Timeshift (2002– )

Missing Believed Wiped 

The history of the British Broadcasting Corporation's once prevalent, but short-sighted, policy of wholesale disposal of recorded television content, and the efforts to mitigate that loss.


Jo Haywood


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Episode cast overview:
Veronika Hyks Veronika Hyks ... Herself - Narrator (voice)
Terry Jones ... Himself
John Ellis John Ellis ... Himself - TV Historian, Royal Holloway (as Professor John Ellis)
Dick Fiddy Dick Fiddy ... Himself - TV Consultant, BFI
Christine Slattery Christine Slattery ... Herself - TV Archivist, BBC
Steve Bryant Steve Bryant ... Himself - Keeper of Television, NFTVA
John Cleese ... Himself
Bob Monkhouse ... Himself (archive footage)
Michael Parkinson ... Himself (archive footage)
Dudley Moore ... Himself (archive footage)
Neil Ingoe Neil Ingoe ... Himself - Collector
Tim Disney Tim Disney ... Himself - Collector
Greg Dyke ... Himself - Director General of BBC


The history of the British Broadcasting Corporation's once prevalent, but short-sighted, policy of wholesale disposal of recorded television content, and the efforts to mitigate that loss.

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Release Date:

29 December 2003 (UK) See more »

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Did You Know?


John Cleese: I've always found it *astonishing* that people could have wiped these shows. I remember hearing years ago that Alan Bennett's series, which was set in NW1 in London, had been wiped *by the BBC*. I was outraged. Didn't they realise that this was special and that people would want to see it in ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty years? How could they be so *stupid*?
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Crazy Credits

As the camera tracks backwards along the shelves of a film archive, the wording of the end credits moves along the line of the shelves, growing as it reaches the foreground. See more »


Features Steptoe and Son (1962) See more »

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User Reviews

Holy Grail ? We All Know Who To Blame
4 August 2013 | by Theo RobertsonSee all my reviews

This is an episode from the BBC Four series TIME SHIFT and is quite ironic as it involves episodes of BBC shows that no longer exist in the BBC archive . I say ironic for two reasons because

1 ) It opens with a clip of TILL DEATH US DO PART which features Alf Garnett a notorious racist who would not certainly be considered for broadcast if he existed today

2 ) It was the arrogance of the BBC that caused these shows to be wiped in the first place . It's a bit like the Nuremberg war trials were the Nazis after spending many years blaming the Jews for everything blamed everyone else except themselves for the holocaust . The BBC hide behind this by using a big word - " Ephemeral "

I guess in the BBC's defence that could claim that no one foresaw the advent of the video and DVD recorder hence there was no need to keep old shows where storage space was expensive and somewhat impractical and again in their defence we have a lot of material left such as most of the QUATERMASS trilogy

For some strange reason this documentary seems to think that the be all and end all BBC production is the comedy department and just about every single clip we see is from comedy shows nearly all of which feature the Monty Python team . I guessing that's because they booked John Cleese Cleese and Terry Jones as guests ?

This was recorded in 2004 and despite being highly regarded in the 60s and 70s the output of BBC comedy in the early part of the 21st Century has been nothing short of disgraceful One other thing to remember when this documentary was produced is that DOCTOR WHO had been offscreen for 15 years and was thought of as for being for sad middle aged virgins . Hard to believe now where Peter Capaldi gets introduced as the second coming ( Good choice ) but that's how the BBC viewed the defunct show in 2004

One interesting thing about this documentary that it does bring up is a long forgotten court case involving Bob Monkhouse from the late 1970s who was taken to court for illegally possessing films that he had no copyright on therefore he was guilty of copyright theft but effectively let off which paved the way for other people to return material to the BBC without fear of prosecution . Of course they wouldn't have needed to do this if the BBC hadn't scrubbed the shows in the first place

The sad thing is that despite scrubbing many classic episodes of DOCTOR WHO including most of The Web Of Fear from 1967 which is one of the greatest things in the history of television they still managed to keep absolutely obscure rubbish such as a light entertainment show called WE ARE YOUR SERVANTS which seems to be how the general public are supposed to view the BBC . And I bet everything featuring Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall remains intact - unlike their victims . Ephemeral ? How about a more fitting apt adjective like .... useless ?

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