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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 20:11 GMT 21:11 UK
Still a good joke - 47 years on
A 'spaghetti harvester' from the programme
The programme attracted eight million viewers on 1 April 1957
Nearly half a century on, it remains one of the UK's most famous April Fool's Day jokes.

And one of the men behind Panorama's 1957 "spaghetti harvest" spoof says despite being criticised for the programme he does not regret it at all.

David Wheeler, producer on the BBC programme, now lives in retirement in Hastings.

He says it did people good to realise they should not believe everything they see on the television.

Wicker baskets

The Panorama programme was shown on 1 April 1957, when television was still in its relative infancy, and has gone down in broadcasting folklore.

David Wheeler
They got laughed out of court and were very cross indeed that they had been taken in and made to look foolish
David Wheeler on many of his viewers

It exploited the fact that pasta was also still in its relative infancy in the UK - with most people only having eaten tinned spaghetti and not necessarily knowing how it was produced.

The spoof documentary showed spaghetti growers harvesting their supposed crop from trees in Switzerland and was watched by an audience of eight million.

Mr Wheeler said it was made after a suggestion by a Austrian cameraman who worked on the programme.

Mr Wheeler said: "He went off to a hotel in Switzerland, a very pretty hotel with trees sloping down to the lake and he got various girls there to dress up in local costume.

"They cooked some spaghetti and draped it over the trees and then showed them gathering the harvest and putting it in wicker baskets."

The report was voiced by Richard Dimbleby, the famous presenter of the programme.

'Spaghetti harvesters' on the 1957 programme
The spoof report was filmed at a hotel in Switzerland

Mr Wheeler said: "He had enough gravitas to float an aircraft carrier.

"He spoke the script in his mellifluous tones - it looked convincing in the pictures and I tried to make it equally convincing in the script.

"The following day there was quite a to-do because there were lots of people who went to work and said to their colleagues 'did you see that extraordinary thing on Panorama? I never knew that about spaghetti.'.

"They got laughed out of court and were very cross indeed that they had been taken in and made to look foolish.

"We were criticised for doing it but I had no regrets about it at all.

"I think it was a good idea for people to be aware they couldn't believe everything they saw on the television and that they ought to adopt a slightly critical attitude to it."

Town twinned in April Fool's ruse
01 Apr 04  |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Rare spaghetti tin fetches 710
10 Jan 04  |  Wiltshire
Spaghetti thief trial cost 10,000
24 May 02  |  England
Tinned spaghetti scare
06 Feb 99  |  Food Safety
The silly season
01 Apr 98  |  1998


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