A Previously Lost Episode of “Sesame Street” Has Finally Resurfaced
If you're unfamiliar with the idea of "lost media," let me explain what helps keep me up at night.
"Lost media" is a term that applies to any movie, TV show, recorded special, or song/album that is not available to the public for one reason or another. It could be the fact that the original negatives were destroyed, it was never commercially released, it was banned, or some combination of factors. Loads of movies pre-1930 are lost due to poor celluloid preservation tactics of the era.
One of the most discussed pieces of lost media is the infamous Wicked Witch episode of Sesame Street. The episode aired once in 1976 and prompted a deluge of complaints from parents, whose children were allegedly left horrified by the Witch's appearance.
One complaint from a parent apparently said "the threat of the witch's power remains in children's eyes." That's a poetic way to put it.
Now, thanks to a die-hard Muppet fan and YouTuber, the episode is at last available in its entirety.
The episode's goal was to teach kids the value of creating a plan and sticking to it, as shown by the Wicked Witch (played by Margaret Hamilton, reprising her role from The Wizard of Oz) trying to obtain her lost broom. The Witch wreaks hell all over Sesame Street in retaliation, until she learns from the likes of Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, and other kids that isn't the way to go about this circumstance.
The overwhelming negativity resulted in PBS holding additional test screenings before deciding not to air the episode ever again. So, it was quietly relegated to the back-burner, never re-run nor released on home video.
Memory of Sesame Street's "Episode_0847" was kept alive on message boards and via fan-made mini-documentaries on YouTube. Still frames of episodes surfaced from time-to-time, including some priceless behind the scenes photos of Hamilton and Caroll Spinney, who plays Big Bird, but never even a second of moving video.
In November 2019, hope for something of a release was renewed when clips of the episode were screened at the Museum of the Moving Image as part of the Jim Henson Legacy's "Sesame Street Lost and Found" event.
Now, the episode is online, after being unobtainable for most of the general public for the last 46 years. How YouTuber "Tiny Dancer" obtained it is unknown. But even if it manages to get removed by YouTube due to a copyright claim, it's undoubtedly been downloaded and will appear again, at least on another website.
In the last year, we've seen both a previously lost episode of Sesame Street resurface as well as a seldom-remembered David Spade cartoon called Sammy find its way online. Maybe one day, we'll get to see the holy grail: Jerry Lewis' The Day the Clown Cried.
But that's a whole other story...