“For those that love this dish there’s nothing like real home grown spaghetti.” concludes Richard Dimbleby, the voice of Britain’s top current affairs programme, Panorama, on 1st April 1957.
Not a hint of irony taints this 3 minute masterpiece of social documentary. It’s dry as a bone reportage. How could it not be true?
No silly names sow seeds of doubt, like Mr I.D.Ott, that typically gives the game away in newspaper pranks.
No, this is the Real McCoy. This is pranksterism on an Wellesian scale. (On Halloween 1938 Welles had the USA in a state of sheer panic as he presented War of the Worlds under he guise of fake news bulletins).
A full on, unexpurgated, national piss take.
But back to Dimbleby. It is alleged that no-one at the BBC even knew of his prank and so it went out unannounced and completely unexpected. Post war Britain was just stumbling upon the likes of simple foreign dishes like spaghetti and probably had no idea of its origins, other than it came from Italy.
So it was Dimbleby’s genius that he set his mockumentary not in Italy but in the growing district of Southern Switzerland (lesser known cousin of the mighty Italians). This adds to the authenticity of the broadcast.
Thanks to a mild winter the trees were blooming early on the shore of Lake Lugano promising a massive boost for the Swiss Spaghetti industry. Talk of genetic manipulation to reach uniformity of length, images of the harvest and of the (true actually) air drying techniques added up to make this the world’s greatest and most convincing April Fool, bar none.