing what's missing. Tons of the calls made to the Treasure Hunt line are about things that already exist (a great number are from people who have taped archive material off-air in the last five years). Treasure Hunt also includes radio material of course and (what with the possibilities of informal home archiving made much easier because of technology) this would seem to be a far more fruitful area for major recoveries than tv.

Funding such enterprises remains a problem, for most of us it's a labour of love costing both time and money but there is a definite thrill when you find something."

Full list of Treasure Hunt Recoveries:

Message from Paul Fiander Head of BBC Information and Archives
(included at request of the BBC)

  other articles
The RNID ArchiveBy Mark Brown & John King (under repair)

The BBC Treasure Hunt By Mark Brown

Missing Episode Hunting By Steve Roberts

The Rear Guard By Dave Homewood

It Ain’t Half Lost Mum! By Dave Homewood

Why Are So Many TV Programmes Missing? By Andrew Henderson

Missing, Believed Wiped 2001 By Sue Malden

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