Sunday, May 9, 2021



When I wrote about the forgotten television sitcom “The New Monkees” [link], the only video I could find of the show was an off-air home recording of the first episode from its only broadcast in 1987. While I had a good idea of what I was seeing, the soft picture of the VHS (or Betamax) recording provided only an impression of the original show.

Since then, all thirteen episodes of the series have now been posted to YouTube, and while the picture quality has not improved, then I can hear it better. I came across this news after seeing the front page of the Lost Media Wiki, dedicated to the unearthing of “lost media,” a term that appears to mean something different to the internet than it does to myself.


While “The New Monkees” is a show not much remarked upon, and usually only as a failed reboot of a more popular show when a remark is made, I never thought it was lost. Yes, it was unavailable to buy, download or rent, and the soundtrack album has been out of print for years, but that is different from saying that the master tapes have been destroyed, or that no copies of the show are known to exist. This scenario remains the case for much of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton’s runs as stars of “Doctor Who,” when expensive quadruplex videotape was reused when the original recording had come to the end of its useful life, the home video market having not yet been envisaged.


"The New Monkees"

The vast resource that has been built of online content inevitably leaves gaps due to previous archiving decisions, but it does not mean that works should be considered “lost” until they are made available online. My local newspaper’s archive is not online, but I can go to a library, like any researcher could. The online realm is only one resource of many, not the end destination.


The Lost Media Wiki’s “About Us” section describes themselves as a passion project to track down media that is “hard to find,” encouraging “connoisseurs of obscure media” to join in. This is not so much like tracking down hitherto unknown copies of lost “Doctor Who” episodes in a TV station in Sierra Leone, and more like tracking down who owns the properties that informed the memories of your childhood. 


The thrill of the hunt is the appeal of the site, with famous examples of discoveries made by the site having started as creepypasta-like reminisces of disturbing clips from children’ TV shows, almost like a false memory was created in the viewer’s mind. “Clockman” began as an online reminiscence in 2012 about a creepy animation seen on the Nickelodeon pre-school show “Pinwheel,” which led to a process of tracking down producers of “Pinwheel,” companies that supplied animations to them, the successors in interest of those companies, and eventually the Czech producers of the 1976 animated short “O parádivé Sally” (“About Dressy Sally”), which had been dubbed into English. Similarly, “Cracks,” about a child imagining the beings and faces formed by the cracks in a wall, led to a trawl through the groups that made the short animations for the Children’s Television Workshop, based on the memory of it being shown on “Sesame Street.” In both cases, once the case was solved, it was on to the next case.


No comments:

Post a Comment