The Loot, The Warrant: Exploring the Myth of the Lost Carmen Sandiego, Part 2
This is the second in a three-part series examining Auld Lang Gone, the long-rumored lost episode of the PBS game show Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego. Part one is available here.
“That’s excellent news.”
I tried to underplay my excitement, my intrigue, and my pure unadulterated joy as much as possible. Almost three decades after the fact, and after years and years of only gleaning hints of its existence through brief archaic message board posts and crudely-formatted fandom wiki articles, I was about to watch—no, experience—Auld Lang Gone, the lost episode of Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego.
Paul Byers, the Executive Director of Engineering at WQED in Pittsburgh, was kind and helpful enough to pull the tape from the station’s archive with alarming ease. I was now entered into dialogue with Paul and WQED’s attorney, who assists with rights clearance.
I had the loot. Now I needed the warrant.
“There are always rights issues with these shows, so what is it that you want to do with the show?” Paul asked in an email to me, with the attorney CC’d.
I laid out my intentions as clearly, unambiguously, and professionally as I could, fearing that I might accidentally sound too greedy and, consequentially, get the rug pulled out from under me.
My goal is to write up a synopsis/description of the episode as part of a series on Buzzerblog.com discussing instances of “lost media” in game shows. Ideally, my write-up would incorporate 3-4 screen grabs of the episode (the title card, production slate, etc)—so to that end, a digital copy of the episode would be greatly appreciated, if possible.
What I will *not* do is share, post, or publish the video in any way, other than the aforementioned screen grabs to be used within my written article. I would be willing to agree to delete the file once my research is complete, if that is appropriate.
I am, of course, open to discussion re: these points. I am greatly appreciative of your help.
I hit Send.
My mind was racing. I was so anxious to know what exactly I would be looking at. From what I’ve learned of the episode thus far, it was essentially a reel of unedited footage. The episode supposedly started like any other—the camera panned the audience of cheering kids, Rockapella sang while the Chief, this time played by regular host Greg Lee, introduced the contestants and substitute host Marc Summers, and the game got underway.
This was the part where things apparently began to go awry. IMDB says that in the course of the game, Rockapella member Sean Altman ripped the sleeve on Greg’s jacket (it’s not clear whether this was accidental or deliberate). The Plastic Diver Guy sketch, a recurring bit that began in season 2 and involved a small scuba diver figure who lived in the fish tank at the ACME CrimeNet office, went off the rails after the glass tank cracked. And, of course, the final straw in this seemingly cursed production day—the fall of Jasmine Doman, winning contestant who broke her arm as she tumbled onto the map of Europe, leaving runner-up Ed Mann to complete the bonus round in her stead, “with 13 seconds remaining”.
This footage was going to be insane.
I was almost nervous to watch it. How gruesome was Jasmine’s injury? Was I going to see a teenager screaming and writhing in pain, bone protruding through her skin, tears streaming from her eyes, blood spurting out and staining the set of a kids’ game show? What did the audience do? Did they gasp, scream, recoil in horror? Did the director keep the cameras rolling? Did he have a camera operator zoom in on the action? Did he fade to black? Did Marc bolt from the studio to avoid seeing the grisly aftermath, the way he did when a contestant suffered a compound fracture during the Obstacle Course on Double Dare? Would I ever be able to look at Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego the same way again?
In an email later that afternoon, Paul answered all of my questions and eased all of my concerns in one fell swoop.
I’m sorry to tell you that when I got to the office today and pulled the tape from the shelf it was “Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego”, Season 2 Episode 66.
I was crestfallen. Gutted. At the same time, given the speed and seemingly low degree of difficulty involved in tending to my request, I had a feeling in the back of my mind that it was too good to be true.
I supposed it was pleasing to know that the tapes for Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego, the replacement for World that aired from 1996 to 1998, are still in good hands. There was nothing inherently wrong with the Where In Time series—the late Lynne Thigpen reprised her role as the Chief, and the production had a layer of late-90s computer-age chrome to it (the show took place in a futuristic time machine called the Chronoskimmer, and Data Boosts and Power Points abounded). However, to a Carmen Sandiego purist, the omissions—most notably, getting rid of Rockapella and replacing Greg Lee with host Kevin Shinick (who would go on to win an Emmy for his stop-motion work on the Adult Swim series Robot Chicken)—were deal-breakers, too different from the classic formula that had succeeded for five seasons.
Pleasing to know, but far from what I was looking for. However, the last line of Paul’s email revived some hope in me yet.
Thinking back on it, I am fairly certain that we sent all of the “World” tapes back to WGBH.
Carmen Sandiego had fled to Boston, Massachusetts.